In an exclusive conversation with EMobility+, Mr. Varun Goenka, Co-founder and CEO, Charge-up speaks about the journey of the company and the need and importance of battery swapping for greater EV adoption. He also throws light on the company’s 2 minute battery swapping solutions and the future growth plans.
Please give us a brief history of Charge-up and its journey?
Charge-up, founded by Varun Goenka and Akshay Kashyap in 2019 is building Bharat’s largest battery swapping network for e-rickshaws. Powering India’s electric mobility target, the core objective of Charge-up is to create the largest distribution network for electric 2&3 wheelers. We have adopted an advanced technology driven approach through which we offer Battery as a Service (BaaS) solutions to e-rickshaw drivers. The company enables the e – rickshaw drivers to join the service without any upfront costs. By subscribing to a daily battery rental plan, Charge-up allows the drivers to visit the swapping station as many as 2-3 times a day to swap the discharged batteries with fully – charged batteries. Charge-up is distinct in its endeavours due to its focus on assured kms, its battery swapping locations and best price per km it offers.To achieve this, we are building an ecosystem wherein each dealer partner caters to a minimum of 25-30 drivers per station, enjoying greater ROI. With 40% month on month growth, Charge-up is adding a station every week to its current pool of 12 active stations spread across Delhi. Currently there are over 400 drivers on the Charge-up platform covering more than 4 lakh km per month. We are on the path to achieving 200 stations with INR 3 crore MRR in this FY.
What makes battery swapping the best solution to improve EV adoption in India?
Battery swapping is advantageous over other options for various reasons. It helps eliminate range anxiety. Conventionally, once a vehicle’s battery discharges, there is no other option, but to park it for the day. The old chargers take several hours to recharge the battery. This is the reason why over a million e-rickshaw drivers in India continue to earn around INR 800 per day or less as they can operate no more than 80 km on an average daily. Through battery swapping, a vehicle owner can simply drive into a battery swapping station (BSS) and ride out with a fully charged battery within minutes. Further, the battery swapping system also eliminates the need for buying or managing batteries as the swapping service provider takes care of these needs. Removing battery cost from the equation can make EVs cheaper by up to 40% and make them affordable for fleet owners. Since there are ample fully charged batteries available at a BSS which can be swapped in 2 minutes, there is no need for the vehicle to remain out of use for long hours and it greatly improves the utility of EVs for fleet operators.
What are the key features of your well known 2-minute battery swapping solutions?
The 2 minute battery swap promise at Chargeup stations has been possible because of the light weight of batteries, easy plug and play system which enables the driver to change the batteries within no time without any assistance and further to add on it is the tech play, where through our app it eliminates the time taken for the transaction. Our system has in-built IoT and CAN which facilitates constant tracking and battery performance monitoring through analytics. We provide Dealer ERP to enable easy inventory management at the dealer’s end and also have a mobile app in place for seamless functioning. We are constantly working towards using this cutting-edge technology driven solution to transform the Indian EV battery charging market in the times to come.
How do you see EV charging ecosystem evolving in India post-Covid?
The pandemic lockdowns have repeatedly disrupted mobility across India and the EV charging ecosystem’s growth has also been temporarily slowed down by such disruptions. However, there is a greater push towards building infrastructure such as battery swapping and charging stations across India. With emphasis on environment-friendly and safe measures, the demand for EVs will increase in the last-mile connectivity segment. Electric three wheelers are going to gain popularity and the increase in numbers of vehicles on roads as well as higher demand for charging solutions will be witnessed.
The central as well as various state governments have been proactively acquiring EV fleets for their own needs. In the years ahead, we will see the EV adoption grow in public transportation especially localized fleet operations for urban transport and last-mile connectivity. Within the next 10 years, EV adoption in India is expected to follow the same trajectory as CNG vehicle adoption took some years ago. Even then the transformation was led by buses and three wheelers and eventually by fleet operators, and we will witness the same trend again.
Where do you see your company growing in the next few years?
The tipping point for Electric vehicles is going to come from last mile mobility and with Chargeup being one of the early movers we have a significant advantage due to the data and our understanding of battery technology and consumer behaviour. We are not only ensuring assured kms and a chargeup station at every 2 kms radius but also building the next gen IOT technology to make the batteries smarter, which will act as a catalyst for the whole ecosystem to grow.