Interview with DARWYN
all, and welcome to this interview series on all things motors. Here,
we’ll be talking to different people working on electric motors, EVs and
e-mobility, power supplies, charging, and all things associated.
So, anybody making waves, expect to see them in here.
Q: Could you begin by telling us a little about yourself, and how you ended up doing what you do?
Sure! Actually, my journey into the electric vehicles field has been quite different from most entrepreneurs. While I was doing my Master’s degree, one of the projects was to start up an actual company. If your company did well, you would pass the class – otherwise you’d have to redo.
Anyway, that was how I started a waterless carwash company in my hometown. At the same time, I decided to get myself a motorcycle. However, the only option with any kind of excitement to it was a Harley Davidson, and that was it. So, I decided to build one myself, out of parts.
We had quite a bit of trouble getting the necessary components imported. At that time, the regulations on Li batteries and electronic components were quite different.
However, we eventually managed to put together one motorcycle. It was crap, alright. But it was fast
Q: Haha, I love this already!
It was a crappy, fast motorcycle. Really unsafe. But if anyone had a ride on the motorcycle, they told us you have to make this into a company. This has to go out to the people!
So, that’s how I got started on this.
What’s up now?
Q: Okay, that’s a really nice story! What are you doing right now
So, right now the challenge that India faces is we don’t have a supply chain. We have primarily two- and three-wheeler manufacturers trying to get into the EV field. Right now, most of my days go into talking to people who might help us to get batteries, get us controllers, get us spare parts. Right now, even if I had orders for 150 motorcycles, I wouldn’t have the components for it. The supply chain doesn’t exist. That is what keeps me up at night.
Lacking supply, peaking demand
Q: So, basically the supply is lacking, but the demand is definitely there right?
Oh yes. Do you have DoorDash over there? Anyway: food delivery, grocery delivery, and e-commerce. They have seen between 200-250 % market size growth every quarter
Still, most cities in India don’t have those services yet. So, the opportunity for the companies to grow is huge. However, the conditions in the city vary hugely – you might have extreme heat and cold, mountains, and floods during the monsoon. So, the incremental cost in starting at a new location with a new vehicle fleet suitable for those particular conditions is huge.
Thus, EVs see lots of potential on the business/corporation side.
On the consumer side, it is more problematic, and the price is a major issue. You see, electric vehicles are about 30-35% more expensive than petrol vehicles. So, if you think about it, over three years you end up not saving any money with the typical range driving distances. It is better for the environment in every which way, but from the consumer side there is a lot of resistance. For instance, many scooter companies are just doing good enough to survive.
Q: Alright, it’s good that you mentioned the environmental aspects. I would guess pollution is a huge problem there, and EVs would definitely help in that. Are there any government policies in place to help adoption, or something like that?
Yes! I actually have a Youtube channel, where I explain something called the FAME proposal – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing for Electric vehicles. We had FAME 1 previously; it ended in March, and the new one, FAME 2, is applicable from April onwards.
The old policy was not very aggressive, but more of the ‘lets keep them happy type’. The subsidy was simply given based on the vehicle price, irrespective of where it was manufactured. You could simply import one from China, sell it, and claim subsidy.
The new scheme is MUCH better – 40 % of your electric vehicle has to be made in India. They have subsidized two- and three-wheelers up to a certain percentage of the price. However, there is none for passenger cars, unless it’s a taxi or a bus.
The subsidy on buses is really high, and for a reason. We are having a major health crisis due to pollution, the majority of which is coming from commercial vehicles. For that reason, they have decided to support 2/3-wheelers and commercial vehicles: the most numerous vehicles on the roads, and the ones polluting the most.
Q: Great! Now, let’s talk about something a lot more specific. You mentioned that you built a crappy but fast motorcycle. Anything you can tell about that the motor tech involved?
Sure! Most of the vehicles now are using BLDC motor from China. The thing is that India has very little R&D on motors and controllers, and most companies have done very little localization. For instance, what we have done is we decided to get the rotor, and make the stator ourselves.
And a similar scenario is repeated all over. For instance, many water pump manufacturers have started to repurpose the stators of their single-phase AC motors for vehicle use. By the way, this is called ‘frugal innovation’ here, roughly translated. They might then use them for BLDC or (other) synchronous motors. However, they still don’t have much R&D. They may have simply imported a motor from China, 3D-scanned it, and reproduced it.
The R&D culture simply doesn’t exist. For that reason, companies like Bosch have started to license their technology to us in India. And the situation is also similar for controllers. You can either choose from two off-the-shelf options, or otherwise use the one that came with your Chinese motor.
Q: Okay, I think we have now covered all the topics agreed in advance. Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, I do. The tariff on imported products, like Li batteries, is going up. So, it’s going to be the bagpiper story. Somebody is going to come and play the flute and say ‘Hey, I have a product that I make in India. I have a product that is interesting and works. Buy it from me, or die. If you don’t, your product is going to be priced out of the market’. That is going to happen with BMS, batteries, controllers, and motors. In the next six months, we are going to have a bagpiper like that.
The second thing is that a lot of VC money that’s coming to India could have gone to electric vehicles, if not for some policies. For example, we don’t have a proper charging standard. For instance, if I have a charging product, I don’t know what plug to put on it. There simply isn’t a plug that’s going to work everywhere.
Woah, that was a figurative electric-truck load of information! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview; I hope the readers also learn a thing or two.
So, well, did you?
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