By : RACHNA TYAGI
Mahesh Babu, CEO, Mahindra Electric, tells TURN OF SPEED about its own battery technology, its powertrains, the EV revolution in India being led by two and three wheelers, and how it believes that India has a strong and stable policy in FAME.
TOS: Tell us about the MESMA 48 platform. It is all the buzz, and is enabling so much at Mahindra Electric.
MB: Mahindra Electric Scalable Modular Architecture (MESMA) is India’s first electric architecture that has been designed and developed completely in-house. All the components of this architecture are being manufactured and assembled in India (except for battery cells). It is one of Mahindra Electric’s most utilised EV technology solution architecture. It has powered several electric vehicles which have been launched in India, and have collectively covered more that 210million electric kilometres. The platform is highly scalable and can electrify a range of vehicles including three wheelers, quadricycles and compact cars. With such high scalability across products, the platform has already powered more than 10,000 EVs running on Indian roads
TOS: What steps have you taken in order to be self-sufficient and not rely on other countries for batteries and cells?
MB: Mahindra Electric uses its own battery technology to assemble EV batteries in India. We have announced a collaboration with LG Chem under which we with LG Chem will develop a unique cell exclusively for India application and will also supply Li-ion cells based on NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) chemistry with high energy density. These cells will be deployed in the Mahindra and SsangYong range of Electric Vehicles. LG Chem will also design the Li-ion battery modules for Mahindra Electric, which in turn will create battery packs for the Mahindra Group and other customers.
TOS: There have been interested parties wanting to invest in Mahindra Electric Mobility, and in fact, you were even in talks with a few of them for strategic alliances. What's happening on that front?
MB: As announced earlier, Mahindra Electric is primarily looking at strategic partnerships for rapidly expanding its business and scaling up operations to make EV technology more affordable.
TOS: EV powertrains manufactured by Mahindra Electric Mobility were also going to be exported to Korea and Europe. Are those plans on track? Could you throw some light on that, given the current scenario?
MB: Mahindra Electric’s MESMA 350 platform was showcased at Auto Expo and will base many global products starting 2021. The components for this platform will be rolled out from our new manufacturing plant in Chakan and will be exported to Korea. SsangYong will roll out its first EV based on the MESMA 350 platform which will be exported to its global markets.
TOS: How do you propose India leverage its position with its IT talent pool when it comes to EVs?
MB: About 32% of the total cost of EV development is towards telematics and software solutions. This is much more than traditional ICE powered vehicles which is about 18-20%. This gives cities IT hubs like Bengaluru a strong chance of becoming a global hub for development and manufacturing of electric vehicles. We expect demand for engineers (software, electrical and telematics) to rise in the next few years. With the advent of new technologies like machine learning, AI and EVs companies are now looking for talent with stronger domain knowledge in new emerging technologies.
TOS: What is your forecast in terms of the Indian Electric Vehicle Market's growth for the coming year?
MB: India is a unique country and requires a multimodal transportation solution. Currently, the EV revolution is being led by electric three/two-wheelers and it’s nice to see Tier-I and Tier-II cities adapting to e-mobility rather quickly. Mahindra has sold over 5,000 electric three-wheelers in the country that have driven over 35 million kilometres on Indian roads. This has helped us to understand the economics of EVs better. In the post-COVID era, we expect more demand in EVs in the mass mobility segment. EVs in mass and shared mobility segment will further encourage private buyers to switch to EVs. We expect a major increase in personal buyers opting for EVs starting 2023.
TOS: Your thoughts on fine tuning Electric Vehicle policies...what is the need of the hour?
MB: India has a strong and stable policy in FAME and Phased Manufacturing Program that has the potential for India to become a hub for electric vehicles. Mahindra Electric has been consistently investing in localization of EV components and as a matter of fact, every component of our Treo range of electric three-wheeler (except cell) is made-in-India. Various state governments have also announced EV policies that offers fiscal and non-fiscal benefits to EV buyers. Unlike many other global countries, India is a unique market dominated by two/three-wheelers which will head India’s transition towards e-mobility.