Leyland Plans to Buy a Battery Firm for Foray into E-Vehicles
Company has budgeted 120 crore to develop almost half a dozen electric solutions and plans to invest about 500 crore on overall bus business in next 2-3 years
Mumbai: Ashok Leyland is scouting for a battery maker to power its expansion into the electric vehicles space, encouraged by the government push to less-polluting mass mobility systems. The Chennai-based company has budgeted ₹ 120 crore to develop almost half a dozen electric solutions. The power ministry has a vision to put 18,000-20,000 of such buses on Indian roads by the end of this decade. Storage solutions, essentially rechargeable batteries, are crucial in the development of electric vehicles.
The company is looking at various options, right from bringing in malleable batteries onto the bus, quick charging solutions and battery swapping to address the range and cost issues, said T Venkataraman, senior vice president of its global buses division. “We are looking to acquire battery manufacturing companies,” he told ET. “We are engaging with anyone who is saying, ‘You have a chassis, I have a strategy, let's do something together’. The entire emphasis is to see how we make the electric bus acquisition cheaper.”
Almost anybody and everybody is talking about battery nowadays, and there are a few things in common, Venkataraman said. The cell is made by Panasonic, LG or Samsung; and the work of putting the cells to- gether and conceptualising the battery is largely happening in China, be it an American company, a French company or anybody else, he said. It is up to the vehicle maker to decide how effectively it can mate all these things together.
Ashok Leyland is already working with leading engineering colleges like IITs to develop storage solutions. It recently tied up with Sun Mobility — an enterprise which Chetan Maini, the founder of India’s first electric car company, is part of — to work on electric mobility solutions. In 2011, it acquired UK-based electric bus specialist Optare to look at accessible marketable solutions in this space.
“We are trying to work on all fronts — detachable batteries, coating the batteries with specific layers which give a larger range, among many other solutions ... whichever way the direction gathers momentum, we will move in that direction,” Venkataraman said.
Ashok Leyland was the first to launch an electric bus circuit in the country. It, eventually, brought in the Versa bus on Optare platform, but there were hardly any takers. While the government has made its intent clear now, what gives further hope to Venkataraman is that there
are also private operators who have started discussing about certain routes to operate electric buses.
Ashok Leyland is investing in an all new bus architecture — a monocoque and modular platform that it could use in multiple products. The first vehicle on this platform is likely to be delivered in 2018. The company has plans to invest about ₹ 500 crore on the overall bus business in the next two-three years. Ashok Leyland, currently, sells annually about 34,000 units out of which 13,000 are exported. It is aiming to take the volume to 70,000 in the next three years, with half that going to foreign markets. currently, sells annually about units out of which are exported
Automaker is already working with leading engineering colleges like IITs to develop storage solutions