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

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Ke­tan.Thakkar @times­group.com

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

34,000 13,000

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