Lucas TVS begins production of motors for e-rickshaws
The Chennai-based Lucas TVS, a leading auto components manufacturing company, has started production of electric motors for e-rickshaws in its plant in Puducherry. The company’s investment will be in 2 phases to have a maximum capacity of 120,000 motors. In the first phase it will make 60,000 units with an investment of Rs 6 crore in machinery and equipment. The company plans to supply to 50 customers in 6 months, “We are ready now and have supplied in smaller quantities to 10-12 customers and we have set a higher target to reach in the coming months,” Babu KSV, Business Head of e-mobility, Exports, Cooling Solutions, Lucas TVS Limited, said.
Lucas TVS was established in 1962 as a joint venture between Lucas Plc UK and the TVS Group. Lucas had started operations in India from 1930 as Lucas Indian Service for providing warranty and after-sales service to many of the imported vehicles which carried Lucas parts. Having started with distributing starters and dynamos, over the years the firm commenced providing complete system solutions in auto electricals, specialised motors for air compressors, stop-start systems, engine cooling modules, ignition products, diesel fuel injection systems etc. Lucas TVS develops and integrates its products in vehicles and equipment from the design stage and carries out application engineering, development, manufacturing and service.
The company started its electric motor business 2 years ago.” People are looking at ease of commuting and there are few areas where the total cost of ownership can be managed, like electric vehicles. As far as EVs are concerned, there is awareness about pollution and there is a legislative compulsion. The three-and two-wheelers will go electric first, as there is no need for government subsidies. In the last couple of years, the number of electric two-wheelers has increased and they are in the lower capacities like 250 W or 500 W. With this, the customer misses the comfort factor and the pleasure to drive,” Babu told Auto Components India.
For the last mile connectivity e-rickshaws with Chinese motors have worked well in parts of western India and NCR region. This has proliferated well because of the low price point and low running cost. One can charge these with a domestic charging point. “With these in mind and based on our analysts, we identified these two areas as having immediate growth potential. We decided to enter the market as a competition for the Chinese products. After analysing the market potential, we benchmarked the best in class and the cheapest in class that are coming from China and we decided to develop our own product. The three parameters we have in mind are the Indian market demand, reliability and affordability,” he said.
Lucas TVS has developed the traction motors which will be of 1 kWh, 3 kWh and 5 kWh and will be able to power, e- rickshaws and e-autos. The firm already holds a couple of orders for the e-rickshaws. The e-auto is almost ready and it will be taken for customer- end validation soon.
About the prime aspects of the new traction motors and their difference from the Chinese motors, Babu said, “During the developmental stage, we did a lot of benchmarks and concentrated upon two main aspects. One is to get the maximum
efficiency and the other is to prepare a product for the Indian monsoon situation. With these in mind, the product has been tested to drive in dust and water and it is IP67certified. Another major aspect was the safety of the rotors which has magnets. We came across a problem of magnet flying off and spoiling the motor. We have come out with a new set-up where the magnets are rigidly protected inside a cage. With a different working principle, we call this the Interior Permanent Magnet design (IPM). We also have the brake energy recuperation technology as the motor and controller is together. When you brake on a flat or downhill road, the motor acts as a generator and charges the battery. This can give around 15-20% of energy saving depending on the road condition and braking strategy. “
Lucas TVS is concentrating on the e-rickshaws for now and it will come up with e-auto motors later. The company has plans to be in the electric small CV and LCV segments in the near future. As far as HCV is concerned, Babu said, they might venture into the area, but only with a partner. They are looking to work along with India Nippon Electricals limited which has strong electronic component manufacturing capability to bring in new products. “We are waiting to have some clarity from SIAM or the auto sector as to what they want. Are the OEMs willing to outsource controller and motor, or they want the motor to our design or their design? Globally, a few tier-I suppliers have come out with trans e-axle which has the complete set up of the motor, controller, differential etc. For the OEMs, it is just plug and play. Is this that the market needs? It is not clear and we are waiting to see what happens,” he said.
Babu said there were many enquiries from countries in the SAARC region. The company may take them in a small manner in the first quarter and look for concrete actions from the second or third quarter.
Lucas TVS is focusing on light weighting. This is done by making changes in the product design as has been done for the wiper motor, whose weight was reduced by 40%. This helps reduce the passenger car weight. Similarly, in traction motors, the company is focusing on keeping the metal content. It is also looking at other possible ways to reduce the weight without compromising on the performance.
Sharing his views on the size of the battery, Babu said, “If you can optimise the design of the motor and the controller they can be designed in such a way that maximum efficiency is achieved at the operating zone. If you drive at 30-40 km and generate the best efficiency at this level, it will help lower the energy consumption. The battery size depends on two things. One, how much power it needs and two, how long it runs. Most of the two-wheelers and three-wheelers are looking for 80-100 km as a range. If the motor is efficient to that extent, one can reduce the size. For example, if you can increase the motor efficiency by 10%, you can reduce the battery size by 10%. That is how it works.”
Around 2 years of hard work has gone to bring in the traction motor product. The research and development department here holds an advanced engineering department with around 80-90 people. The team takes care of several products. For the EV domain, there are around 10-12 people who are exclusively working for it. There are also some common resources, like simulation which are done by specialists.
Electric motor manufactured by Lucas TVS is fitted in an e-rickshaw
Battery pack and controller for e-rickshaws
Babu KSV, Business Head of e-mobility, Exports, Cooling Solutions, Lucas TVS Limited