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India's Exponent Energy brings 15-minute charging to passenger three-wheelers | TechCrunch

India's Exponent Energy brings 15-minute charging to passenger three-wheelers | TechCrunch

India is getting an electric three-wheeler passenger vehicle that charges from 0 to 100% in 15 minutes. The launch of the new EV – a collaboration between auto manufacturer Omega Seki Mobility and battery tech startup Exponent Energy – is amid India's desire. Powering 80% of all its three wheels. By 2030 in an effort to reduce emissions.

The new three-wheeler, called the Stream City Qik and priced at $3,900 (INR 324,999), was launched on Friday and will go on sale from May 15 in Delhi and Bengaluru. It competes with the previous Omega Stream City and features a proprietary 8.8kWh battery pack to provide a range of over 86 miles (126 km). It is equipped with Exponent Energy's charging tech, which the startup claims fully charges the battery in 15 minutes when connected to the startup's charging station.Dubbed E^ Pump).

Currently, Exponent Energy has 60 charging stations across six cities: Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Hyderabad. It plans to have 100 charging stations in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru by 2024 and a total of 1,000 stations by 2025, all of which will be available to StreamCityKick drivers, according to the company.

The partnership marks Exponent Energy's expansion into new territory, as the Bengaluru-based startup previously offered its fast charging tech for cargo and fleet operations only for three-wheelers. According to government data, India's passenger three-wheeler segment is four times the number of cargo three-wheelers. The segment grew by over 43 percent with 45,000 three-wheeler passenger vehicles sold in January alone.

Three-wheelers are popular among gig workers in India who use them to carry ride-hailing passengers and deliver packages. The Indian government is encouraging companies to promote electric three-wheeler manufacturing and subsidizing their sales to attract consumers.

The partnership between Exponent Energy and Omega Seiki builds on the former's previous partnerships. In 2022, Exponent teamed up with Reliance Industries-backed Altigreen and Indian conglomerate Murugappa Group-owned Montra Electric to launch cargo three-wheelers equipped with its fast-charging technology. The startup also partnered with Magenta Mobility, funded by Morgan Stanley and BP Ventures, and Fyn Mobility to offer fast charging on its fleet. More than 1,000 vehicles, which complete more than 100,000 charging sessions, currently have Exponent Energy's tech, which the startup aims to expand to 25,000 by 2025.

“We started with Cargo to prove the tech,” Exponent Energy co-founder and CEO Arun Vinayak told TechCrunch in an interview. “As we scaled, we realized that individual drivers really like fast charging because these people can't charge their vehicles at home. And they're much more hungry to put more kilometers … to keep them running.” needed, keep going wherever the demand goes and go where the passenger wants to go.

Exponent Energy and Omega Seiki Mobility ran near-controller pilots over the past few months to test consumer behavior. They found that three-wheelers carrying up to three passengers sometimes ran for up to 22 hours a day, with two drivers using them sequentially to demand milk within the city. This makes access to fast charging essential for the commuter three-wheeler. Another alternative to fast charging in this case could be a battery swap, but according to Vinayak, that doesn't work at scale.

“Unless you quickly charge a swap battery, you run out of batteries. And because they're replaceable batteries, you're limited in the size of the batteries and they have a pretty limited range,” he said. said

The technology behind the three-wheeler upgrade

Exponent Energy's battery tech includes lithium-ion batteries as well as its in-house battery management system, which monitors each cell in real time while charging. Additionally, the startup has its own charging stations that use an off-board thermal management system, which transfers water to the fridge through the charging plug. It helps maintain the temperature of each battery cell while charging and enables 0-100% charging in 15 minutes with a 3,000 cycle life warranty.

Vinayak told TechCrunch that Exponent Energy's charging stations offer 10x efficiency by charging 20 to 30 vehicles per day, while other EV charging stations typically charge two vehicles. Similarly, setting up an exponential charging station costs around $6,000 (500,000 INR), while a CNG station demands hundreds and thousands of dollars. The executive said it has limited CNG availability to about 60 stations in Bengaluru, while Exponent Energy already has 40 charging stations in the city.

Image credit: OMEGA SEKI MOBILITY

“If you give people the ability to refuel very quickly, the ability to recharge very quickly, a reliable and dense enough network, people actually stop caring about range,” he said.

The Stream City Cake will initially be available in Delhi and Bengaluru, with plans to enter new cities later this year. Omega Seiki Mobility is also optimistic about taking its fast-charging three-wheeler to markets outside India once it gains enough traction.

“I can open markets all over the world. We are testing across Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Africa,” Uday Narang, founder and chairman of Omega Seki Mobility, told TechCrunch.

New Delhi-based Omega Seki Mobility has an annual production capacity of 20,000 vehicles, with three plants in northern India and one in the eastern state of Jharkhand. On the other hand, Exponent Energy has the capacity to manufacture 500 charging units per month, which it plans to increase to 3,000 by July-August.

At $3,900 (INR 324,999), the Stream City Qik is priced competitively with other electric and gas-powered three-wheelers in the market in India. Vinayak and Narang said they are not looking to beat the competition on pricing but want to end the charging frenzy among three-wheeler drivers and increase their monthly income by 30%.

Founded in 2020, Exponent Energy, which counts Eight Roads Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and TDK Ventures among its key investors, has raised $44.4 million to date. The startup generated annual revenue of $6 million in 2023 and aims to reach around $72 million by 2025. It is also looking to deploy its charging technology on electric buses in India later this year.

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