Is this really happening? In India of all places? I have to share an unbelievable story with you. (The Western media seldom reports such momentous developments from India, so it’s likely you haven’t heard about this). It is a story about a green future for our planet being set in motion by a charismatic Indian entrepreneur.
On 10:39 am, September 15th, less than two weeks ago, Bhavish Aggarwal, the 35-year old CEO and co-founder of Ola, made a breathless announcement on his Twitter feed:
The Floodgates to the Revolution are truly open! We’re selling 2 scooters every second! India is rejecting Petrol and choosing Electric!
In just 12 hours his company sold 80,000 electric scooters worth 8 billion Rupees ($110m). The number of scooters sold topped 110,000 in the next 12 hours, at which point they closed further orders until November 2.
Scooters, or more generally, 2-wheelers (which include motorcycles, scooters and mopeds) are very popular in India. 20 million are sold every year, all “very dirty and dull” according to Bhavish. He plans to replace them all by 2025 with his chic, safe and non-polluting electric ones.
[The company, which I’m calling Ola for short, started out as Ola Cabs, a ride hailing Indian start-up competing with Uber. It has now broadened into a mobility platform with an ambitious vision to electrify all Indian transportation, starting with electric scooters. The subsidiary, Ola Electric Mobility Pvt Ltd., has finished phase I of setting up the world’s largest electric 2-wheeler plant with a capacity of 2 million scooters a year, growing to 10 million/year in a few years.]
They sell two models, the S1 (Price: $1350) and the S1 Pro ($1700), with eye-popping specs. The range of up to 180 Km (110 miles) is enough for a week’s worth of mobility for typical urban driving in India. Charging time is 6 hours with a supplied plug and Ola is planning a solar powered “supercharging” network in all the big cities which can charge up the scooter in 15 minutes. The electricity required for a full charge (3 – 4 units) is extremely low – about the same as running a window air-conditioner for two hours.
Fully charging these scooters costs 30 -40 cents! Great, non-polluting, urban mobility for less than half-cent per mile! They are offered currently in half a dozen cities in India.
Not only that, they are spiffy: o- 40 Km/hr in 3 seconds, and sexy: handsomely styled and available in 10 artistic colors to make any fashion statement you like. They are quiet and feature a modern sound system that, it is claimed, will surround you with whatever mood you want.`
Check out this video ad featuring the CEO Bhavish Aggarwal himself, bursting with passion and his vision to transform transportation. It is an ad, yes, but so mesmerizing – you must see it to appreciate this company. The Ad is a few months old, and since it was aired, Phase I of the scooter manufacturing plant is complete. The pride of the CEO in his country and the positivism of his vision come through.
The plant is named, Ola FutureFactory. It is in the state of Tamil Nadu in India and is patterned like a Tesla Gigafactory. Some amazing aspects of this factory:
- The world’s largest two-wheeler factory! A Giga-factory to be.
- The most automated in India: around 5000 robotic machines will be deployed. See video of this amazing manufacturing here
- 10 million two-wheeler production, when Phase II is complete. One of many phases envisioned.
- Will create 10,000 new jobs despite high automation, in house developed AI, and next generation Industry 4.0 Technology. The pictures of the factory floor resemble Tesla-esque automation.
- It is part of Ola’s vertically integrated planning: owning the entire EV (Electric Vehicle) value chain. Ola has designed and engineered everything in house, and it will manufacture its batteries, motors, charging stations, and motor controllers. It develops all the software that powers these scooters. The plant will house a separate battery manufacturing unit. Currently batteries are imported from S. Korea, I believe.
- Will eventually serve as a global manufacturing hub for a range of two-wheelers that will be exported to international markets, like UK, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.
- Ola plans to evolve rapidly from two-wheelers to cars, vans etc.
- Eventually green. Ola claims there is 100 acres of forest surrounding their 500-acre site. Manufacturing operations will be powered in part by solar energy. The company aims for a carbon-negative footprint overall.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this factory is that it will be staffed entirely by women!! This is mind blowing – obviously the CEO, Bhavish Aggarwal thinks outside the box.
When he was asked whether Ola is the Tesla of India, Bhavish Aggarwal remarked, “No, it is the Ola of the World!”
India expects the EV market to reach over 6.5 million vehicles/year by 2030 according to IESA (India Energy Storage Alliance). That is probably an underestimate, given that Ola alone aspires to produce 10 million electric scooters a year.
Isn’t it great that a home grown company is helping India get there while deploying a vision of sustainability and inclusion!
Also published on Medium.