Ashok Leyland, India’s second-largest truck-maker, has announced a partnership with startup SUN Mobility to develop a battery swapping system for electric buses. The initial focus will be on city transit buses, followed by smaller delivery trucks, inter-city buses and long-haul trucks, Ashok Leyland CEO Vinod K Dasari told The Mint.
SUN Mobility is led by Chetan Maini, a Stanford-trained engineer who founded Indian EV manufacturer Reva. It hopes to create an open-architecture ecosystem built around its proprietary smart batteries and a network of battery swap stations.
Ashok Leyland has been working on electric buses for some time – it unveiled an Indian-made electric bus called the Circuit last October. The company’s British subsidiary, Optare, sells electric buses in European markets.
Ashok Jhunjhunwala, an advisor to India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, touted the benefits of swappable batteries at a lecture in June. He said that EVs weren’t affordable without subsidies, but that there was an opportunity to build volume if EVs could be separated from their single most expensive component: batteries. “We said we’ll start buying vehicles without battery. For example, if I want to buy a bus or a three-wheeler, I’ll buy it without battery but with enhanced efficiency.”
“Today’s partnership with Sun Mobility is yet another step towards bringing world class solutions to India, developed in India, and by Indians,” said Vinod K. Dasari, Chief Executive of Ashok Leyland. “Right now, it’s an exclusive partnership to develop a swapping charge system together. Once that is done, we will consider other options.” He predicted that the product would be ready over the next 12 to 18 months.