In India, 50% of cars sold are hatchbacks that cost less than $10,000, while the electric cars on offer are priced at over $18,000 – mainly due to their expensive batteries. No wonder sales of EVs in India are slow.
But a Mumbai-based mobility start-up called Strom Motors has plans to power up the EV sector. It’s business is based around an electric reverse trike – a lightweight vehicle with two wheels at the front and one wheel at the rear.
Pratik Gupta co-founded Strom in 2016. He told Auto Futures that the company was a result of an internal R&D project that identified that new-age automobile customers are completely different from the customer that traditional car companies are building their cars for.
“Shared mobility and minimal carbon footprint are now front and center of urban mobility, while big and bulky sedans and SUVs are not so attractive to millennials who do not wish to spend a large part of their paycheck towards a vehicle that is used less than 5%,” says Gupta.
The first fruit of its graft is the Strom-R3. It’s a 100% electric three-wheeler. It has a two-person cabin and it’s been designed and built for an urban user of any city around the world. It was unveiled in 2018 and Strom is currently awaiting government approval before its commercial launch which is expected later this year.
Gupta says the vehicle is suitable for the daily office commute; as an additional family car for running errands within a 10km radius and for a first/last mile shared mobility solution parked at metro or bus stops.
“Indian city roads are narrow and crowded with major parking issues. Keeping these in mind, Strom-R3 is designed to be parked in a space no bigger than it would take to park two motorcycles. Along with its compact form, the car is also designed to be able to reverse out of narrow parking spaces by using our app. We also will offer semi-autonomous features like the ability to follow the vehicle in front of you at speeds less than 20kmph to avoid the stresses of stop-and-go traffic which are common in most cities,” says Gupta.
He adds: “With the three-wheeled reverse trike design, we have been able to reduce kerb weight by almost half compared to a compact hatchback which results in significant energy efficiency. The reduced weight also means we require a much smaller motor and drive-train to operate which adds to overall efficiency.”
In terms of safety, Strom says it’s conducted hundreds of drive stability and crash worthiness tests. The Strom-R3 uses high tensile steel tubular chassis which is the same material and design they use in roll cages of race cars.
As for the challenge of overcoming India’s traditional worry over range, Gupta says: “Range anxiety is a big one to overcome especially in India where infrastructure will take years before it can meet demand. At Strom we identified this early on and have equipped our car with an upgradable and swappable battery system with max range of 200km per charge. Being an urban mobility solution, we expect our users to typically travel 50-80kms a day and primarily charge at home. For shared mobility platform providers the swappable batteries come in handy for quick refueling.”
Gupta says his team is working tirelessly to bring the Strom-R3 to market and to expand into multiple Indian cities. Strom is also in discussion with some European companies to bring its vehicles to global cities. On the product front, plans are afoot to launch an inner-city delivery van, based on the same platform as the Strom-R3, designed for a clean and efficient logistics delivery market.