In February 2021, Hyderabad-based battery swapping and retrofitting start-up RACEnergy revealed that it had raised funding from growX Ventures and early-stage investor Prophetic Ventures. The company has previously beat 170 other EV start-ups to be selected in the first batch of the all-new EV Accelerator Program launched by Huddle and growX Ventures.
In conversation with Auto Futures, Co-founder Arun Sreyas spoke about RACEnergy, its plan to lay out swapping stations across India and what the future has in store for this young and promising EV venture.
“RACE was founded in 2018 by two BITS Pilani graduates with a goal of setting up a vast battery swapping infrastructure for use in 3-wheelers and 2-wheelers,” says Sreyas.
“EVs are expensive given the high costs of batteries. By paying more, you also get more inconvenience, in terms of long charging times, low range and high uncertainties with the life of the battery. In a price sensitive market like India, this would be hard to make it work. Hence, we came up with the model of battery swapping where the price of the battery is removed from the cost of the vehicle thus reducing the cost of the vehicle by 40-50% and the user pays only for the energy used in the battery.”
India is still in the early stages of setting up charging infrastructure to stay on course with its electrification plans. Indian roads are dominated by two-and three-wheelers, which is why even the FAME II legislation had a special focus on these two segments.
For the Indian customer, who might be sceptical of EVs but is still considering the switch from ICE to EV, the main motivation is money saved – both on the cost of vehicle and fuel. To this customer segment, battery swapping is the icing on the cake, where their scepticism about battery life is taken care of and they save more money.
That said, while large players in this space, industry bodies, as well as the central and state government might be thinking about the implementation of battery swapping technology, they have nothing to show for it. RACEnergy, on the other hand, has not just designed swapping stations, it has a clear roadmap of the way ahead.
“RACEnergy’s swapping stations are the smartest stations in India. We deploy several algorithms and are deploying Machine Learning as well in the near future to make our stations highly efficient. Not only are our stations smart, but they are modular as well. They can be set up literally anywhere and the same station can be expanded to cater to higher traffic as and when it happens,” explains Sreyas.
We have tested them in the harshest conditions possible in the country.
What comes as a major boost to Battery as a Service (BaaS) platforms like RACEnergy is the fact that the Government of India (GoI) has recently given the nod to EV manufacturers to sell their electric vehicles without batteries.
“This decision by the GoI is definitely a huge boost to the battery swapping industry and is a step in the right direction,” says Sreyas. “That said, there are still a lot of clarifications required for a swift execution of this rule at the ground level.”
Weighing less than 10kgs, making them one of the lightest swappable energy systems in the world, all of RACEnergy’s battery packs are completely made in India and that too by the company itself, completely eliminating the challenge of having to adapt them to operate under Indian conditions. The company also prides its proprietary swappable connector, which makes for a hassle-free swapping experience.
“None of the packs that we initially tested were suited for the swapping application, hence we decided to make them ourselves. We have tested them in the harshest conditions possible in the country, including extreme temperatures, heavy vibrations and steep inclines,” Sreyas adds.
RACEnergy’s battery packs come loaded with data management features that enable them to collect data from all its vehicles, which is then used to predict swapping patterns, varying charging modes as per the demand to keep the load on the grid low and the batteries ready to swap.
Moreover, the company also analyses route patterns of vehicles to position its swap stations at strategic locations to ensure that the drivers aren’t very far from a swap station, tackling the fear of battery life head on.
Targeting The Auto Rickshaw Market
RACEnergy is also working towards retro-fitting ICE powered three-wheelers with electric drives, and according to Sreyas, this offering has got the company a lot of attention from a segment that very few OEMs and start-ups cater to – auto rickshaws.
“By clubbing retro fitment with battery swapping, we are able to provide the world’s cheapest solution for a three-wheeler driver to go electric. The auto rickshaw drivers have been excited about our offering and we have received several hundred pre-orders already. We are excited to see this response from the market and working hard to fulfil these orders as soon as possible.
“The Government has already announced a 15% subsidy on retro fitment kits for auto-rickshaws. We will soon be announcing some of our partnerships with these bodies and other companies that will help us grow our network rapidly.”
As our conversation drew to a close, I was very curious to know what the road ahead looks like for this promising start-up, especially in a space like Battery as a Service (BaaS), that is still in its very early stages and in a market like India that is just about seeing the dawn of electrification.
On asking Sreyas, he says: “We are working with 2-wheeler and 3-wheeler companies to bring out new vehicles on battery swapping platforms. Besides that, we are continuously working to grow our infrastructure and have a widespread network across the country.”