‘Our product has aroused optimistic interest’
Nikhil Khurana, Managing Director, Folks Motor (P) Ltd - India's 1st Hybrid Electric Retrofit Car Company, responds to a few questions from Industrial Automation.
The first automobile ever invented was an electric car. Why is it still proving to be elusive?
The major concern is understanding – both at the end of users as well as policy makers. Electric cars make users apprehensive about the limit on driving range, and since they are relatively new to the market and their reliability still needs to be proved. On the other hand, obscure and slack policies with regard to charging infrastructure make for a relatively less road-friendly ecosystem for Electric Cars.
Considering these factors, it would be beneficial to embrace Hybrid-Electric Powertrain Technology in mainstream automobile sector, as it doesn’t urge for any dependence on the grid supply.
Hybrids against such backdrop appear to be a win-win situation, but once again, not really popular. Any specific reason?
Very true. Hybrids are not very popular, especially in India, due to two major factors. One of them is the lack of industrial push and the other is the insufficient promotion of Hybrids as an easy step towards efficient commuting at the governmental level.
At the industrial level, hybrid cars are a work-of-art as they require precise and competent engineering with patience at the level of development. The amount of effort that goes into creating Hybrids is way more than pure EVs and subsequently there’s a rise in cost. However recently, auto OEMs have come up with futuristic HEV models that are lined-up for launch in India (wink) – Hope for the Best!
Coming to Folks Motors, the company has been around for a while now. How is the response for the hybrid technology – the conversion kits?
The market is sceptical about accepting hybrid electric car technology and its reliability. However, our product is designed with increment in your car’s performance and features, along with reduction in running cost.
So far, we’ve been lucky to experience good traction in our pre-market research. Our product has aroused optimistic interest of potential dealer partners in setting up our franchisee units for HES (Hybrid Electric System) retro-fitment installation. With such an encouraging response, we took an OEM approach focussing mainly on investing our resources in technology and brand empowerment. We are confident to sell more than 1000 Hybrid Electric Retrofit Cars in this FY18-19 after the launch in mid-2018.
Currently batteries hold the key to a successful EV. You offer a choice of batteries but not all are ideal, and the best of the lot is expensive – a Catch 22 situation?
Not really. At present the Lithium ones are the best fit for EVs. Now when we talk about cost, we should take into account the complete picture, including the total cost of ownership over the life of the car. If the life of hybrid cars is reckoned, the amount spent on batteries is lower than the fuel expense on available petrol/diesel/CNG over a period.
This is why we speak of our product as a complete package and make customers aware of the product as a whole not just as a buy.
There are recent reports about an Indian company having made a breakthrough in ‘battery swapping’ technology to change the drained battery on the fly. Will this make a difference?
Yes. It’s a great solution only if it is brought to the market with a viable application. However, battery swapping is not a standardised solution and also needs a lot of understanding of both the vehicle and supporting infrastructure along with the battery technology.
On the fly battery swapping would be a boon to us and all the market players. What’s required is the comprehensive execution at the market level.
Has any automobile manufacturer shown interest in your technology?
Since we have placed ourselves as an OEM, we are not targeting any automobile OEM as such. We are working with some of the biggest Tier 1 suppliers of components and also leading fleet services.
Conversely, are you planning a sort of backward integration into hybrid vehicle manufacturing?
Not immediately, but the possibilities cannot be ruled out. As said, the market for HEVs is quite new and still needs time to get acquainted with this technology fully. As the market acceptance will increase, you’re surely going to witness additions to it from Folks Motor.
The government appears keen to phase out conventional cars. How far is the world from a real and practical mass electric car?
Now this we call a speculation. Almost all nations are pushing for electric cars. With India officially announcing only electric vehicles sale from 2030, we have surely scored some brownie points on the international circuit, but it is a far-off dream still even for nations like Germany, France, USA and others.
The main reason behind 100% electrification of road transport is to cut down on the emissions. With 50% and more of world electricity coming from coal and additional 20% plus of transmission losses, 100% electric vehicles on road will eventually lead to higher pollution and resource scarcity. This is the reason that governments around the globe are ratifying their support for EVs and in parallel increasing the share of non-renewable energy on the grid. We, in India, are already experiencing a rise in solar and wind energy production along with widening the percentage range of hydro and nuclear power. But all this cannot be achieved overnight.
As per the global projections by multiple reliable agencies, by 2030-35 around 40% of the on-road vehicles will be Electric/Hybrid and 60% of new vehicles in production will be EV/Hybrids.
Along with these challenges, another challenge that needs to be addressed is the manpower development. The skill development of the present and the new workforce will play a vital role in the EV adaptation.
In recent times, we have seen many big automotive giants collaborating, like Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi and Toyota-Suzuki, for betterment. We are going to witness a lot of such tie-ups in the near future, which would foster a global market significantly making technology feasible and friendly at the same time.
Fast Facts about Folks Motor
Folks Motor (P) Ltd is India's first Hybrid Electric Retrofit Car company, an HEV/EV brand renewing mobility, by inventing Made in India hybrid-electric vehicle powertrain technologies and products, from New Delhi, India.
The company is building the HyB (Hybrid Electric System as retrofitment for cars) to convert present petrol/diesel cars in a strong hybrid-electric car (parallel, series, plug-in), i.e., to drive on petrol/diesel and internally recharged electric power using a proprietary technology platform, Hybrid ReGeN Drive, giving:
40% increase in fuel efficiency
30% decrease in running cost
30% of run with zero emissions
Drive gearless (automatic) mode within Manual Transmission i.e. Electric Mode, and
Up to a speed of 60 kmph and internally recharged battery range of 50 km (also plug-in port is available).
Products and services include:
1) HyB Cars: Hybrid-Electric Retrofit Cars
2) HyB Kits: Hybrid-Electric Retrofit Kits
3) HyB Services: Green Car Care, Plug-In Charging/Battery Swap Station and Folks Finance for HyB Cars and Kits
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