Lithium Urban Technologies calls itself the company which delivers tomorrow’s transport transportation today(their tagline “TOMORROW’S TRANSPORTATION. TODAY.) and that might sound like an audacious claim from an Indian cab service provider that too from a startup. But that is true, it is the only company in India to have 100% electric fleet, it is the first zero emission transport service provider of India.
Lithium Urban Technologies Pvt Ltd is founded in October 2014 by Sanjay Krishan in Bengaluru. The company initially started off with 10 Mahindra e2o’s and now they have a fleet of 200 plus electric vehicles and several hundred more are in pipeline. They started their operations initially in Bengaluru and now they are planning to enter North Central Region(NCR) of India. Despite many oddities the company is successfully marching ahead into new regions and new segments.
Why Electric Vehicles? Simple, the founders are feeling responsible for the the environment and are daring enough to do something good.
Is it Commercially Viable? Looking at the oddities the answer must be a big no, but the company is proving that it is possible to strike balance between commercial viability and environmental friendliness.In general, addressing one negates the other and growing while balancing both(profitability & environmental friendliness) is a commendable job.
What are the oddities before the company?
Lack of Charging Infrastructure: Charging stations to electric vehicles are like petrol bunks to IC engine cars. In America there are very few charging stations compared to the number of gas stations, let alone India the number is minuscule.
Lack of uninterrupted power supply: If somehow the company manages to find or establish charging stations, then there is this problem of getting 24*7 power supply let alone quality supply. Getting quality power without interruptions throughout the year throughout the country is a tough ask in India.
Lack of Proper Electric Vehicles: The only electric vehicle available for purchase in India is Mahindra e2o(at the time founding Lithium Urban) which in many aspects is inferior to its conventional counterparts. Aspects like cramped interiors, rear seats access and range per charge are a few to say.
e20 from Lithium Urban’s fleet
Battery Life and Replacement Costs: Battery pack to electric vehicles is like a fuel tank to IC engine cars. Let me use an analogy to help you understand the problems associated with battery packs. Imagine if your car’s fuel tank decreases in size over time & it cannot hold same amount of fuel as it does in the initial days and also it cannot take fuel at higher inflow rates so you have to slowly pump the fuel or it will spill off. And you have replace the fuel tank a couple of times before you replace the car itself. That is how it is with Electric Cars & Battery Packs. Though this a problem now, in the future this might not be a problem as the batteries are constantly improving and also battery costs are constantly falling.
Establishment Costs: Apart from the real estate costs,telemetry platform costs and other costs, the major capital requirement for any cab service provider is capital to purchase the fleet. In case of electric vehicle fleet the cost is multiple times higher than that of the conventional fleet. Mahindra e20 base variant on-road price in Bengaluru is INR 7.10 lakh and Tata Nano base variant on-road price in Bengaluru is INR 2.32 lakh. (*According to Cardekho and Tata Motors websites respectively ** Mahindra e20 is now discontinued and replaced with Mahindra e20 Plus)
And many more challenges like customer perception towards electric vehicles, safety(possibility of battery explosions),…etc are to be addressed by the company.
Lithium Urban Technologies despite all these challenges is managing to succeed and move forward. And apart from these inherent challenges associated with electric vehicles there are challenges like competition from established players and biggies national & international like Ola and Uber etc.
How the company is overcoming all these difficulties and progressing? The answer is simple, to start with, they chose a sub segment which they can serve despite their limitations. And as the numbers rise they will explore new segments and new geographies.
What is the segment and city that they chose to start their operations? The segment is Corporate Employees Transport and the city is Bengaluru/Bangalore. The company found out that catering to corporate customers can solve many of their hurdles at once. Well, but why & how choosing corporates as their clients can help them. And what is the business model adopted.
Lithium is counting on the corporate companies to recharge their cars as the companies will already have the required infrastructure to supply uninterrupted & quality power. Lithium establishes a charging station at the premises of a company that signs up with them for their transportation services.
The corporates have to pay Lithium on per-car-per-month basis irrespective of the miles driven. And the companies(clients) have to bear the electricity bills.
As the routes are fixed, timings are known and passengers are known, predictability is more and the complexities involved are less compared to that of their counterparts.
Coming to financial hurdles, apart from the founding members own investments, Lithium got backing from Robin Chase and Ramachandran. Ramachandran is chairman at InKlude Labs and former head of Morgan Stanley India. Robin Chase is a transportation entrepreneur and co-founder of ZipCar. Both the investors are happy and optimistic about Lithium Urban.
Companies saw partnering with Lithium Urban Technologies as a tool to reduce their carbon footprint and as a part of their social responsibility. Soon, Lithium roped in Tesco Plc as their first client. And other companies followed the suit. Companies like Accenture, Adobe Systems and VMware are few of their clients. VMware is one of their biggest clients.
Where Next and What Next? Lithium is planning to operate pan India. As most of their corporate clients have offices at more than one city and have thousands of employees at each city, Lithium is planning to extend the services to their existing clients at their other locations. This includes cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad etc.
As they spread across various cities and scale up, they will start catering to non corporate clients i.e., to public. Until then they will concentrate only on corporate clients.
Coming to the what next question, The future of urban public transportation will be driven by four key tenets: clean, distributed, shared and connected, according to Krishnan. Keeping that in mind, he wants Lithium to eventually engage across the electric mobility value chain.
Sanjay Krishnan plans to collaborate with more OEMs to introduce different new form factors (vehicles) for freight, mass transit and consumer transport by April 2017, and wants the company to expand its fleet to 6,000 vehicles in four years.To do all that and more, the company, which has raised $1.3 million of equity and $1.3 million of debt, is looking to raise $6-7 million.
In addition to Ramachandran and Chase, Lithium counts KPIT promoters’ group, Kewal Nohria, Cognizant’s Lakshmi Narayanan, H.V. (Prasad) Subramaniam and Subrata Ghosh as its angel investors.
And another member to back Lithium Urban Technologies is none other than the man who gave India its first electric car Reva, Chetan Maini. Maini is also very optimistic about Lithium.
“When I started Reva, it was way ahead of its time. What is happening today is a host of factors coming together” such as better technology, awareness of electric cars and a more favourable policy stance from global lawmakers, he said.
“The long-term vision is to move into several different product platforms,” said Maini, who is a co-promoter, board member and investor of Lithium.
While Lithium is currently focused on corporate transport in India, Maini expects a future where it could dabble in other mobility areas such as goods transport and “first-mile/last-mile” delivery, and think beyond India.
Hyundai Motor extends commitment to customer care with innovation by revealing ‘Mobility Vision’ concept
Concept pairs Connected Car and Smart House for seamless technological convergence, allowing users to ‘move while living, and live while moving’
Hyundai Motor blurs line between home and car at CES in Las Vegas
Jan. 4, 2017 – At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas, Hyundai Motor has revealed its ‘Mobility Vision’ concept that, in the future, will connect autonomous cars to living and working environments. Signaling the start of a new era, Hyundai Motor’s Smart House technology blurs the line between mobility and living and working space, integrating the car into the daily lives of users.
The Smart House concept shown at CES is an important demonstration of Hyundai Motor’s plans for ‘Mobility Vision’, which places Connected Car technologies at the center of the home. The CES display suggests how the car could shed the image of a conventional vehicle, integrating itself with the living space when docked, before becoming a mobile living space when customers need to move around.
Hyundai Motor’s future vision makes full use of the car for mobility and, crucially, when not traveling it enables customers to continue living without interruption by integrating its functionalities with the home. The new concept combines the comfort, convenience and connectivity features of the car and the home into ‘one space’.
Hak Su Ha, Director of Hyundai Design Center said: “Hyundai Motor recognizes the significance of connected technologies and the extent to which they could benefit our customers’ daily lives. Our Smart House concept fully integrates the car into the home, ultimately making the user’s life more comfortable and convenient. By seamlessly blending features from the car with home and work environments, the user experience is uninterrupted whether socializing, working at home, or on the move.”
When ‘docked’ with the Smart Home, Hyundai Motor’s mobility concept becomes an integral part of the living space, performing useful functions and enhancing the living environment. For example, the mobility concept can act as an air conditioner; share its entertainment facilities by mirroring audio and visual outputs with the home’s smart devices; and even provide power in emergency situations, using its on-board fuel cell as a generator.
In addition to presenting an innovative solution to overpopulation and limited living space, the ‘Mobility Vision’ ambition extends to connected technologies that make users’ lives easier on a daily basis. Hyundai Motor’s investment in ‘hyper-connectivity’ will become so advanced that users will not feel the movement of transport as they continue using the living and working space. Advanced communication with other cars and traffic systems means the user can continue living until they reach their destination making it possible to carry on working or relaxing without interruption.
Hyundai Motor Company
Established in 1967, Hyundai Motor Company is committed to becoming a lifetime partner in automobiles and beyond. The company leads the Hyundai Motor Group, an innovative business structure capable of circulating resources from molten iron to finished cars. Hyundai Motor has eight manufacturing bases and seven design & technical centers worldwide and in 2015 sold 4.96 million vehicles globally. With more than 110,000 employees worldwide, Hyundai Motor continues to enhance its product line-up with localised models and strives to strengthen its leadership in clean technology, starting with the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen-powered vehicle, Tucson Fuel Cell and IONIQ, the world’s first model with three electrified powertrains.
Las Vegas, Jan. 4, 2017 — Imagine if the vehicles of the future were friendly, and focused on you. That’s the vision behind Toyota’s Concept-i. Announced today at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the groundbreaking concept vehicle demonstrates Toyota’s view that vehicles of the future should start with the people who use them.
Designed by Toyota’s CALTY Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., and with user experience technology development from the Toyota Innovation Hub in San Francisco, the Concept-i was created around the philosophy of “kinetic warmth,” a belief that mobility technology should be warm, welcoming, and above all, fun. As a result, the concept was developed with a focus on building an immersive and energetic user experience. What’s more, Concept-i leverages the power of an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system to anticipate people’s needs, inspire their imaginations and improve their lives.
“At Toyota, we recognize that the important question isn’t whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota. “It is the experience of the people who engage with those vehicles. Thanks to Concept-i and the power of artificial intelligence, we think the future is a vehicle that can engage with people in return.”
Built around the Driver Vehicle Relationship
At the heart of Concept-i is a powerful AI that learns with the driver to build a relationship that is meaningful and human. More than just driving patterns and schedules, the concept is designed to leverage multiple technologies to measure emotion, mapped against where and when the driver travels around the world. The combination gives Concept-i exceptional ability to use mobility to improve quality of life.
What’s more, the AI system leverages advanced automated vehicle technologies to help enhance driving safety, combined with visual and haptic stimuli to augment communication based on driver responsiveness. While under certain conditions users will have the choice of automated or manual driving based on their personal preference, Concept-i seamlessly monitors driver attention and road conditions, with the goal of increasing automated driving support as necessary to buttress driver engagement or to help navigate dangerous driving conditions.
Designed to Help Make Technology Human
To help ensure that even the most cutting-edge vehicle technology remained welcoming and approachable, CALTY designers built Concept-i from the inside out, starting with a next-generation user interface that serves as a platform for the vehicle’s AI Agent, nicknamed “Yui”.
The interface begins with the visual representation of Yui, designed to communicate across cultures to a global audience. With Yui’s home centered on the dashboard, Concept-i’s interior emanates around the driver and passenger side and throughout the vehicle in sweeping lines, with interior shapes designed to enhance Yui’s ability to use light, sound and even touch to communicate critical information.
In fact, Concept-i avoids screens on the central console to reveal information when and where it’s needed. Colored lights in the foot wells indicate whether the vehicle is in automated or manual drive; discrete projectors in the rear deck project views onto the seat pillar to help warn about blind spots, and a next-generation head up helps keep the driver’s eyes and attention on the road.
Even the exterior of the vehicle is designed to enable Concept-i to engage with the world around it. Yui appears on exterior door panels to greet driver and passengers as they approach the vehicle. The rear of the vehicle shows messages to communicate about upcoming turns or warn about a potential hazard. The front of the vehicle communicates whether the Concept-i is in automated or manual drive.
General Motors has made yet another move as it bets big on electric vehicles in the near future. Electrek reports GM and Boston, Massachusetts startup company “WiTricity” have partnered to collaborate over future wireless charging technology.
The ultimate goal of the partnership is to develop wireless charging pads for EVs, ideally installed beneath a layer of concrete or other flooring materials garages. By parking over the pads, the vehicle would be charged automatically with no plugging required.
“The electric vehicle has been recognized as central to the future of mobility, and GM has been a leader, making EVs accessible to the broader market. The convenience of wireless charging will help accelerate adoption even further,” said Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity, about the alliance. “Wireless charging for EVs, based on industry standards, is inevitable as we move toward a future of self-driving and autonomous vehicles, and this project brings us one step closer to realizing our vision of a world powered wirelessly.”
GM has agreed to lend a 2017 Chevrolet Volt to WiTricity to conduct tests with its wireless charging technology. The company claims it can reach 90 percent efficiency through its wireless charging, which would match traditional plug-in charging systems.
WiTricity has aimed for a 2017 release for the wireless charging pad.
About Witricity Corporation
WiTricity is an American engineering company that manufactures devices for wireless energy transfer using resonant energy transfer based on oscillating magnetic fields. The term WiTricity was used for a project that took place at MIT, led by Marin Soljačić in 2006. The research project was spun off into a private company, also called WiTricity.
Display to feature concepts on urban mobility, artificial intelligence, and robotics
Honda to announce collaboration with global brands, startups
Press conference scheduled for January 5, 2017 @ 11:00 AM PST
TORRANCE, Calif., Dec. 5, 2016 – Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data to transform the mobility experience, Honda today announced that “Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem” will be the theme for its participation at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Honda will kick off its CES presence with an 11:00 am PST press conference on January 5, 2017 (LVCC, North Hall – 7312). CES runs from January 5-8, 2017.
Honda will feature interactive and immersive experiences designed to showcase a future technology path toward a redefined mobility experience. From reducing traffic congestion to creating new modes of in-car connectivity, visitors will have an opportunity to explore and demo technologies with the potential to make people’s lives better. The exhibit will include the NeuV, a concept automated EV commuter vehicle equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) called “emotion engine”*1 that creates new possibilities for human interaction and new value for customers.
Continuing its pursuit of open innovation and collaboration, Honda also will announce initiatives with startup companies and global brands that will create a more productive and enjoyable mobility experience.
The January 5, 2017 Honda press conference at CES will feature a keynote address from Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, President & CEO of Honda R&D Co., Ltd, who will unveil a concept motorcycle demonstrating an application of the company’s robotics technology.
About Honda Technology
Honda is creating technologies and products that advance the company’s clean, safe, fun and connected brand values. These efforts include advancements in automated vehicles, connectivity and ultra-low carbon mobility. In North America, the company has more than 300,000 vehicles on the road equipped with the Honda Sensing™ or AcuraWatch safety and driver-assistive technologies and more than 400,000 vehicles featuring Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™compatibility. Honda also is testing advanced automated vehicle technologies in Japan and North America and is targeting 2020 for the deployment of highly automated vehicles on U.S. highways. Honda also is working to fulfill its environmental and safety vision: “to realize the joy and freedom of mobility and a sustainable society where people can enjoy life.” Toward this target, Honda is striving to make two-thirds of its global automobile sales from hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electrified vehicles including fuel cell and battery electric vehicles by around 2030.
*1 The “emotion engine” is a set of AI technologies developed by cocoro SB Corp., which enable machines to artificially generate their own emotions.
Reverse Trikes are three wheeled vehicles with two wheels in the front and one in the rear. This design is used in the modern three wheeled vehicles due to its increased stability & fun factor compared to single front wheel designs.
Orxa Energies is founded by Prajwal Sabnis and Vinayak Bhat in August 2015 and their first product is Mantis. The company is based out of Bangalore. They are currently in proof of concept stage and therefore exact details about the battery capacity and motor specifications of production vehicle are not known yet. Meanwhile, enjoy the prototype and explainer videos:
I always used to wonder why there were very few hardware startups in India compared to the number of software startups. It can be because of various reasons, few reasons that occurred to me are:
Capital: Hardware startups require more seed capital compared to software startups.
Availability of People: There are many engineers who are interested to work on software startups whereas in case of hardware startups the number is comparatively very low.
Availability & Accessibility of required resources: For software startups, resources like computer, internet & programming languages(like java, c, c++ …etc ) are easily available & accessible over internet or at college labs. For hardware startups, resources like machines, materials & software(like CAD, CAM & FEA …etc) are comparatively less available & accessible and are costlier to access.
Traction: Gaining traction for hardware startups is tougher compared to software startups.
Distribution: Software products and services can be easily distributed to the end user through internet whereas the hardware startups require physical infrastructure to distribute their products and services.
And there can be many other reasons.
Let me know your thoughts about hardware startups in the comments section below.