Ola Electric to set up world’s largest EV two-wheeler charging network.

Ola Electric on Thursday revealed its plans to set up the world’s largest electric two-wheeler charging network. SoftBank-backed Ola Electric plans to provide charging solutions to all its electric two-wheeler customers. It unveiled the Ola Hypercharger Network, the charging network for its upcoming two-wheeler products starting with the Ola Scooter to be launched in the coming months.

The Ola Hypercharger Network will be the widest and densest electric two-wheeler charging network in the world, with more than 100,000 charging points across 400 cities. In the first year alone, Ola is setting up over 5,000 charging points across 100 cities in India, more than double the existing charging infrastructure in the country. Ola along with its partners would set it up at an estimated cost of $2 billion over a period of five years.

“For us to ensure aggressive and large scale adoption of electric vehicles, a strong charging network is required,” said Bhavish Aggarwal, chairman and group CEO, Ola. “One of the key infrastructure gaps in our country has been the charging network.”

Aggarwal said ‘electric’ is the future of mobility and Ola is reimagining the entire user experience of owning an electric vehicle. The plans to build a comprehensive charging network is a key piece of this. “By creating the world’s largest and densest 2-wheeler charging network, we will dramatically accelerate the customer adoption of electric vehicles and rapidly move the industry to electric,” said Aggarwal.

In India, Ola is now in direct competition with electric two-wheeler makers, such as Ather Energy, Hero Electric, and TVS Motor Company. However, Aggarwal said the charging network won’t be available to other electric vehicle players and only the customers of Ola Electric.

“It is a conscious strategic choice,” said Aggarwal. He said by controlling both ends of the ecosystems–the vehicle and the charging infrastructure–the firm would be able to offer a great “seamless” experience to the customers. He said Elon Musk’s Tesla and Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio had also rolled out their own proprietary charging ecosystem and strategy.

“With Hyundai electric car, you cannot charge on Tesla’s supercharger network. It is for Tesla people,” said Aggarwal.

Ola will offer the most comprehensive set of charging options to its electric vehicle customers. This would be done through a combination of widely deployed high-speed Ola Hyperchargers and the home-charger that will come bundled with the Ola Scooter.

Ola Hypercharger will also be the fastest two-wheeler charging network. The Ola Scooter can be charged 50 per cent in just 18 minutes for a 75 km range, providing superior range confidence. Ola Hyperchargers will be widely deployed across cities and will be found in city centres and dense business districts as stand-alone towers as well as in popular locations such as malls, IT parks, office complexes and cafes, ensuring that Ola Electric customers always have a Hypercharger nearby.

The Ola Hypercharger network, being built by Ola along with partners, will be complemented by the home charger that will be bundled with the Ola Scooter. The home charger will require no installation and will provide Ola customers with the convenience of charging at home by simply plugging into a regular wall socket for overnight charging.

Ola Hypercharger network, together with the home-charger and Ola Scooter’s industry-leading range, will ensure that customers have complete range confidence when opting for Ola’s electric vehicles.

The company said Ola Hypercharger network will offer an effortless and seamless charging experience to Ola customers. They have to simply arrive at a charging location and plug their scooter into the charging point. Customers can easily monitor the charging progress in real-time on the Ola Electric app. The same app can be used to seamlessly pay for the charging as well.

“We have also built navigation features,” said Varun Dubey, head of marketing at Ola Electric and Ola Financial Services. “If you are going from point A to B, our app would automatically know whether you have enough charge.”

The much-anticipated and soon-to-be-launched Ola Scooter is a tech-driven electric vehicle with industry-leading range and speed. It will be manufactured at the Ola Futurefactory which is being built at record speed in Tamil Nadu, India, with its first phase to be ready this summer. The facility is being built with an investment of Rs 2400 crore on 500 acres of land.

The company said the electric two-wheeler will be priced aggressively to make it accessible to all and will help accelerate India’s transition to sustainable, clean and electric mobility.

The Ola Scooter has already won several prestigious awards including the IHS Markit Innovation award at CES and the German Design Award. The firm said it has industry-first smart features that reimagine the entire scooter experience for customers in India and around the world. The scooter has a sophisticated design and a unique banana-shaped battery that is easy to remove and charge anywhere.

In July 2019 Ola Electric Mobility (Ola Electric), the ride-hailing firm’s electric vehicle arm raised $250 million from Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank. It was just a two-year-old firm at that time. The investment made the fledgeling venture a “unicorn”, or a start-up valued at more than $1 billion.

Covid-19 impact

At a time when the second wave of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in the country, Aggarwal doesn’t foresee any major disruption presently, in the roll-out of its charging network, vehicles and setting up of the Futurefactory. He said there were supply chain issues before the second covid wave as well. “We don’t forecast any major issues ourselves, but the next month is going to be critical.”

Ola’s mega-factory will have an initial capacity of 2 million units a year in phase 1 around June this year. It will serve as the company’s global manufacturing hub for its range of electric-powered scooters and two-wheelers across India and international markets including Europe, UK, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.

Aggarwal said the automotive sale got hampered due to coronavirus waves, but EV penetration went up drastically in regions such as Europe, China and the US.

“I feel EVs are so disruptive,” said Aggarwal. “EV penetration will actually thrive and go up significantly (due to) any kind of demand issue.”

Ola Electric said its technology in the new charging network is cutting edge compared to innovations in other countries. Aggarwal said the majority of the electric two-wheelers in China using lead-acid batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries as the country had started electrification many years back.

Few of the industry executives have called Aggarwal’s plans for the electric vehicle business ‘outlandish claims’.

“I would like to ask them, what have they been doing,” said Aggarwal.

He said the US and China are ahead of India in this space and the players here have remained circumspect.

“Why is the world ahead of us. We want to put India on the global map,” said Aggarwal. “For that, we have to build research and development and the manufacturing capabilities.”

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