Why Read This?
- Learn about an upstart firm aiming to compete in the Indian four-wheeler EV space.
- Take a look at India’s first passenger vehicle with a unique ‘reverse trike’ arrangment – two wheels at the front and one at the rear – to have gained ARAI approval.
- What does designing an electric vehicle for urban India mean?
Strom Motors is a Mumbai-based EV startup working on building made-in-India ‘urban mobility solutions’, the first of which is an electric car with a rather unique ‘reverse trike’ arrangement called the Strom-R3. In a ‘reverse trike’ structure, the vehicle has two wheels at the front and one at the rear. Having recently received ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) approval – making the Strom-R3 the first Indian passenger segment vehicle with this arrangement to do so – the company is currently in the process of setting up manufacturing and gaining other government clearances.
We spoke with Pratik Gupta, Founder & CEO @ Strom Motors, to learn more about the startup, the Strom-R3, its standout features as well as his take on some of the challenges for EV in India currently.
For those who’re unaware, could you give us a short intro to Strom Motors and its history?
Strom Motors is a wholly owned subsidiary of E14 Technologies Pvt Ltd, a Mumbai based RnD company (founded in 2011). The original founders of the company have a combined RnD and product building experience of over 75 years. Strom Motors is a result of an internal RnD project, where we identified that the new-age automobile customer is completely different than what car companies are building for.
“Shared mobility and minimal carbon footprint are now front and center issues of urban consumers, while big and bulky Sedans & SUVs are not so attractive to millennials; who do not wish to spend a large part of their paycheck towards a vehicle that is not used much.”
Tell us a little about your electric car – the ‘Strom-R3’ – its variants and its standout features.
Strom-R3 is an urban mobility solution which is 100% electric and provides a safe and air-conditioned comfortable cabin for two. Strom-R3 is designed and built for an urban user of any modern city around the world. We foresee three major market segments using this platform –
- the daily office commuter who is looking for a quick and safe vehicle around town
- as an additional car in the family for running errands around 10km radius
- first/last mile shared mobility solution parked at metro stations and bus stops
It has been said that the car has been designed specifically for India’s urban areas. What does that mean in terms of feature design?
The Indian consumer, as we all know, is extremely value driven and not price driven. With Strom-R3 the focus was to cater to particular needs to our target audience and just concentrate on price reductions.
Some of the major design decisions we took early on revolve around how we foresee the eco-system evolve. Given the condition of power distribution and parking issues in India, for mass adoption compact mobility solutions (2 and 3 wheelers) can only hit mass volumes if we shift to swappable battery solutions.
Given that Strom-R3 battery requirements are fairly small we have designed the batteries to be modular and installed under the bonnet of the car making them easier to swap compared to a typical car which has them as part of the floor of their entire car length. Using modular batteries also come in handy during middle-of-the-road stranded situations where mobile support vans can replace a few battery packs to help the user reach their destination. Some of the other aspects revolve around ease of use like having both front and rear storage, multiple LCD displays with fully customizable UI for dedicated and personalized interfaces.
“In future, we also plan to offer semi-autonomous features like ability to follow the vehicle in front of you at speeds less than 25kmph to avoid stresses of stop-and-go traffic which are common in most cities. Remote phone controlled driving for tight parking spots where opening a door is not a possibility and users can remotely drive the car into the spot.”
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The Strom-R3 has – for the Indian market – quite a unique ‘reverse trike’ configuration. What are the benefits of such a system and why did you choose to go ahead with it?
I am glad you asked this. With current li-ion battery prices, extra weight on the car means you require bigger battery which then raises product pricing and operating costs. This is the main reason behind the fact that current EVs on the market costs over Rs.10L and only go for 120kms. With an average occupancy of 1.6 in cities, urban consumers are looking for a compact two-seater solution which is affordable and easy to park.
Three-wheeled reverse trike platform fits perfectly for this need and provides similar stability as a hatchback while reducing weight by almost half which increases drive efficiency by three times. This directly translates into extremely affordable prices for 200kms on a single charge and about Rs.0.40 per km.
Where are you currently at in terms of manufacturing and launch?
Strom-R3 was unveiled in April, 2018 in Mumbai and has received a lot of excitement and support since. We are currently setting up our manufacturing and the vehicle itself has recently passed government approvals. We will announce launch and availability dates soon.
How do you plan to deal with the charging infrastructure paucity in India at the moment?
Strom-R3 will come with three range options of 120/160/200 kms per charge. Given that the platform is designed for urban usage, most use cases involve a daily driving distance of 20-100kms.
“We expect bulk of our users to charge at home or office and never having to depend on public charging infra. Having said that, this does limit us currently to users with fixed parking spaces at home or work, but we believe as the eco-system develops swapping solutions will become ubiquitous.”
Till then, with an onboard charger that takes 3 hours for a fully depleted charge cycle users can charge at any location with a 15Amp single phase power supply (most hotels, restaurants offices etc). We are also compatible with almost all publically available charging infra that is coming up around the country and even in future, will support our users if standards change.
‘Smart’ vehicles is the ‘in’ thing at the moment. Are there any web and mobile connected features in your vehicles worthy of mention?
We take the term “Smart” very seriously and for us, it just does not mean that you can track your car or turn your AC, lights using an App. Strom-R3s come with 4G connected diagnostic engine where users can track not just location and status of charge but can also get a complete health report of critical components like brake pads, motors and electronics. The new Indian consumer expects these features as standard fitment rather than pricey upgrades.
“EVs can use upto 20% extra energy while going over bad roads or rain affected conditions. The on-board system continuously tracks the road terrain and driver habits along with machine learning based navigation engine to learn your daily drive routes and help with intelligently predicted real-world range rather than a State-Of-Charge based range estimation.”
This data rich system also feeds into our citywide database to help other Strom users with alerts about impending bad roads resulting in lower than expected driving range so that they can plan accordingly rather than being stranded in the middle of the road.
Some of these features will be made available directly through the on-board touch screen interface or via the Strom Connect App. For us Smart means providing users with smart insights and actionable inputs.
What is your take on the government’s current policies towards the EV ecosystem?
We welcome the positive initiatives that the government has taken so far especially with awareness and urgency to convert to EVs. India being a diverse democracy, things sometimes take time to get implemented but the current transparent and corruption free environment really helps startups like Strom to compete on technology and product value rather than company size, political tie-ups and family backgrounds.
As the market matures, Indians will have multiple choices and more evolved products on offer. It is similar to the radical change that cellular phone industry went through where after the launch of app based software driven phones, the industry grew from two or three major manufacturers to over 50, each with better and more nuanced product offering catering to larger part of population.
What’s next for Strom Motors?
Currently we are working tirelessly to bring Strom-R3 to market and expand to multiple Indian cities. We are also in discussion with some European companies to take Strom to global cities. On the product front, we are working with IIT, Mumbai’s Industrial Design Center to design inner-city delivery van on the same platform for a clean and efficient logistics delivery market. Looking forward to the exciting opportunities that Indian market now offers.