Volta Automotive India owes its existence to Global Brains Inc a partnership firm established by Umesh Chandra and Rakesh Sharma in 2011. It was dealing with mostly green energy projects like micro wind turbines, solar D.C. water pumps, emergency house lighting solutions, LED lights, etc.
The Directors were inspired by the Electric Vehicles running in China. They thought that similar technology should be used in Indian vehicles also. This will bring about a revolution as it would reduce pollution and the burden of crude Oil Import on the Indian government.
The next few months were spent in surveying the Automobile Market in India along with a 3rd Director Pradeep IP. On analyzing the market it was found that 3-Wheeler segment is the most polluting vehicle on road as it had large numbers and with multiple fuel options.
During the survey it was noticed that in many cases the fuel was also adulterated with kerosene to make it cheaper but as a consequence it was polluting even more than the prescribed limits. So it was decided to take lead of Electric Vehicle with 3-wheeler autos. And R&D on existing autos started.
It was a big challenge as there was no prototype or concept available anywhere in the world. The prototype was developed from the concept level to product. The team started with designing the power train which can give the same performance of the existing IC engine. The existing products required differential motor controller and many other items. These all were developed by the team compatible to electric auto. At the end of 2012 a prototype Electric Three Wheeler auto was developed powered by Lead Acid batteries. So a new dream of converting all Existing Autos to Electric Autos took the shape. The journey started by experiment on old Autos to convert them into electric autos in the most economical manner.
The team set about doing the road trials and faced many challenges which took around 6 months to improve and finalize the product. At the same time the team approached their old business associates in Sri Lanka who were interested in the product and the feasibility was worked out for conversion in Sri Lanka. After long deliberations and discussions regarding the conversion, it was decided to do a joint pilot project in Colombo with 5 autos with Lead Acid Batteries.
As this was the 1st opportunity to showcase their product and that too outside the country the team was excited but there were lot of new challenges to make the prototype model to a commercial launch.
It was a time to make the dreams come true. To convert the highly polluting 3-wheelers to 100% pollution free Electric Vehicles in Sri Lanka with business tycoons M/s LAUGFS Eco Solutions, Colombo.
At this time in Sri Lankan the Government was planning to ban all 2 stroke autos within the Colombo city limits. This acted as a catalyst and LAUGFS urged the team to act quickly.
The team went down to Sri Lanka in 2014 and in the LAUGHS premises converted 5 autos to electric autos with LEAD ACID (LA) Batteries. The Converted Autos were showcased to the Sri Lankan Government, and the Govt. appreciated and promised to convert all 2-stroke autos to electric in coming years. It also asked LAUGFS to submit a feasibility report within 6 months.
After successful completion of the project in Sri Lanka the team decided to launch the Electric Autos in India. It was realized that, at the time there were no norms for approval of Electric Vehicles in India.At this stage Mr Madhan who had the experience in electrical Industry and had similar enthusiasm to develop electric vehicle in India joined the Team. He was instrumental to providing infrastructure support for further R & D and technical support.
Mr Anees Ahmed a Former Cabinet Minister of the Maharashtra, appreciated the projects and introduced the team to the Hon’ble Minister for Road Transport and Highways Govt. of India Mr Nitin Gadkari-ji, The Hon’ble Minister and the officials of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways were very Impressed with the product and technology for reducing the Vehicular pollution on the Road.
It was realized that the technology of retrofitting of existing 3-wheeler to electric is very unique and needs to be patented and the process for applying for the same was started.
Expanded Team approached Ministry of Transport with a request of changing the CMVR norms to allow legally retrofitting. Team then presented the upgraded retrofitted auto in Transport Bhavan New Delhi to the Hon’ble Minister for Transport and officials of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. A live demo was given on the Vehicle performance. Impressed by the live demo and initiative taken by our team it was suggested by the officials to get this retrofitted 3 wheeler auto verified and tested for its efficiency and performances by ARAI Pune.
Under the guidance of Ministry of Roads Transport and Highways (MoRTH) the team set about getting approval from the nodal agency Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI). As there were no standards to follow the Agency tested the vehicle in the existing general category for auto 3 wheeler autos, on the basis of the test conducted, ARAI recommend to the Govt. to change the Existing CMVR norms to allow the retrofitting legally. As a part of the homologation process a pilot project also had to be conducted.
We were invited to participate in NEMMP2020 held at the Habitat centre in Delhi with other Leading Automotive companies like Tata, Nissan, Maruti and TVS to show case the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle. During the visit the Hon’ble Minister for Heavy Industries Mr Ananth Geethe-ji appreciated the concept of retrofitting and promised to provide the subsidy under FAME India for retro-fitment as well.
The Team approached ARAI with the Vehicle and the Vehicle was tested and certified for its performance with Lead acid Batteries. With the recommendation of ARAI Pune the transport Ministry directed the team to conduct a Pilot Project of these retrofitted Vehicles in three cities viz. Delhi, Nagpur and Bangalore for road worthiness and understand their performance on city roads.
The Pilot Project started with three retrofitted vehicles in each city. It was flagged off by Hon’ble Minister for Transport Mr. Gadkari-ji in Nagpur in Oct 2015.
In Delhi it was flagged off by Hon’ble Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai-ji in OCT 2015 and later in Bangalore it was flagged off by Hon’ble Karnataka Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy-ji. The Pilot project started with solar panels roof top of 272W capacity. During the Pilot It was felt that the efficiency of the panels was not as expected and also it was raising the issue of centre of gravity of the vehicle due to the weight of the solar panel on the auto roof top, also team found the economics are still at their lower level.
Hence it was decided to discontinue the solar panel concept and to go ahead with 100% externally charging the vehicles. The Pilot of the Vehicles were completed its 90 days trial run and total of 90000 km.
PILOT Project was run under the Supervision of ARAI and was completed, detailed hourly track report was submitted to Transport Ministry through ARAI. Based on the Trial Report ARAI recommended MoRTH to change the CMVR regulation 115D to legally convert any vehicle manufactured after year 1990 and up to GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) of 3600 kg.
After successful completion of the Pilot Project and ARAI approval the Team did a soft launch of their Retrofitted 3 wheeler autos along with Retrofitted Tata ACE at Press Club Bangalore.
Based on the above developments a concrete shape was given by the team and formed M/s VOLTA AUTOMOTIVE INDIA PVT LTD on 13th June 2016. At the same time the team was contacted by UNDP team for their women self-employment scheme. The Scheme entailed creation of jobs for women especially from the poorer sections of the society. The women were given Auto rickshaws as a mode for earning. UNDP wanted to supplant the conventional Auto rickshaws with the one offered by Volta Automotive India Pvt Ltd (VAIPL) as these were easily driven by women since there were no Gear and Clutch but they wanted new vehicle of Electric 3 wheeler autos.
On 24th June 2016 MoRTH through Special Gazette Notification GSR 629(E) changed the central motor act CMVR 115D Part III allowing Retrofitting of any vehicle manufactured after year 1990 and up to GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) of 3600 kg with a Rider that the Warrantee part will be shifted from OEM to approved Retrofitter kit manufacturers.
During the Pilot it was noticed that the Lead Acid batteries were not suitable for Electric Vehicle in terms of energy efficiency, Weight and Life Cycle and also the Lead Acid (LA) Batteries are more dangerous to environment so it is decided to shift from LA Batteries to a better and durable batteries. VAIPL then started searching for various battery chemistry options and finalized on LiFePO4 (Lithium Ferro Phosphate) batteries and imported 60V 80Ah LiFePO4 batteries from China as there were no manufacturers available in India. These Batteries were then installed in Retrofitted Auto and vigorous trials were conducted to the satisfaction of the team.
VAIPL started making a prototype of New Passenger electric 3 wheeler auto. It was 1st displayed in Bangalore Exhibition Centre (BMIC) Tumkur Road in OCT 2016 in a start-up exhibition. During the period Volta also developed its own new electric 3 wheeler Cargo. The same products have been showcased in the recently concluded EV-Expo 2016 in Pragati Maidan Delhi. The Hon'ble Union Minister Shri Chaudhary Birender Singh inaugurated our stall. In the process VAIPL was exposed to new ideas, Vendors, Battery manufacturers and assemblers, many of them were ARAI approved.
With things falling into place it was time for VAIPL to take the next step forward and move from the R&D phase towards Commercial manufacturing of its products. VAIPL started planning and putting the infrastructure in place and also started having detailed discussion with LiFePO4 battery manufacturers like Panasonic, LG Toshiba, Acme, Optimum Nano, etc. who wanted to be part of our electric vehicle manufacturing by associating with VAIPL as battery vendors.
VAIPL brought in experts in the fields of automobile strategy management and marketing to strengthen its structure. Thus, Mr. U C Sharma and Rajesh YR were inducted to the Board thus expanding the VAIPL team.VAIPL approached ARAI for HOMOLOGATION of retrofitted Autos with LiFePO4 Batteries in May. ARAI has completed all the tests and is in the verge of releasing its repot.
VAIPL is now ISO certified company VAIPL is ready to Submit New Electric Autos (Passenger and Cargo) for HOMOLOGATION at ARAI and is all poised to launch these product to the Indian market at the earliest.Enthused by Make in India Concept our R & D team is now focusing on converting FOUR wheelers extensively used in commercial and passenger vehicles.
This is just a beginning of our journey to make Indian roads less polluted and improve the Life of future generations…..come join us in this wonderful journey!