India joined the world in celebrating World EV Day on September 9. Electric vehicles (EV) have been part of a rising tide across the globe for more sustainable transportation. In India, after a stop start process, leading automakers are already in the race to make India a 100% e-vehicle nation in the next decade with indigenous startups playing a key role in the mission so far. Rising investor interest, surge in the number of bookings or vehicles sold and adoption of new technologies are a few important pointers for EV startups in India for the 2021-2022 period. Tracking this sector matters, for the simple reason that the auto sector accounts for close to 7% of India’s GDP, and over 40% share by value of its manufacturing sector.
While the EV landscape is vast considering incumbents and industry stalwarts, Entrackr has prepared a report on startups which are emerging or have achieved product market fit in India. As per data compiled by our data tracking platform Fintrackr, nearly 43 startups in the EV mobility space have raised funds worth around $673 million in 2022 so far. This year has also been the best ever so far in terms of investments in the segment. Ola Electric, Ather Energy, Yulu, Altigreen, Blusmart, Battery Smart, Evage, and Statiq are some of the companies that received top dollar in the EV space during 2022.
The full report in pdf can be found here.
Industry reports suggest that the Indian electric vehicle market was valued at $7 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach $30 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 28.93% in terms of revenue during the period. As per the report by Ernst & Young, India’s electric vehicle industry attracted massive investments of about $6 billion in 2021 and is projected to attract $20 billion by 2030. To put that in context, the passenger car market was valued at $32.70 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach a value of $54.84 billion by 2027.
As per Fintrackr’s data, there is a rising trend of investment in EV and EV-focused startups since 2020, when the sector attracted $195 million. The year 2021 saw $570 million, and 2022 has seen $673 million pour in so far, with more expected to follow. According to ETAuto Research, 2019 was the breakout year when EV startups managed to mop up nearly $400 million across 20 deals. That was when SoftBank’s $250 million round helped Ola Electric become the first unicorn in the EV space. Since then, although no startup in the segment has crossed the $1 billion valuation benchmark, Ather Energy, Yulu, Bounce Infinity and BluSmart are on the ‘soonicorn’ list.
The year-on-year funding growth can be seen in the graph below:
Top fundraising EV startups
Ola Electric, Ather Energy, Ultraviolette, and Euler Motors have been regular fundraisers and can be found in the last three years’ list. Bounce, which previously entered the market as a scooter rental platform, has now also forayed into the EV space. The company acquired 22 Motors in a deal worth $8-10 million in October 2021 to mark its entry into the EV manufacturing space. Entrackr was the first to report the development.
“We believe that affordable, sturdy and TCO [total cost of ownership] efficient scooters play a very important role in terms of the country transitioning to EV. Design thinking plays an important role – today most of the EVs come with fixed batteries and millions of them without parking space or charging point can’t switch to EV,” said Vivekananda Hallekere, co-founder and CEO of Bounce Infinity, explaining their reason behind foraying into this space. Bounce Infinity has launched an electric scooter with dual options i.e. scooters with Battery-as-a-Service (BaaS) and with battery and charger.
Entrackr has prepared a three year chart of the top 10 VC funded startups from 2020 to 2022 so far. Valuation wise, Ola Electric is on top with a $5 billion valuation while its close competitor Ather Energy is valued at less than $1 billion. However, according to Tarun Mehta, founder and CEO of Ather, the company is considerably undervalued.
As per Fintrackr’s analysis, out of 43 deals, only six are in the growth or late stage while the rest of them are in the early or seed stage. This reflects the momentum that has built up only recently, with the segment barely 5 years old from a practical perspective.
Traditional VCs bypass EVs
While 2022 leads in funding for EV startups, most of the large active investors such as Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global, Softbank, Matrix Partners, Accel, Nexus Venture Partners, among others, have stayed away from investing in this space. That is partly due to the apprehension that the EV market will eventually be led by global (Chinese) majors, especially in batteries, something that multiple Indian startups are trying hard to disprove. Batteries, in fact, have a disproportionate impact on the segment, thanks to their high share of overall costs, and will continue to do so in the future too.
That explains Tiger Global’s investment in battery swapping network startup Battery Smart, a rare exception. The New York-based fund had led a $25 million round in the Gurugram-based firm. Previously, it invested in Ather Energy and Ola Electric but did not participate in their new rounds in 2022.
Similarly, SoftBank has not invested in any Indian EV startup after Ola Electric. Lightspeed made its maiden investment in an EV startup with a $13 million round in Exponent Energy, a firm building rapid charging solutions. Other segments such as fintech, SaaS, e-commerce, agritech as well as edtech did not see such a trend even during the funding winter.
Despite the absence of traditional VCs, around 10 funds including VC, debt and angels, have announced their plan to back startups in the EV and mobility space. Fundamental VC, Arkam Ventures, Capital A, Trifecta have announced their new funds in 2022.
As per a Reuters report, Chiratae is also planning to raise a new round to invest in capital intensive sectors like electric mobility. Early stage fund Blume Ventures, too, is focusing on EVs for the past couple of years. It has backed Yulu, ElectricPe, Euler Motors and Battery Smart.
Corporates Vs Startups
Amitabh Kant, former CEO of Niti Aayog, recently said that electric vehicle startups run by young entrepreneurs will disrupt India’s automotive industry ecosystem. Speaking at the 62nd annual convention of the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA) in New Delhi, Kant hailed startups such as Ola, Ather, Revolt, Okinawa, Tork, and Log9 Materials.
Numbers also favour startups which are competing neck and neck against industry leaders. This seems especially more likely in the two wheeler segment, where the volumes lie for now, and in the near future. According to information on the government’s vehicle registration portal, Vahan, registrations of electric two-wheelers crossed the 80,000 mark for the first time in August 2022. Hero Electric topped the charts with 10,476 two-wheeler EVs registered followed by Okinawa, Ampere, Ather, TVS and Ola Electric during the last month. Leading player Hero Electric, which was founded in 2007, is further planning to raise $250 million in a new round, as per media reports. Last year, it raised $30 million in a Series B round.
Okinawa, which was founded in 2015 and was the first to see customers benefit from the FAME II subsidy from the Government of India, was in planning to raise funds from private equities to double down its manufacturing capacity.
Notably, Ather, Ola Electric, Revolt, Pure EV and Bounce Infinity are in the top 15 chart. Ather spokesperson said that the firm has sold 23,408 units of electric scooters in the first eight months of 2022.
For Ola Electric, it has been a steep fall from registration of 12,705 units in April and then just 3,856 units in July, linked to fire incidents with its batteries and other teething issues. The registration of electric two wheelers in August 2022 can be seen in the graph below:
Temporary setbacks have not deterred Ola Electric’s CEO Bhavish Agarwal, who announced that the company will open more experience centers to boost sales. According to him, Ola Electric already has 20 such centers in the country which will go up to 200 by March next year.
Bounce Infinity, Ultraviolette, Tork, and other startups in two wheeler electric may also be able to see their names in the top 10 in the coming months. Some of these startups have not started production yet. Furthermore, the past trend also suggests that EV sales go up during the festive season. A clutch of EV companies namely Bounce Infinity, Ather, BGauss, Ampere, Okaya, Yug Electric, and PRAKRITI have been listed on e-commerce websites such as Flipkart and Amazon with multiple offers which may help to boost their sales.
We can see the domination of new age companies including Okinawa, Ola Electric and Ather in overall two wheeler EV sales in 2022 so far.
In the two wheeler segment, Yulu and Zypp Electric are following the path less trodden with their pitch in the shared mobility space. While Yulu scooped up one of the largest fundings in this space in 2022, Zypp picked up $7 million in 2021 and $1 million in debt in 2022.
Apart from two wheeler EV fleets, Yulu also has a Battery-as-a-Service network in India, having done over 3.5 million battery swaps to date. The company’s co-founder and CEO Amit Gupta told Entrackr that the firm is looking at 10x growth in its EV fleet size, and plans for a network of over 500 battery swapping stations capable of doing 3 million battery swaps per month in the next 12 months.
Zypp founder Akash Gupta said that the company’s fleet size has grown from 620 to more than 7,000 in FY22 with expansion in 6 cities including Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Bengaluru, Ghaziabad and Faridabad. The company sources its vehicles and batteries from OEMs. It further plans to deploy 1.5 lakh e-scooters in India by 2025 and aims for a 10X revenue increase in FY23 and 100X by 2025.
In the electric three wheeler segment, India has seen very few startups, including Euler Motors and Altigreen. Earlier this year, Altigreen raised nearly $40 million in its Series A round from Sixth Sense Ventures, Reliance New Energy and others.
“Since the launch of our HiLoad EV last year, our order book has grown tremendously, across segments and industries. We have commenced retail deliveries this year across segments like FMCG and utilities, logistics, pharma, LPG and many more. With this, we continue to maximise deployments across markets. We also plan to raise our production capacities to 1000 units per month in the next FY,” said Saurav Kumar, Founder and CEO, Euler Motors.
Established legacy companies like Mahindra Electric, Piaggio, Kinetic Green, Maruti Suzuki India, Tata, Kia and others are the leading electric three and four wheeler players in India. Further, Suzuki and Toyota have finally announced plans to launch electric vehicles in the country. Swedish luxury car maker Volvo has also announced that 80% of its vehicles in India will be electric by 2025. Volvo currently sells the XC40 Recharge in the country. The dominance of legacy players points to the higher investments required in this segment, besides other entry barriers for startups. Of course, unlike 2 wheelers, in the four wheeler auto segment, both costs, range and charging remain key challenges, for now, limiting a faster adoption of EVs.
The overall EV sales in August 2022 was 88,129 units. These are expected to cross 9 million units by 2027, as per an IVCA-EY-Induslaw report. The month-on-month EV sales between August 2021 to August 2022 can be seen below:
Besides manufacturing, a clutch of startups are working in the ride hailing space with most of the vehicles on their platform electric. One such startup generating buzz is BluSmart. The company recently raised funds and has Mahindra e-Verito, Tata e-Tigor, Tata Xpres-T EV, Hyundai Kona Electric and MG ZS Electric in its fleets. The company claims that it runs 2000 plus EVs on Delhi NCR’s roads. It has also built an infrastructure of more than 1,600 EV charging points.
“Decreasing battery prices, increase in conventional fuel costs, government subsidies, leaps in public charging infrastructure) have been playing an important role in making EVs viable for both consumer and business use,” said Anmol Singh Jaggi, CEO and co-founder of BluSmart in a response to Entrackr’s queries. Parent firm Gensol has a strong presence in the renewable energy space, burnishing BluSmart’s green DNA credentials.
Ola Electric is expected to debut its electric car in 2024 and the company claims it will have a range of around 500 kilometers on a single charge.
Ola Electric did not respond to Entrackr’s queries.
Namit Jain, Founder, and CEO, of Zen Mobility, said, “We are in the middle of a radical transformation that allows both well-established names as well as upcoming ventures to be at the helm of change and reap benefits in the long term. This rapid evolution has led to electric vehicles being specifically designed to be more efficient, cost-effective, and built-for-purpose so as to primarily lead to reduced carbon emissions. Zen Mobility is contributing to this Indian EV landscape through the design and manufacturing of customized and purpose-built EVs primarily for Urban Mobility, especially for the Last Mile, and envisions itself as a one-of-its-kind Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) OEM.”
“The government has been proactive with its initiatives for the implementation of EV-friendly schemes, and now it’s our turn as industry players to support them and adapt to the new regime in order to shape the future of mobility,” he added.
Revenue of top funded EVs and soonicorns in 2022
Since most EV startups are in the early and growth stages, we can see their businesses in the red. Fintrackr has prepared a list of top funded startups in 2022 with their revenue, loss and valuation numbers. Ola Electric raised around $800 million to date at a valuation of $5 billion. The company managed to post only Rs 0.86 crore revenue in FY21 and incurred a loss of Rs 199 crore. It is yet to file FY22 financial statements. Ather Energy posted Rs 80 crore revenue in FY21 which further jumped to Rs 408 crore in FY22 but the company’s losses spiked to Rs 344 crore during the fiscal year. Yulu, which recently scooped up $82 million, posted Rs 13.7 crore revenue against Rs 61 crore losses in FY21.
The rest of the top funded startups of 2022 couldn’t manage to go past Rs 10 crore in revenue in FY21. Their FY22 results are awaited. Valuation-wise, Ather Energy could soon become a unicorn while Yulu and BluSmart may enter the club soon. As per a Reuters report, Blusmart is close to raising a $250 million round. The company has raised $62 million so far. Bounce is also in talks to raise a new round to scale up its EV manufacturing business and is likely to join the soonicorn list.
Akshit Bansal, Founder & CEO of Statiq, said, “The Entrackr report has made it clear that 2022 has been a landmark year as far as investments in the EV segment are concerned. Given the growth rate of the EV space, we believe the time is ripe for both startups and established companies to devotedly invest in design, development, and testing to facilitate the mass adoption of electric vehicles. At Statiq, we aim to rise up to the challenge of building one of the largest EV charging networks in India. We also feature among the top well-funded EV startups in the country today, has raised 25.7 million dollars. It is evident from the Entrackr report that we are in a stage of swift growth. However, that also makes us feel immensely responsible for contributing to the growth paradigm of the Indian EV space.”
“While there are still plenty of challenges confronting the electric vehicle industry and network in India, the government’s push in terms of initiatives has been a huge factor that has boosted the confidence of players in this segment. Mass scale EV adoption seems far-fetched in certain aspects, but definitely not impossible,” Bansal added.
Hub of EV startups
Like edtech, fintech, SaaS and agritech, Bengaluru has emerged as the hub of EV startups followed by Delhi NCR. Fintrackr’s database showed that Bengaluru and Delhi NCR accounted for 70% of the total startups funded in 2022. Bengaluru was also on top of the list in 2021 and 2020.
EV startups saw fewer layoffs and M&A
As a young sector that is still to hit top gear, employees joining EV startups have discovered lower risk of layoffs, even as startups in other categories have had to shed staff to extend their runway.
Overall, Indian startups saw more than 12,000 layoffs in 2022 so far. Edtech accounted for more than 30% of the total layoffs. Since the majority of EV startups are in their early stage, this could be the reason for fewer layoffs from the space as compared to others.
There were some exceptions, though. In June, Gurugram-based EV mobility startup Oye Rickshaw fired 40 employees or 20% of its workforce. Ola Electric is reportedly cutting 200 jobs, mostly in software development roles. As per the company, it’s part of a restructuring exercise while it plans to hire around 3,000 to focus on non-software engineering domains. As per media reports, more than half a dozen senior executives have quit Ola Electric in the past few months.
The EV space also witnessed a bunch of acquisitions in 2022. As per Fintrackr’s data, around half a dozen companies got acquired by larger groups this year. It’s worth noting that acquisitions within the startup ecosystem for EVs were less as compared to other segments such as edtech, fintech and agritech. However, these do not include investments, both strategic and exploratory, made by legacy players into startups. Be it Hero Moto Corp’s large stake in Ather Energy, or recent investments by battery major Amara Raja Batteries into Log9 Materials, a lithium-ion battery and charging startup.
Government’s push, initiatives and challenges
The Central government has been offering incentives/subsidies on electric vehicles under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME II) policy which is valid till 31st March 2024. From an initial focus on all EVs, the FAME scheme has pivoted to a higher focus on public transportation and infra in recent months.
A Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (NPACC) to boost indigenous battery manufacturing capacity, which aims to create 50 GWh of domestic battery manufacturing capacity has also identified winners.
Next on the agenda is a subsidy for companies looking to set up EV charging infrastructure across India. The Union Power Secretary Alok Kumar recently said that a subsidy of around Rs 4-5 lakh will be provided to set up 200-KW charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. An IVCA-EY-IndusLaw report claimed that currently, there are only 1,742 charging stations for EVs and the number is expected to go up to 100,000 units by 2027.
Following the centre, state governments are evolving policies to promote EV adoption. Recently, the Delhi government announced that it targets to achieve 80% electrification of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) fleet within the next three years. It aims to become the first city in India to have 8,000 electric buses as part of its public transport fleet of 11,000 plus buses.
Haryana, Rajasthan, and Tripura have approved supportive electric vehicle policies while the Uttar Pradesh government has prepared a draft of the policy (2022-2027) with the aim of bringing the state into electric vehicle mode by 2030. As per the policy, 15% rebate will be given on the purchase of two or four-wheeler electric vehicles, e-buses and a 100% discount on their registration and road tax in the state.
Meanwhile, the states of Maharashtra and Goa scrapped the policy. Both states will stop offering subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs), which is around Rs 10,000, in the state. Maharashtra is one of the largest states for EVs, and like other states with Auto Manufacturing hubs, has been tweaking its policies to support EV manufacturing too.
A joint report by JMK Research and Climate Trends suggested that India may only reach 50 million electric vehicles (EV) sales by 2030, falling behind by 40% on the projections by the Indian government. Another report by Indian Venture and Alternate Capital Association (IVCA) has also predicted a significant miss.
Battery tech, future and opportunities
Grid works, manufacturing, battery as a service, installation and maintenance are some of the important aspects of EVs which are likely to see more focus from investors as well as the government.
The entry of battery tech startups in the battery as a service and battery swapping space has also made it easy for electric vehicles to travel longer distances and lease batteries separately from the vehicle to save upfront money. Startups like Battery Smart, Lohum, Nexus Battery, Log 9 Materials, Chargeup, Inverted and Yulu are providing battery solutions. Several companies are working on innovation in the field of electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and solid-state batteries aside from lithium-ion batteries.
Battery Smart, which recently raised $25 million in its Series A round, has been working in the battery swapping space. Pulkit Khurana, co-founder of Batter Smart told Entrackr that it completed around 0.7 million swaps in 2021 and has served over 3 million swaps in just 9 months in 2022. According to Khurana, the company is at half a million swaps per month run rate. Battery swapping has been focused on the large fleet of three wheeler EVs (E- rickshaws) in the public transport space for now.
“We see Battery Leasing (Rapid charging) emerging as a more promising space than the battery swapping. From logistical and inventory related nightmares to safety concerns, from limiting the scope for emerging technologies to complicating supply chain, battery swapping does pose serious challenges which only seem to aggravate as we transition from smaller to medium and then larger vehicles,” said Akshay Singhal, founder and CEO of Log9 Materials. Backed by the likes of Amara Raja Batteries, Exfinity Ventures and Sequoia Capital’s Surge, the company has partnerships with Omega Seiki Mobility for three wheelers and it’s about to release its two wheeler battery pack.
“Battery swapping has to be visualised for India differently and not the Taiwanese model of only automated swapping stations. India is blessed with mom-and-pop stores and they all can be an effective part of the network. Battery dimensions and connectors shouldn’t be standardised very early in the game which will kill innovation,” said Hallekere. According to him, EV gives a huge opportunity to decouple the battery and offer a scooter without battery at less than 50% of the price and offer battery as a service.
Industry experts estimate that the cost of the electricity required to charge an EV is around 40% less than the equivalent petrol cost. While most EV charging in India is dependent on power which is still sourced from carbon-emitting fuels like coal, the cost will be lower if charging is done through solar PV systems or at free charging stations.
Bringing a solar powered model in EVs can do wonders at least for low-speed electric vehicles. Canadian company Capsolar and German startup Sono Motors are working in this field. In India, Mumbai-based Atum Charge claims to be India’s first self-sustaining solar-powered EV charging stations. According to the company, it has installed 250 solar powered charging stations across Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. However solar based charging has obvious limitations when it comes to cars and fast charging, due to space limitations.
New age companies in India should eye this space which can further help in reducing carbon footprint.
During the Union Budget for 2022-23, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government will bring a battery swapping policy to boost the use of electric vehicles in the country in view of space constraints for setting up charging stations.
Govt concerns over EVs catching fire
The reports of electric two wheelers or four wheelers catching fire are still a worry for customers and companies. Be it a Tata Nexon Electric SUV to Okinawa and Ola electric scooters, the incident of electric vehicles catching fire forced the Indian government to order a probe. The investigation by the Defence Research Department of India (DRDO) revealed shocking details during the investigation. The findings of the investigation said that deficient battery management system, absence of proper venting mechanism, use of poor quality cells and lack of basic identification system for failed cells were the primary reasons behind the fire incidents.
In July, the Indian government served a show cause notice to all electric vehicle manufacturers whose electric vehicles caught fire in recent times. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which comes under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, also issued notices to four to five EV two-wheeler makers after the incidents.
Earlier this month, the Road ministry amended battery safety norms which will be effective from October 1st. The amendments include additional safety requirements related to battery cells, on-board chargers, design of battery packs, and thermal propagation due to internal cell short circuits leading to fire.
EMO, a startup founded by two former executives of Ola Electric, are pitching a solution to the EV fire issue. As per the Bengaluru-based startup, it has been testing its battery pack in adverse conditions and is now able to offer a full fire safety assurance to customers. Rahul Patel and Sheetanshu Tyagi, founders of the company, earlier worked in the battery department at Ola Electric.
Entrackr also reached out to a bunch of startup founders in the EV space to discuss issues and concerns related to EV fire, battery tech and the government’s policy on EVs. Check the report for more details.
EVs have clearly made the journey from a novelty to an option at the edge of mainstream transportation in the past few years. Especially in two wheelers. Two key factors that will impact growth are energy prices, and raw material costs, especially for Lithium and linked to that, Lithium-ion batteries. Projections made till 2020 hope for stable energy prices, and a gradual decline in lithium battery costs, something that has not followed the script at all, risking projections.
With numbers will also come heavier regulation when it comes to costs related to safety and other testing, which can weigh down startups especially. Startups will need to plan for these eventualities much more as they move from concept to execution.
Similarly, the spread and availability of charging networks and the cost of charging are already beginning to impact perceptions, in some ways replacing the earlier ‘range anxiety’ with ‘charging anxiety’ for potential buyers. On the other hand, existing auto majors who had stayed on the sidelines waiting for the market to mature further are finally making decisive moves, which augurs well for both quality and availability. For startups, this will create a fresh set of possible opportunities, and from legacy players, threats too.