How this R&D specialist is hoping to take India by Strom with his all-electric urban car
If a green world is your destination, how can conventional cars get you there? That’s what Pratik Gupta, 36, an electric automobile enthusiast, wondered. It is this rhetorical question that led him to start up with Strom Motors in 2016, which is designing urban personal electric mobility solution for crowded cities and semi-urban locations. Founded with Jean-Luc Abaziou, ex-CEO of Alcatel, the startup’s first offering is Strom-R3, a made-in-India electric trike they claim is the most economical and efficient way of getting around town.
But how did Pratik get this Strom brewing? Things were set into motion in 2006 when he finished a Master’s course in Engineering at University of Maryland, US. He then began a five-year tutelage with Techno Sciences where he worked on attack planes and defence projects. This inspired Pratik to start his own R&D firm in India. He launched Mumbai-based E14 Technologies, in 2011, which is now merged with Strom, and focused on building products for manufacturing companies, including biggies like Mahindra & Mahindra, and executed clean energy services for many corporates. Realising the power electric vehicles could wield in the future, Pratik chose to pivot.
Left to right: Jean-Luc Abaziou, and Pratik Gupta, Co-founders, Strom Motors, along with Gilmer Blankenship, who is the technical advisor for the firm
“I decided to go all in to build the electric vehicle. I knew nobody else would do it and I took the plunge,” he says. Pratik and Jean Luc put in Rs 1.5 crore into the business. Neeraj Garg, former MD of VW, joined him as an advisor.
“Convincing these big names was not easy. It happened because they had followed my work,” Pratik says.
Pratik met Jean-Luc in 2007, when he (Jean-Luc) joined as CEO of Techno-Sciences. He convinced him that he could start an R&D company out of India, and this relationship continued to Strom Motors where they built Strom-R3.
With zero emissions, Strom-R3 is built “for sustainable mobility and a clean and green future”. The car, which has a reverse-trike format, is said to have over 70-percent lesser parts than a petrol car (which cuts maintenance costs), state-of-the-art tech, and cloud-integrated connectivity. It has a range of 200 km, and a top speed of more than 80 km per hour.
“It has been a journey where I have put all the money into the product; we have spent the last four years perfecting the car. It is now awaiting test results and will be launched soon,” Pratik says. The car is currently testing with the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) in Pune.
The Strom R3
Pratik said they opted for a three-wheel car design to make the vehicle light and thereby support long range. At present, EV cars in India have a range of 130 km. Strom, which is lighter and smaller than the Maruti Suzuki Alto, is 2.8 metres in length and much lighter because it has no moving parts like engine, gears, and the flywheel. All it has are the wheels, the power motor, and the shaft that transforms power to the wheels.
The advanced battery is the “brain” and is completely software-based. It manages the range, and is able to tell the driver about the consumption. Strom Motors has filed three patents for the battery management system and range estimation.
The current capacity of Strom’s Vasai-based factory is 5,000 units per year. But, Pratik says he can ramp up production to 60,000 units per year if the EV market takes off over the next decade.
Maxson Lewis, Co-founder of Magenta Power, says: “In the next decade there will be more electric vehicles on the road than ever before. Startups will launch charging infrastructure and have several EV solutions.”Strom Motors is proud that their car is a made-in-India product. Other than battery cells and a few electrical components, the car is “designed and built in India for Indian conditions”.
The vehicle will be priced between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh; it will be cheaper because of the light weight and battery variants. The car can also be swappable battery compliant.
Strom will be distributed through company owned experience centres in the coming year. The plans for such experience centres are not yet formulated, and Pratik expects the product to be bought online from their website. When the customer buys the car, they will also get Rs 61,000 Faster Adaptation and Manufacture of EV (FAME) subsidy, under is a central government scheme.
The future of EVs
The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) was launched in 2013, and the government aims to make India completely electric by 2047. By 2030, SIAM predicts that 100 percent of Indian vehicles will be electric.
However, despite the growth, the EV industry faces numerous challenges to scale:
- Global lithium battery prices are still expensive: $200 to $250 dollars. Only Tesla has been able to reduce battery costs because of scale. Tesla, with its own Giga factory, is able to get them at $150 per kWh.
- Lack of strict regulations by the government for polluting vehicles.
- The fact that Indian states do not offer tradeable carbon credits to EV manufacturers like California does.
The tipping point, as per Niti Aayog, is expected to be around 2024 when the industry would have scaled to drop product pricing down to $125 per kWh.
As of now, Strom Motors works with 100 local vendors to get mechanical parts and seats. “India should allow the manufacture of battery packs in India; this will make the Indian automobile industry self-reliant when it goes electric,” Pratik says.
The company has raised money from undisclosed angels and some additional funds from the Indian Angel Network. The company has no competition, since the industry itself is so nascent. It will eventually compete with the range of EV products built by Mahindra & Mahindra.
India has electric two wheeler companies like Tork, Ultraviolette, and Orxa, which are building their ecosystem to capture consumers. Perhaps these companies will compete with Strom only if they sell their battery management systems to others.
In German, Strom means electricity. Pratik, his co-founder, and his team are hoping that this Strom brews an EV revolution in India.
Specifications of the StromR3
Dimension: 2907(L) x 1572(H) x 1550(W)mm
Motor : 15kW AC Induction
Battery: 8kWh to 16kWh (upgradeable)
Range: 80km to 200km (depending on battery size)
Top Speed: 80kmph (electronically locked)
Seats: Two-seater with storage in front and back.