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This post is a part of EV Next’s EV PerspectivesEV Nexta division of EAI, is a leading market intelligence & strategic consulting firm for the Indian e-mobility sector.

Here’s an interesting EV update from today’s news: Public sector oil company Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), in collaboration with Pune-based Kinetic Green Energy & Power Solutions and IIT-Madras, has entered the electric vehicle space with the launch of e-Drive, an EV mobility system based on the battery-swapping model for electric three-wheelers. Read here and here for more on the news item.

The gist of the partnership is as follows: Kinetic Green, a prominent company that makes electric autorickshaws and BPCL which has an extensive retail presence in oil marketing, will take help from IIT Madras’ battery and battery swapping solutions to offer an integrated electric 3 wheeler service that will operate using swappable batteries.

A synergistic partnership between an OEM, battery swap tech provider and the owner of significant distributed real estate in cities has the potential to create significant traction in a short period of time

There’s a lot in this partnership that we at EV Next find valuable:

First of course is how each of the three players is bringing their unique assets and strengths to the table: Kinetic with its long experience in making 3 wheelers, BPCL with an enviable real estate and network to make charging or swapping happen, and IITM its technical knowledge that it has been gathering last few years in the EV battery pack and EV battery swapping space.

More importantly, how the combination plans to beat the three key challenges facing 2 wheeler electric vehicles today: High price, long charging time and lack of a wide charging infrastructure. Let’s look at how they plan to overcome each of the three:

High price: An interesting business model we see from the news report is that they plan to offer the electric 3 wheelers at a price that does not include the battery – this is feasible because they plan to use a swapping model for battery charging. Now, if we take the battery out of the picture, an electric 3 wheeler actually becomes less costly than a conventional 3 wheeler.

Long charging time: The swapping model effectively eliminates the long charging wait time for a 3 wheeler owner.

Lack of wide charging infra: This is where the entry of BPCL makes a big difference. It is challenging to get real estate in a couple of locations in an Indian metro today; just imagine how much more difficult it would be to locate real estate in hundreds of places to put a charging or swapping infrastructure. On the other hand, the oil marketing companies already have 60,000 petrol stations around the country already existing, and tapping into this real estate (at least to start with) is a great way to kick things off.



It’s early days with partnerships such as this. But I foresee more of these happening in the Indian EV space. The real sauce in this game is swapping. It looks simple, swapping one battery for another, but it more nuanced and intricate –  we will outline these in a later post as it needs a dedicated post for itself. If swapping is made smooth for large scale operations, taking the battery out of the picture (both in terms of ownership and price) becomes a far more practical option.

The other aspect is of course the role of oil marketing companies such as BPCL. Will they see EVs as a threat, an unknown entity with uncertain economics cannibalising their existing profitable petrol stations, or will they embrace the change?

Will oil marketing majors see EVs as a threat to their main source of revenue (oil) or will they embrace early what appears to be the future of transportation?

These questions will be answered as we go along. But for now, this is a partnership that appears in the right direction.



This post is a part of EV Next’s EV PerspectivesEV Nexta division of EAI, is a leading market intelligence & strategic consulting firm for the Indian e-mobility sector.

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