Entrepreneur

Startup Mantra: Plugging bright on the EV space


Pune: While Pune is gearing up for the electric vehicle (EV) adoption, Baner-based electric vehicle charging solutions startup ‘goEgoNetwork’ (Impactware Technology Solutions) is helping citizens overcome their EV range anxiety by offering a host of charging solutions for personal use, captive and public installations. Founded in 2019 by a group of sustainability enthusiasts, Sayantan Chakraborti, Dheeman Kadam and Pravin Kumar, the startup is now an Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) certified company by the Open Charge Alliance (OCA) – a global consortium of over 220 companies active in the field of electric mobility. From providing the right charger to building a robust network of chargers, goEgo aims to keep your EV charged up while you shop, eat, work or relax.

The first step

Staying in the Netherlands, Pravin was driving an electric vehicle since September 2017. Sayantan, an alumnus of Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, also inevitably got good exposure to e-mobility. Equipped with the basic know-how and a passion for cleaner mobility solutions, Sayantan dreamed about building a software for electric vehicle charging. In January 2019, during his visit to India, he met Dheeman, his MIT Kothrud engineering graduate friend. Dheeman had then exited his first startup venture CarOk and was looking to experiment in the new-age automotive space.

According to Dheeman, the name was coined as ‘go electric go’ or ‘goEgo’ to suggest letting go of the ego of driving an internal combustion (IC) engine vehicle and the logo has an electricity lightning bolt at the bottom and location pin at the top, with three lines in the E signifying people, planet and profit.

Software

Says Dheeman, “In 2019, I was a one-person company here. Sayantan and Pravin were still in the Netherlands. We had built mobile Android app through which one could locate the chargers, know the charger specifications and charging rates, do top-up (e-wallet), see all transactions, etc. Then we built the Charge Point Management System (CPMS), promoted by OCA, which is the leading provider in charger to CPMS communication protocol.

Pravin said, “We had also participated in a plug fest event in February 2020 in Netherlands. We tested our own cloud solution with at least 10 different companies and that’s when we realised that we could build a full-scale robust enterprise solution for CPMS. We took a year to develop this because it was not a full-time activity for us then. We could remotely monitor all the chargers, see in which area power cuts are happening or the line phase is not good. This data got fed into the analytics engine and we could get real time updates. We could keep the charge points unmanned.”

Hardware

While developing the software, the founders were setting up meetings, getting to know people and how the ecosystem is turning out to be in India. They also met Union minister Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur.

Dheeman said, “Gadkari understood what was happening abroad in the EV ecosystem. He had the pulse and knew where the oil marketing companies (OMC) will start facing the problems. Gadkari suggested us that along with the software, we should also build good hardware. We had deliberations over this and took a decision that has turned out to be a good decision.”

“We got a research and development head onboard. We started building the product in August 2019 in Pravin’s garage in Netherlands and it was completed in June 2020. The first prototype was tested on a Tesla. We also circulated this video in India and Netherlands and then I started meeting people again saying that we have this product which can be installed at fuel stations. Starting from schematics, wire diagrams, components, enclosures, etc all important parameters and aspects were taken care of while designing the hardware,” Dheeman said.

Learnings

goEgoNetwork managed to bag its first order from an OMC order for six states. The installations were done in February 2021. Sayantan and Pravin moved to India in March 2021 after which the office and factory set-up was done.

Pravin shared some early learnings and experiences after the OMC installations. “We saw that the charger is frequently going into emergency stop state. Since it was at a public place, and the charger had an option of emergency stoppage, users had the urge to press the button just to see what happens. Realising this, we made a simple change in the enclosure. The emergency stop button was put behind a glass with a warning to break the glass and use only in emergency. This design change incurred additional cost, but it helped us reduce the undesired stoppage instances and increase charger operational capability to full-time.”

Dheeman said, “Our original ideas were coming from European context, but we adapted to the Indianised version of these. Technology is something which can be build, but design is very human and subjective individually. There was a lot of design thinking done. For instance, initially we had the black and gold colours with the chargers installed at the OMC stations. It blended well with the OMC logo, but people couldn’t recognise that there is an EV charging station there. So, we changed the colours which helped us a brand identity as well. We also won awards for the design.”

Sayantan said, “We have a big market to capture. We have got a good team for both hardware and software. This is a new paradigm shift in mobility. Operationally scaling is a new challenge because it’s a new industry. You need to convince a lot of people. It’s a big race and we are early in this. We have covered quite some challenges but we have lot more to do.”

Lockdown

The Covid outbreak and subsequent lockdown did not have much impact on goEgoNetwork team. Dheeman said, “We had first built the Type 2 charger for four-wheelers. During the Covid lockdown, we thought let’s push the product and technology to a level where in India when the market opens up, we could be ready for mass sale. We started looking for suppliers across globe and in just three months we developed a prototype of Bharat DC charger for two-wheelers and three-wheelers.”

“We built the mobile first strategy wherein a customer should get all kind of services through their mobiles. Our tech team came together remotely and started delivering products on heroic timelines. Covid taught us to do things digitally which was unthinkable earlier,” Dheeman stated.

Funding

In August 2021, goEgoNetwork announced that it has raised $2 million in seed funding to expand its electric charging network. The seed round was funded by Rishi Bagla, chairman, Bagla Group, a leading auto component manufacturer, and Olivier Guillaumond, head, Global Innovation Labs and Fintech at ING Bank in the Netherlands.

“We had received the funding in April itself and in September 2021 we were ready for production. Our investor Bagla was pleased with the kind of technology we had and he helped us set up the manufacturing facility spread over 39,000 square feet in Aurangabad. They already have the experience in manufacturing side and hence with that facility we can now scale up to 5,000 units per month,” Dheeman said.

Red signal for ‘green meters’

Electric vehicles charging infrastructure is becoming a challenge due to non-technical issues. Startups like goEgoNetwork are facing challenges on two fronts – the housing societies and the power companies. Maharashtra government has announced that the rates for EV charging meters would be 5.50ps per unit during day time and 4.50ps per unit during night hours. However, users have to pay up to 16 to 18 per unit in Maharashtra.

In the future…

Dheeman said, “We are in the middle of a small fund raise to reach 1,500 charge points installation in next three months. We will then look for a $35 million round to scale up to 18,000 charge points and 1 million users by end of 2023. We also aim to enter the Europe market soon.”

The eco-friendly way forward

goEgoNetwork plans to manufacture 5,000 units per month at its facility in Aurangabad

Production capacity

30: units per day

250: units can be added per day

35,000: Workspace on one floor, of total three floors

Installation

330+: charge points

24: cities covered across 11 states

1,000: network members

300+: members added every month

80: Cities where mobile users avail goEgoNetwork platform to search for charging locations

Bharat AC and dual socket type 2 chargers installed at Kaza in the Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

600+: units of chargers worth 1.6 crore sold in last FY

Peak usage hours

11am-6pm: Users charging on-the-move during day hours

Night hours: Charging expected to peak with more residential charging points

Charging rates in Pune

25 per unit: Four-wheeler DC charging:

18 per unit: Four-wheeler AC charging:

15 per unit: Two-wheeler charging

Charge point installation criteria

Society having 50+ flats

Availability of common parking space (One for 4W and three for 2W)

For public sites, access to road and visibility should be good and footfall should be at least 500 people

Installation pre-process

Potential customers visit website, create intent

Sales team gets in touch

Customer acquisition form (CAF) is filled up

Determine applicant is flat owner of decision maker (chairman or secretary of society)

In case of flat owners, contact is established with decision maker

Once CAF is signed with society clearance, the intent is finalised

This process takes about 3-7 days

Post-process

Operations team takes over

Site recce done in 48 hours

Contracts with installation partners in 73 cities

Partners are trained by goEgoNetwork team

Society members availability is checked and ensured

Material dispatched

Installation done in next 48 hours

This process takes about 1 week

Revenue streams

Charger sales (Priced between 30,000 and 10 lakh)

Mark up on electricity

Connection fee from end user per transaction

Success rate

32%: Post-process installation

85%: Capacity can be reached if load availability and cabling are provided

Market opportunity

4 lakh: Charging stations India will need by 2026

1.49 lakh crore: Expected charging infrastructure market in India by 2026

2 million: Charge points required till 2026 with expected spike in residential charging (AC) market

Real estate developers demanding charge points

EV charging-equipped parking space sold at premium

“We look for potential before installing any charge point. We had a hypothesis that two-wheeler residential chargers would be super busy, but it was proved wrong. Instead, all Bharat AC public place chargers are super utilised. We realised users find it difficult to remove the battery, take it up their home and charge it. So, two-wheeler chargers in public places are being utilised more,” says Dheeman Kadam, co-founder, goEgoNetwork

High cost

Why users have to pay more for EV charging despite relief by state authorities, according to co-founder Pravin Kumar

MSEDCL doesn’t mention the wheeling charges levied per kVA

Wheeling charges amount to 70 per kVA

For a 200 kVA transformer, 14,000 has to be paid even otherwise

One green meter approval takes about 6 months

MSEDCL needs to simplify the process

Maharashtra is the most expensive state in terms of EV charging rates

Charge rates in Gujarat are 7-8 per unit, while in Maharashtra it is 15.62ps per unit

In residential societies…

Societies are unaware of available load from the transformer and the load enhancement processes

50 per cent societies can’t install charge points due to load unavailability

Considering end-to-end process, including quality and length of cabling required, the cost to install a green meter goes up to 6.5 lakh

Achieving breakeven is difficult, as green meter cost can be recovered only if there are sufficient number of EVs to be charged. In that case the wheeling charges cost is spread out, but we are far from it.

Charging station providers can’t do much if transformer load in unavailable

Old residential societies face problems in load availability

Residential societies need to become EV-charging ready

Societies or individual users tend to unfairly compare electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), which is gold standard for chargers, with three pin chargers.



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