Big Idea

Driving to E-ndependence

With its electric motors, this Pune-based start-up hopes to free an electric India from imports

The boastful ‘Made in India’ tags behind most of our electronics and goods are deceptive — by ‘Made’, they only mean assembled, not manufactured. And Pune-based start-up Bhorzvan Motors is determined to set this straight.

The technological lag in EVs and electric motors is huge setback in the Centre’s plan to fully transition to electric mobility by the mid of the approaching decade. Cheap parts in an EV, namely the chassis, seats and steering, are manufactured locally, while we still import the costliest parts — batteries and motors.

“In India, we’re good at BPOs and KPOs, off-shore businesses, assembling parts and software services, but not at fundamental business development,” opines Rohan Shravan, who co-founded Bhorzvan Motors to solve this problem by manufacturing electric motors.

Shravan met co-founder Nishant Kalbhor back in 2012, who was working at Tork, the Pune-based electric vehicle (EV) company. He was tinkering with the idea of a lightweight electric motor, but it wasn’t until early 2017 that the two thought of collaborating. They went commercial in January this year.

The first product that the team developed was a backpack-size 120kW electric motor that weighs just 15 kilogram; for reference, a Hyundai Creta’s diesel engine makes about 92kW. Put four of these Bhorzvan motors together and you could power a Tesla model S, whose motor weighs 260 kilogram. The weight saved on the motor can be used to package a larger battery in a vehicle.

If Bhorzvan is slighter in weight, space and inefficiency, it is so even in its cost. “The motor and controller in one of India’s popular electric scooters would cost about Rs 25,000, while the Bhorzvan motor would cost nearly half this price,” says Shravan. The start-up’s patented motor design prevents heat loss, which allows the motor to function at a claimed 98% efficiency; traditional motors stand at about 85%.

Bhorzvan is already underway with its pilot projects with OEMs including Mahindra. The electric motor will be used in two- and three- wheelers, light commercial vehicles and the last-mile transport segment, for instance, in e-rickshaws.

However, the two say that EVs will not penetrate the passenger vehicle segment for about five years. Instead, they predict carmakers to use hybrids to segue into EVs. Presently, Bhorzvan is working with Tata on three hybrid vehicle projects, the first of which is likely to launch by late-2020. 

These projects are estimated to sell about 25,000 hybrid motors by the next year and 40,000 in the next two years. Without revealing the revenue for FY20, he expects the deals with OEMs to yield Rs 2.5 billion by the turn of 2022. 

The badge of being the first mover comes with its disadvantage as well. Amidst service-providing start-ups, investors are understandably sceptical about pouring money into metalwork. The two co-founders invested nearly $130,000 in personal capacity and plan to raise about $1.5 million to set up R&D equipment and expand production. India’s auto giants may seem the obvious investors, but they would want all the tech to themselves. However, Kalbhor and Shravan are optimistic with their trials with major OEMs. Their idea is to become an end-to-end powertrain supplier — manufacture motors, controllers, as well as Battery Management System — for EVs. All that their clients would need to keep ready will be the battery pack, vehicle’s chassis, and ancillaries.

Determined to make India fuel-free mobility at low cost, Kalbhor and Shravan are counting on their motors to power the fast train.