Interview

June 24, 2024

A Conversation with Udaan’s CEO Mitull Batraa

Co-founder & CEO, Udaan E-Vehicles

Is India Ready for Electric Vehicles? A Conversation with Udaan’s Mitull Batraa

By Amrit Arora for Project Leaders Magazine

Udaan, a leading name in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing in India, is at the forefront of the country’s sustainable transportation revolution. Mitull Batraa, the company’s CEO, is a visionary leader with a deep understanding of the Indian market and a relentless drive to make EVs accessible and affordable. In this insightful conversation with Project Leaders Magazine, Mr. Batraa sheds light on Udaan‘s commitment to clean mobility and the exciting future of EVs in India.

Project Leaders Magazine (PLM): We all know the struggles with traffic and pollution in Indian cities. When Udaan started focusing on electric three-wheelers, what initially drew you to this specific segment to address these challenges?

Mitull Batraa (MB): Udaan‘s initial focus on electric three-wheelers stemmed from the urgent need to tackle traffic congestion and pollution in Indian cities. E-rickshaws and e-autos offered a compact, zero-emission solution perfect for crowded urban areas, while providing affordable last-mile connectivity.

With battery-powered e-rickshaws comprising 83% of India’s EV market and about 11,000 new units monthly, totalling around 1.5 million vehicles, this rapid adoption highlights their effectiveness in addressing urban mobility challenges.

PLM: Beyond e-rickshaws and e-autos, have you come across any other interesting electric mobility solutions that you think could be a good fit for Indian cities? Something you would consider exploring at Udaan in the future?

MB: Beyond e-rickshaws and e-autos, several innovative electric mobility solutions show promise for Indian cities. Electric two-wheelers, like e-scooters and e-bikes, are gaining traction for personal transportation and could be used for shared mobility services.

Electric minibuses offer flexible public transport options for areas with narrow streets. The government’s Electric Mobility Promotion Scheme (EMPS) 2024, with a Rs 500 crore allocation, supports the purchase of electric two and three-wheelers, further encouraging diverse EV solutions.

While it is too early to comment on specific future explorations at Udaan, we are focused on perfecting and expanding our e-rickshaw and e-auto offerings. Our strong R&D team is working on exciting innovations to meet the evolving needs of Indian cities and consumers.

PLM: The air quality situation in India is a major concern. We have seen Udaan heavily involved in promoting electric vehicles. How do you envision a large-scale shift to EVs positively impacting public health in Indian cities, beyond just air quality?

MB: A large-scale shift to EVs would have far-reaching positive impacts on public health in Indian cities, extending well beyond improved air quality. Reduced noise pollution from electric vehicles would contribute to lower stress levels and better sleep quality for urban residents. The decrease in particulate matter and harmful emissions would lead to a reduction in respiratory diseases, cardiovascular problems, and other pollution-related health issues.

This shift could also promote more active lifestyles, as cleaner air encourages outdoor activities and walking. With India witnessing sales of around 90,000 EVs per month since the start of 2023, the potential for positive health impacts is significant and growing.

PLM: The EV industry is a fast-paced space. What recent advancements in EV technology excite you the most, and why? These could be anything from battery innovations to charging infrastructure or even new vehicle designs.

MB: Recent advancements in EV technology that are particularly exciting include the development of solid-state batteries, which promise higher energy density, faster charging times, and improved safety. Innovative charging solutions like wireless charging pads integrated into roads could revolutionize EV infrastructure.

In vehicle design, the concept of skateboard platforms offering modular and flexible EV architectures is intriguing. Additionally, advancements in lightweight materials and aerodynamics are continuously improving EV efficiency and range. The integration of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, allowing EVs to serve as mobile power banks, also presents exciting possibilities for energy management and grid stability.

PLM: With all this exciting innovation happening, how is Udaan staying ahead of the curve and ensuring it continues to be a leader in the Indian EV market?

MB: Udaan, is leading the Indian EV market with a multi-faceted approach. We are investing heavily in R&D to improve battery technology, motor efficiency, and vehicle performance. Our manufacturing capacity has grown from 5-10 e-rickshaws per day to one hundred, expanding our facility from 700 to 25,000 square meters.

We have achieved 90% indigenization, manufacturing key components in-house, including the frame, chassis, body parts, drivetrain, motors, controller, differential, and rear axle. This vertical integration ensures quality control and reduces dependency on external suppliers, addressing early challenges with Chinese imports.

PLM: Consumer awareness of EVs in India seems to be on the rise. What are some of the interesting trends you are observing in terms of how people are viewing electric vehicles these days?

MB: Consumer awareness of EVs in India is rising, with notable trends. Despite higher upfront costs, there’s growing recognition of EVs’ long-term cost benefits. Environmental consciousness, particularly among younger buyers, is influencing purchase decisions. Interest in connected features and smart technologies is increasing. Range anxiety is easing as battery technology improves and charging infrastructure expands.

Demand for EVs is rising in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, not just major metros. This trend is evident in our sales data, with strong markets in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi/NCR, and Rajasthan, and growing presence in Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Haryana, and Punjab.

PLM: So, when it comes to getting more people on board with EVs, what strategies do you think would be most effective in overcoming any remaining challenges and accelerating adoption across India? Government incentives, infrastructure development, or even consumer education campaigns?

MB: To accelerate EV adoption across India, a multi-pronged strategy is crucial. Government incentives, including continued subsidies and tax benefits, remain important to make EVs more affordable. The recent announcement of the Electric Mobility Promotion Scheme (EMPS) 2024 with its Rs 500 crore allocation is a step in this direction.

Significant investment in charging infrastructure, especially in residential areas and along highways, is essential to alleviate range anxiety. Consumer education campaigns are important to dispel myths and highlight the benefits of EVs.

Collaboration between automakers, tech companies, and energy providers can drive innovation and create integrated solutions. Skill development programs to train mechanics and technicians in EV maintenance will also be crucial. Lastly, encouraging domestic manufacturing of EV components can reduce costs and create a robust EV ecosystem in India.

PLM: To wrap things up, Mr. Batraa, what message would you like to leave with our readers who are interested in the future of electric mobility in India?

MB: The future of electric mobility in India is not just about replacing conventional vehicles with electric ones; it is about reimagining transportation to create cleaner, more efficient, and more inclusive cities. EVs offer us an opportunity to address multiple challenges – from air pollution and climate change to energy security and urban congestion. With battery-powered e-rickshaws already making up 83% of the EV market and an estimated 1.5 million such vehicles on Indian roads, we are witnessing a real-time transformation.

It is crucial for all stakeholders – from industry players and policymakers to consumers – to collaborate and innovate. The journey towards sustainable mobility will require persistence, creativity, and a shared vision for a greener future.

PLM: Mitull, thank you for these insights!

MB: You’re welcome! It’s been a pleasure discussing the exciting future of electric mobility in India with Project Leaders Magazine. I’m confident that through collaboration and innovation, we can create a cleaner and more sustainable transportation landscape for our country.

Speaking with Mitull Batraa was an enlightening experience. His passion for electric mobility and his deep understanding of the Indian market were evident throughout the conversation. Batraa’s optimism for the future of EVs in India is infectious, and his insights provide valuable guidance for stakeholders across the industry. It’s clear that Udaan, under his leadership, is well-positioned to play a key role in shaping a cleaner and more sustainable transportation landscape for India.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the interviewee in this piece are their own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Denkoit Softech Private Limited or its associated brands, groups, entities or individuals. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the content of this interview for any purpose. Any financial information mentioned by the interviewee is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice. It is recommended to consult with a qualified professional before making any financial decisions. This interview may contain copyrighted material, trademarks, or other intellectual property. You should not modify, reproduce, distribute, republish, download, store, or transmit any of this content without the express written permission of the copyright owner(s). Denkoit Softech Private Limited or its associated brands, entities, individuals or groups, shall not be held liable for any damages arising from the use of this website or its content. 
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