In what has been touted as one of the ‘largest seed rounds for any Indian startup’, United States-based venture capital firm, RedBlue Capital, invested USD 28 million last month in EVage—a leading all-electric commercial vehicle OEM in India supplying EV trucks to major delivery fleets such as Amazon India’s Delivery Service Partner.
(Image above of EVage Founder and CEO Inderveer Singh with the Model .X prototypes)
Backed by a decade of proprietary hardware, software and process innovations in design and manufacturing methodologies, the Punjab-based EVage, which stands for ‘Electric Vehicle Age’, is on the cusp of ushering the logistics sector into a new era with EV trucks. They plan to manufacture EVs in ‘Modular Micro Manufacturing’ factories with smaller footprints and fewer capital requirements than traditional automotive OEMs.
The seed funding they received from RedBlue Capital will go into completing the startup’s production-ready factory outside Delhi in FY 2022-23 and scale up production.
According to Inderveer Singh, founder and CEO of EVage, the venture’s first vehicle, the Model .X (point X), is a one-tonne truck designed for the commercial delivery vehicle market.
Research and Innovation
Inderveer recalls his childhood saying, “Growing up, I always had a curious mind and an innate ability to create innovative products. I created my first EV as a teenager and dabbled with window cleaning bots, exoskeletons, and HVAC duct cleaning and sanitizing bots, to name a few.”
Besides innate talent, however, Inderveer has over 15 years of extensive automotive experience spanning research and development, plant management, and business and sales. He was even mentored by Prof. Hitoshi Kume, who is known for his “exceptional contributions to the industrial development of post-war Japan”. According to this citation Prof Kume received, his contribution included “training and guiding people from scores of industries in improving quality and reducing waste through effective utilisation of quality management concepts and techniques”.
Inderveer’s entrepreneurial journey started in 2014, which led to the conception of EVage and building his first product – a four-wheeler 1 tonne commercial vehicle. After five years of intensive research and development (R&D), the company was formally registered in 2019.
“As an entrepreneur, one always looks at the needs of the future. I genuinely believe the logistics industry is on the verge of an electric and sustainable age because there is predictability as the route is defined with the correct entry strategy. For example, the e-commerce and fintech boom indicates a ready demand in India. Whereas in the D2C market, there is a challenge of adoption and unpredictable and changing consumer behaviour. With a latent demand in a sun-rise industry and our vision of building something unique, we focused on the commercial segment. EVage wants to usher in the era (manufacture commercial EV’s for last and mid mile delivery) of EVs in India into the commercial space — a new age of efficient and innovative transportation,” he explains.
The EVage team comprises highly skilled engineers and scientists that have worked in the aerospace industry, missile propulsion systems and cutting-edge design. So far, the startup has filed 20 patents (in the process), focusing on modularity and the use of bio-friendly material that is lighter and stronger than steel. The results of these innovations have been quite exciting.
“We have conceptualised and invented the technology to use ultra-modern manufacturing principles in a smaller footprint and commercial requirements. Our HQ and first Modular Micro Manufacturing facility are located in Punjab. We hope to have a vast network of manufacturing locations which we will share as finalised in the future. We see ourselves as one of the pioneers of the EV (electric vehicle) supply chain in the country, and our unique design features have significantly lowered our dependency on components and suppliers. EVage will be unveiling its first Modular Micro Manufacturing factory soon and will be able to share more details then,” he says.
“EVage has already manufactured a 4W EV Truck that has been deployed on Indian roads. This differs significantly from other ekit models imported from various countries as EVage builds chassis up with an integrated powertrain built from scratch,” claims Inderveer.
Developing the Model .X came with endless research to understand the challenges of last/mid mile delivery in the FMCG, e-commerce and logistics space. This includes more than thousands of discussions with delivery drivers to understand on-ground challenges.
Over the years, EVage has tested over five prototypes with hundreds of thousands of kilometres on the road with their potential customers. They will launch this vehicle officially this year. Thus far, however, their prototypes have collectively clocked over 2,50,000 kilometres of on-road testing.
According to Inderveer, some of the more salient features of the platform that Model .X is based on are:
• Aerospace inspired structure
• Focus on light-weighting
• We innovated on the composite body panels which has material lighter and stronger than steel
• We focus on modularity in assembly and design to customize the end product
• Developed our platform chassis, which is lighter in weight and allows for more cubic feet of space
• Metaheuristic design principles which incorporate a more robust structure that is lighter than other alternatives
• We developed our integrated powertrain (the motor controller, gearbox and battery) from scratch
Their five prototypes are currently on the road servicing customers from the FMCG, e-commerce and logistics/delivery industry. While Amazon has been an early fleet customer, they are still in the pilot stage and hope to launch the Model .X soon. EVage, he goes on to explain, will share exact vehicle specifications at a later stage.
Making things a touch less stressful about building a commercial EV (electric vehicle) truck is that the anxieties associated with passenger vehicles do not exist.
“We work with all our fleet customers to help them overcome the challenges of charging stations and the range of vehicles. For example, commercial vehicles follow a fixed route and this charging is an easier problem to solve,” he adds.
According to Prescott Watson, General Partner at RedBlue Capital, “EVage’s vehicle platform and fabrication approach is something new and much needed to accelerate electrification in low cost markets. The founders took a completely clean-sheet approach to get a truck that meets the needs of delivery fleets across India at a cost basis that beats internal combustion. The fact that such an innovative product is being used today by major fleet customers makes EVage a clear standout in their field – this is the team that’s delivering.”
Adding to Prescott’s point, Olaf Sakkers, General Partner at RedBlue Capital, said, “India is a market with booming EV demand, especially in the commercial vehicle segment. But there is a severe supply shortage. EVage fills this exact gap.”
It’s something Inderveer also notes. “We genuinely believe that EV is the way forward for the apparent reasons of the environment, pollution and economic costs. More importantly, we believe that India is now ready for this transition. There are many considerations for this to happen – supply chain resilience, battery and charging ecosystems and focus on R&D and talent development. These will remain our key focus areas in the coming future,” he says.