Switch Mobility Ltd, the electric vehicle arm of Hinduja flagship Ashok Leyland, was formed in April 2021 after combining its electric mobility assets in India and UK. While it will focus on producing electric buses and electric light commercial vehicles, the company seeks to pioneer electric mobility as a service model. Mahesh Babu, COO of Switch Mobility Ltd. & CEO of Switch Mobility India, spoke to BusinessLine on the company’s first-year journey, proposed investments in India and growth plans. Excerpts:

How was the first year for Switch Mobility in the EV space? 

We celebrated our first year with tremendous satisfaction. We have progressed on multiple fronts globally as well as in India. Last April, when Switch was formed, we had an order for 60 electric buses. But, when we exited FY22, we had orders for 600 buses, a growth of 10x.

So, that’s good news in a year and our strategy is working. We are also establishing ourselves as a global brand. We now have factories in Leeds (UK), and Ennore (India) and we have laid the foundation for one in Spain. So, these three factories serve the Europe, UK, India, Africa and Southeast Asian markets. That’s the plan.  

How strong is the orderbook for electric buses? 

We got our first Switch-branded type of role recently — for the new 12-metre bus which we will launch in a couple of months. The first delivery as part of the 300-bus order is going to be for BMTC, Bengaluru, followed by our iconic double-decker bus in Mumbai. So, that’s going to be another 200 buses.

We are also likely to get an order for 550 buses out of a tender from CESL. And BEST opened its tender for 1,400 buses last week. We are also eligible and likely to get an order. The order pipeline is very good and the electric bus products are getting ready.

We have a very good team now — about 450 people working in India, while the global strength is 750. The R&D team in India is substantially bigger with over 200 people. Similarly, we have a strong team in the UK, too. 

How much are you investing in production of EVs in India? 

We have created a line at the Ennore campus to start with. It will have a capacity to produce about 2,000 electric buses a year and can be ramped up to 4,000 depending on the order size. We are also creating a line for EV products in the LCV segment.

However, we are going to invest in a new facility in this part of the country and we will finalise the location in the next couple of months. We expect this to be ready by 2025. Of the £300-million investments planned, a significant portion will come to India for creating products and for manufacturing facilities because the volumes are substantially higher.

We are also in the final stage of winning an order for 70-100 electric buses for staff transportation services in the private segment. We aren’t going to be dependent on STUs as we intend to target the whole bus segment for electrification. So, we intend to create multiple products, including low-floor buses.

For LCV electrification, we have already announced that Dost and Bada Dost will have electric variants by end of the year. The electric LCV is expected to be launched by the end of this fiscal. We are also thinking of having ground-up platforms – one each for India and Europe for EVs.  

What will be the USP or differentiating factors of Switch in the e-bus space? 

Firstly, we will work on the best total cost of operations for all our products — on the efficiency of the bus and its offerings. Also, our arm Ohm will focus on electric mobility as a service — customers can pay us per km. We want to do this for the private player segment too.

Similarly in LCVs, we are talking to many e-commerce players, last-mile and mid-mile delivery participants, and logistic companies, and working closely with them to make sure that their total cost of operations is better than the current diesel models in all our applications. We will work on efficiently integrating the electrical system to ensure the best total cost of ownership besides the lower cost of maintenance over a longer period.  

How are you building your EV supply chain? 

We can’t achieve the total cost of ownership without the quality of products and quality services. There are two focus areas — EV and non-EV parts. For non-EV parts such as suspension, steering systems etc., the platform will come from Ashok Leyland. For EV parts, we have a tie-up with Dana, which is also an investor in our company. Dana will give us the latest global technologies on electric drive trains.

For batteries, we have a tie-up with a cell supplier in China and we are assembling the battery pack on our premises. For the last three years, we have seen a good performance from the battery, in terms of efficiency, safety as well as life. For other parts, we look at more Aatmanirbharta — we are looking for partners in India. We are also working with our existing partners to develop parts suitable for our products.

Published on May 10, 2022