Start-up incubator iCreate (International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology) recently hosted a Bootcamp for its EV innovation challenge EVangelise ’22, where 40 innovators from across India showcased their solutions to practical challenges in the EV industry. On the industry pitch day, we witnessed a number of impressive solutions and approaches taken by young entrepreneurs to give direction to India’s evolving EV story. The Bootcamp also saw participation from industry players, including Sona Comstar, Mahindra Logistics, Joy e-bike, Svitch Bike, Ruby Bus Pvt Ltd, TUV Rheinland, Mathworks, Inevitable Electronics Pvt Ltd., BGAUSS, etc. who interacted with the start-ups to explore synergies.
At this event, we got an opportunity to meet Mr Nikunj Korat and the team from Shree Marut e-agrotech Pvt. Ltd who showcased their working prototype of the ICAT-approved Electric Tractor. The electric tractor is equipped with a 3 KW motor, which is equivalent to an 18Hp diesel tractor and can serve multiple uses on a farm. This tractor, built on a tight budget by a team that belongs to the farming sector, captured plenty of interest at the event. The start-up is one of the shortlisted start-ups that will compete in the finals of EVangelise 2022.
Team EVreporter interacted with the Junagarh-based Shree Marut e-Agrotech team to understand more about their product specifications, development approach, market readiness and usage. This write-up presents the excerpts from that interaction.
Shree Marut e-agrotech was incorporated in the year 2021. However, the company has been doing the R&D for the product for the last 4 years. Speaking on the initial days of the idea of the startup, Nikunj recollected, “Back in the days when we started witnessing the rise of electric 3-wheelers, we thought of giving a shot at the electric tractor, as all of us 3 co-founders come from a farming background.”
The total expense incurred by the start-up amount to INR 1.1 crores, including four years of R&D and iCAT certification.
This write-up presents the excerpts of the conversation at the bootcamp.
Main specifications of the tractor
– The electric tractor is equipped with an 11 kWh LFP battery and a 3 kW motor, which is equivalent to an 18Hp diesel tractor. A conventional tractor uses spur gear, while the start-up uses helical gears to manage the heavy torque required for farming.
– 4+4 gear ratio (4 Forward + 4 Reverse)
– Weight – 670 kg, i.e. comparable to an ICE tractor. Generally, the heavy weight of the battery is the cause of concern, but here, the battery weight is an added advantage as a tractor needs to be heavy to put down traction on the field.
– Lifting Capacity – 1.2 ton
– Pulling / Trolley capacity – 2.5 ton
Usage of the tractor
The team apprised us that the tractor can be used for multiple functions at the farm, like ploughing, tilling, sowing, harrowing or pulling the machinery. “80% of India’s farmers have small farming lands. Plus, a full-size tractor cannot be used in horticultural farms as the farm sizes are small”, says Nikunj. “Due to the small size of this tractor, it can be efficiently used to cultivate in small areas; it can cultivate 1 acre of land per hour at a speed of 15-20 km per hour”.
Can you tell us a bit about the product development stage?
At first, we had to make sure our idea could be implemented in the farming application. We started with a motor equivalent of generating power compared to a motorcycle. We tried a few prototypes, and when we were successful, we started with the prototypes of the tractor with a motor whose power was equivalent to a regular Diesel engine-powered tractor. This made 6 prototypes during the entire process. It was the 6th prototype that we are showcasing here, which was finally given the green light.
How cost-effective can an electric tractor prove to be over a conventional tractor?
Our electric tractor, with its compact size, provides a better running cost proposition as compared to a Diesel tractor. A diesel tractor is generally rented by most farmers on an hourly basis. In an hour, a diesel tractor would consume roughly 900ml to 1L of fuel, which would cost around INR 80 to 90. In comparison, our electric tractor can provide around 6-8 hours of work (based on power and torque requirements) on a full charge. The tractor can be charged via a normal AC household socket within 4 hours. Charging the battery fully, even at a rate of INR 8 per kWh, will cost a farmer around INR 80 for 6-8 hours of work. There’s a clear difference in the running cost.
Can you also provide a TCO comparison?
The tractor will cost nearly INR 5.50 lakhs, which is definitely higher than an equivalent diesel tractor that costs around INR 2.5 lakhs. An e-tractor’s battery will provide around 2500 cycles, which will suffice for farm work of 15,000-20,000 hours. An ICE tractor would cost around INR 12 lakhs to run the same number of hours. For this scenario:
- ICE tractor TCO – INR 12,00,000 (Running cost) + INR 2,50,000 (Buying cost) i.e. INR 14,50,000
- Electric tractor TCO: INR 2,00,000 (Running cost) + INR 5,50,000 (Buying cost) i.e. INR 7,50,000
This clearly shows that in the long run, electric tractors prove to be more cost-effective. Even if you consider battery replacement cost in the future, let’s say after 5 years, it is expected to come down from given levels as technology advances.
While tractors are not currently covered by FAME-II subsidy, we recommend the government should provide this relief to promote the adoption of electric drivetrains in farm work.
What are some of the other advantages an electric tractor can provide over a conventional tractor?
Electric motors operate at 90% efficiency, whereas combustion engines are less than 30% efficient. Other positives are better delivery of power to the ground, steering control, lower cost of maintenance, less noise-heat-vibration and fewer offensive smells.
What are your company’s future plans?
We are currently looking to raise funds in order to start the production of tractors. We good a good platform at iCreate to showcase our product and gather interest from various groups. We are very positive about the fundraising part, and If all goes well, we expect to hit the market in the next 6 months. We have also received considerable interest from the industry; however, the details of potential collaborations are still emerging.
About EVangelise 2022
Alongside Shree Maruti, we witnessed a number of start-ups presenting their solutions. While a few solutions were in the very initial stages, there were some, like C-electric (motor controller supplier), who are already involved in commercial operations for a couple of years and Naxatra Labs, who are gearing up to launch their axial flux motors in 2023. Another trend we observed at the bootcamp was a number of start-ups, such as Motorama and Gyrodrive Machinaries developing rare-earth free electric motor solutions. Given India’s import dependency for these materials, it was commendable to watch up-and-coming start-ups putting their efforts in this direction.
One of the goals of EVangelise is to establish partnerships among early-stage startups, students, institutions, and EV enthusiasts with the Indian manufacturing industry.
A chat with Mr Avinash Punekar, CEO of iCreate, on the sidelines of the event also highlighted the synergies that different start-ups incubated at iCreate discover among themselves. When different teams working on their niche but related parts of the ecosystem come together on a common platform, they find opportunities to validate their solutions and forge collaborations.
The finals of EVangelise 2022 among the 20 shortlisted start-ups are scheduled to be held on 19th and 20th Dec at iCreate’s Ahmedabad campus. The top three winners will receive cash awards of INR 10 lakh, INR 7.5 lakh, and INR 5 lakh, and up to INR 1.5 crore in incubation support. Also, three selected teams in each category will receive consolation prizes of INR 3 lakh.
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