From left: Amitabh Saran, founder and CEO, and Shailendra Gupta, CFO and co-founder of Altigreen Propulsion LabsW
hen one thinks of electric vehicles (EV), it’s often in terms of consumer vehicles—scooters, bikes and cars. The real impact, however, needs to be made in the commercial segment, from three-wheeled tempos all the way to trucks and buses, which number about 10 percent of the installed base of EVs in India today, but account for about 70 percent of the on-road energy consumption.
And this is the segment that former Nasa engineer-turned-entrepreneur Amitabh Saran is tackling at his company Altigreen Propulsion Labs, in Bengaluru. Saran and his co-founders started the company 10 years ago, with the vision of playing a role in carbon-free transportation in India.
They went from making retrofit kits to award-winning commercial three-wheelers. In 2022, Altigreen raised about $40 million in Series A funding from investors, including Sixth Sense Ventures, Xponentia Capital, Accurant International, Momentum Partners, and Reliance New Energy.
The company has expanded its factory in Malur, near Bengaluru, to be able to make some 55,000 three-wheeled cargo vehicles a year. Its sales and showroom network goes well beyond the metros—into tier 2 cities and towns from Mysuru to Bhopal to Guwahati.
One of the ways the industry can grow faster is when everyone focuses more on the electrification infrastructure for commercial vehicles, Saran says. “I do believe that electrification for commercial vehicles will be at the forefront and the rest will follow. That will bring the industry to specific volumes where we start becoming interesting as a country that has EVs”, and from there on things will take off, he says.Also read: Altigreen: Ex-Nasa engineer's purpose built EVs for India
A case in point are the 2 million e-rickshaws that are already plying on Indian roads without well-organised charging infrastructure, he says. “If you go to the local neighbourhood level, you’ll see this.”
More recently, Altigreen itself struck a partnership with battery charging technologies company Exponent Energy to equip its neEV TEZ tempos with Exponent’s liquid-cooled batteries. These battery packs charge up in 15 minutes and are good for 3,000 charging cycles—something that makes a difference for commercial vehicle operators allowing them to maximise the number of trips on a vehicle knowing that the battery life will support it.
Saran also hopes that government support from schemes like the production-linked incentive (PLI) plan will be extended to early-stage original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Altigreen, which will soon foray into passenger three-wheelers.