Goodbye to petrol two-wheelers by 2025! Ola building core tech for e-car
Located in Pochampalli town in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu and surrounded by shoe factories, temples, bakery shops, coconut trees, and dusty roads is the newly built Ola Futurefactory.
It takes over three hours of drive and more than 130 km from the technology (tech) hub of Bengaluru to reach the world’s largest women-only factory. It is also being expanded to become the largest two-wheeler factory in the world with an annual production capacity of 10 million units, contributing to one of every seven two-wheelers sold in the world.
Inside, the hangar-like building reverberates with grinding metallic sounds as robots work alongside humans, with songs like Blinding Lights by The Weeknd playing in the background.
The Futurefactory, spread over 500 acres, or about 378 football fields, is a fully automated plant. The facility, built on Industry 4.0 principles, has more than 3,000 robots.
SoftBank-backed Ola said it uses proprietary artificial intelligence for optimal performance. One can see many robots moving autonomously, carrying loads from one location to another on the factory floor. There are also robots working on key manufacturing process lines like painting and welding, as well as battery and motor assembly.
“This factory was built in seven months in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Bhavish Aggarwal, founder and chief executive officer, Ola, addressing 3,000 customers visiting the factory.
Currently, the factory produces 1,000 electric scooters per day. There are over 2,000 women employees at the factory. These women are trained and employed to run the entire production cycle – from battery to assembly.
At full capacity, Futurefactory will have a workforce of 10,000 women.
“Right now, we have the Ola S1 Pro product in the market. We are working on a few other prototypes,” he says.
Aggarwal recently stepped back from day-to-day operations to focus more on engineering functions, team building, and products, apart from focusing on long-term strategic projects, such as two-wheelers, cars, and innovations in quick commerce and international expansion.
The other strategic projects include cell research and development (R&D), building the Pune tech centre, and Futurefoundry UK.
“Over the next two years, you will see many two-wheeler roll-outs. We are also building an (electric) car,” says Aggarwal, who also gives a sneak preview of a red electric car.
It is likely to be a large sedan and not a compact hatchback for intra-city use.
“We are also building the core tech behind that – which is the cell. All of this is being built in India. I believe that by the end of 2025, India will not be selling any petrol two-wheelers,” he says.
Aggarwal says his mission is to help India get on the world stage of the electric revolution. There are many top companies innovating in this space like Elon Musk’s Tesla and a slew of US and Chinese firms.
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Most of these top companies, including Tesla and NIO Inc., are focusing on premium and luxury market products, according to experts.
“The reason India is going through this electric mobility wave are the consumers. They have wholeheartedly rejected petrol and adopted an electric future,” says Aggarwal.
“Will you buy a petrol scooter again? No. Our vision is to put India on the global map of electrification,” he adds.
However, Aggarwal is sharing these plans at a time when the company has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Recently safety concerns were heightened when an Ola electric scooter recently burst into flames in Pune. Many customers have been complaining about the scooters, leading to greater scrutiny of electric vehicles. Customers have also reported frustration related to delays in deliveries and a few technical glitches.
The firm has said it is ramping up its core R&D in advanced cell chemistry and manufacturing, as well as other battery tech and new energy systems. It is also working on fast-charging battery cell tech and aims to bring it to the market. It will be setting up a battery cell manufacturing plant in India with a capacity of up to 50 gigawatt hour.
In India, Ola is now in direct competition with electric two-wheeler makers like Ather Energy, Hero Electric, Bajaj, and TVS Motor Company.
Ola Electric said it has more than 50,000 scooters on road today, with customers having ridden 45 million kilometres (km).
At the customer event in Tamil Nadu, Ola also launched the MoveOS 2 software update for all its customers at the Ola Futurefactory. With this, over 50,000 Ola S1 Pro customers across the country will get an over-the-air update. The firm says this will make the scooter a feature-rich two-wheeler in the country.
With the software update, the Ola S1 Pro will offer enhanced accessibility. The firm says the MoveOS 2 update also enables bug fixes that were previously found in isolated instances, such as range drop and battery discharge.
The software update will enable riders to access their scooters remotely using the Ola Electric Companion application (app). Lock, unlock, and open the boot of the scooter with a touch of a button. Customers can access important vehicle metrics in real-time, such as charge status, range across modes, odometer reading, and software version on the app.
It has a Music Playback feature, allowing riders to pair their phones with scooters via Bluetooth. An all-new Eco mode, with a range of 165 km per charge, will address range anxiety.
There is a new Cruise Control feature – a feature mostly found in premium four-wheelers. Here, riders can now maintain a steady speed anywhere between 20 km per hour (kmph) and 80 kmph on congestion-free routes. There is also a feature which enables turn-by-turn navigation support and live route map, ensuring riders reach their selected destinations faster.
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