Ola plans to design, develop electric vehicles at Palo Alto facility

Bhavish Aggarwal-led cab aggregator Ola, which sees an edge over rivals in electric mobility, has put in a lion’s share of its resources into designing and developing electric vehicles (EVs). 

According to sources in the know and going by the hiring plan for its Palo Alto-based Advanced Technology Center, the company intends to design and build electric mobility solutions as well as related accessories. The plan is to collaborate with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and new-age EV makers. 

The cab aggregator is planning to give a head start to its EV ambitions by hiring heads for its engineering and designing verticals, data scientists, and around 150 engineers for the US facility. The brief given by Aggarwal and Co-Founder Ankit Bhati is to mainly design and develop ‘practical’ EV solutions for the firm, which can be rolled out in the next two to three years. 


Ola is now searching for a head of engineering, who would direct the research and development programme — from new product proposal to commercialisation of battery, chargers, vehicles, and retrofitted kits. The job description also includes developing the programme to build vendor capability, produce products as per its specs as well as liaise with third parties, including OEMs, consultant, and vendors.  The company is also looking for people who would head its autonomous driving programme. The immediate focus, however, is to roll out its EV initiative.

According to sources, Ola was in talks with three to four of the biggest autorickshaw makers in the country to manufacture electric autos. 


“Ola wanted these makers to start full-fledged manufacturing lines for electric autorickshaws. While OEMs liked the plans, manufacturers said they wanted to wait longer till the time more on-ground infrastructure was developed.  With non-availability of charging stations and erratic power supply, OEMs told Ola it was not the right time to start mass production of autorickshaw,” said a source close to the firm. 

Much has changed since then. With government planning to convert all autorickshaws and two-wheelers under 150cc engine capacity to electric, Ola believes this is the right time to resume conversations with OEMs. 

“One thing Ola has figured out that if they can get first movers advantage in the electric autorickshaw space, then they would be able to gain a whole new segment of mobility. That is the reason it has been in constant dialogue with the government pushing for e-mobility projects,” said the source. Apart from bringing out a yearly annual report on e-mobility, the company started an e-taxi pilot in Nagpur that was endorsed by the government. 


The pilot was inaugurated by the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in May 2017. The newly formed BJP government has also made it clear that it plans on taking concrete steps to promote electric vehicles. 

The firm has parked significant investments to push its electric mobility initiative forward. Ola Mobility Institute (OMI) is a policy research and social innovation think tank of the cab aggregator that is focused on developing knowledge frameworks. 


The company’s plans for autorickshaws can also be seen in its latest mobility report. “Unlike western models, India may not easily kick-start its electric journey by deploying premium electric cars. Instead, it makes sense to focus on electrifying vehicles with the highest demand and utility in the Indian context: two-wheelers and three-wheelers. 

The rickshaw is already proliferating in electric variants, suggesting it is both viable and practical. Thus, appropriate prioritisation of vehicle segments for electrification may prove to be critical to the adoption of e-mobility,” it stated in its report.

Top Gear

 

  • The company parks significant investments to push its electric mobility initiative forward 
  • It intends to design and build electric mobility solutions and related accessories
  • It plans to appoint heads for its engineering and designing verticals, data scientists, and around 150 engineers for the US facility
  • The firm plans to roll out EV initiatives in next two to three years


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