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IIT-Madras-incubated start-up launches e-bike

A start-up that was incubated at the Indian Institute of Madras (IIT-M) has recently launched a sustainable utility e-bike called PiMo. It can charge faster than a smartphone and does not require a license or registration.

Pi Beam’s new electric two-wheeler costs IN 30, 000 (US$412) and is economical as it eliminates fuel costs. According to a news report, it offers ‘battery swapping’ and a drained battery can be exchanged for a fully charged one at designated locations.

PiMo is one of the few electronic vehicles (EVs) in the local market that is almost completely made in India. 90% of its components, including the batteries and controllers, are manufactured in India. This is in line with the government’s flagship programme, Make-in-India that encourages companies to manufacture domestically and incentivises dedicated investments into manufacturing.

PiMo is positioned between an electric bicycle and an entry-level electric scooter, the report noted. Offering a top speed of 25 kmph, it allows speeds lower than that of a motorbike. PiMo provides a higher travel range than an electric bicycle at 50 kms on a single charge.

It features dual suspension at the rear and larger and ergonomically designed seats. It comes with a swing arm mechanism and dual shock absorbers. The start-up was founded by an IIT-Madras Alum, Visakh Sasikumar. It has already gained over 100 initial customers within weeks of opening preorders for PiMo. Pi Beam aims to sell 10,000 vehicles by the end of the financial year 2021-22.

The Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, recently announced that India plans to formulate a policy to institutionalise research and development on the next generation of battery technologies for EVs, such as metal-ion, metal-air, and hydrogen fuel cells. These are to replace lithium-ion batteries and reduce India’s dependence on other countries for its import within this decade.

“We will now work in an integrated and concerted manner bringing together the best technologies. We will also focus on economic viability… We need a policy in this regard and for it, we have decided to take an integrated approach,” he said.

Scientists, academia, and the industry can harness green hydrogen-based energy through water because it is a cost-effective and easily available method in the country. The government might lower the costs of solar power in India, which can help energise other modes of fuels.

As per a media report, during a meeting with key arms of the government, various agencies made presentations on their projects for battery technologies like lithium-ion, metal-ion, sodium-sulphur, hydrogen, iron-sulphur, polymer electrolyte membrane cell systems, and zinc gel.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) showed how technology transfer has resulted in the manufacture of 400 batteries of 120 MW by some institutes and that mass production could reduce its prices.

The country’s think tank, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), said that it has collaborated with four IITs, including Guwahati and Delhi, for research in aluminium-ion batteries. Its CEO Amitabh Kant noted that India should concentrate on lithium-ion alternative batteries and mining sector companies should explore opportunities abroad to acquire assets in this regard.

Next-generation batteries will not only minimise vehicular pollution in India but make India a global supplier of EVs. Alternative fuel promotion will also result in economic growth and could bolster India’s overall development.

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