Hyderabad Startup E-Trio Takes The Retrofitting Route To Meet India’s EV
10 May 2019  Shreya Ganguly

(Image Credit: NDTV Auto)

E-Trio’s flagship product is an electric kit that transforms conventional
cars into EVs

It’s the only retrofitting startup in India to receive government approval
for electric kits

E-Trio is working with automakers and fleet operators to expand its customer

Long before electric vehicles were a thing, India was exploring ways to use
compressed natural gas or CNG to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels such
as petrol and diesel for vehicular transport.

In 1998, the Supreme Court had directed the government to prioritise use
natural fuel to run vehicles which led to the mass conversion of
conventional vehicles into CNG-powered vehicles. It issued a directive
seeking the conversion of all buses, taxis and three-wheelers to CNG. This
gave rise to an altogether new category in India in the form of the CNG
retrofitting market.

Two decades later, something similar is happening in India but this time the
vehicles are being transformed to run on electrical batteries, eliminating
the need for any fuel and reducing vehicular emissions drastically.

This is a big opportunity in India as electric vehicle production is still
not scaled up enough to make a deep impact on the market. Besides, electric
vehicle parts especially batteries being imported from other countries such
as China, draw heavy duty and taxes, which raises the prices of electric

Hyderabad-based E-Trio is ... The startup provides electric kits to
transform conventional cars into EVs.

This solves one of the major pain-points in the EV market i.e. the high cost
of ownership of electric vehicles. Recently, a study by Ola’s policy
research and social innovation think-tank Ola Mobility Institute said that
central government emobility targets for 2030 can only be achieved when the
incentive provision goes beyond the purchase cost of electric vehicles. The
Total Cost of Ownership or TCO includes the direct and indirect costs of
purchasing, running and maintaining the electric vehicle. With these
overheads, the cost of ownership is significantly higher for electric
vehicles at this point in time, especially as charging infrastructure is not

E-Trio’s Aim To Make Cars Economical, Eco-Friendly, Efficient

E-Trio was founded in 2016 by Sathya Yalamanchili who launched the company
with a vision to accelerate electric mobility growth in India. Instead of
manufacturing expensive electric vehicle models, Yalamanchili chose to focus
on transforming existing models into electric vehicles, which not only
tackles the price problem, but also increases the electric adoption rate
among existing vehicle owners.

While on a visit to China, Yalamanchili noticed the growing number of
electric vehicles in the country. This inspired him to foray into the
emobility segment and solve the problem for India in a smarter way.

E-Trio’s solution is a  battery-powered electric kit called EV-180, which
was first developed in collaboration with engineers in China. The electric
kit was designed and engineered for sedans primarily.

Yalamanchili claimed that any car can be converted into electric one in
approximately 48 hours using the EV-180.

“Trying to build an electric car company is not that easy. It requires a lot
of time and money. This is a smarter way to enter the industry. At a time
when India is slowly moving towards emobility, retrofitting existing cars is
a smarter route,” said Yalamanchili.

In 2018, E-Trio also became the first company to be certified by Automotive
Research Association of India (ARAI). In November last year, ARAI approved
the startup’s plans to install EV kits in Maruti Suzuki Alto and Wagon R

While speaking with Inc42, Yalamanchili explained that the electric kit has
been further developed, localised after the initial development in China and
that the company is now seeking more certifications.

Currently, 60% of the components used in its electric kit are imported,
while the rest is manufactured in India. The kit’s core component of battery
cells is sourced from China while the motor controller is imported from

Besides retrofitting vehicles with its electric kit, E-Trio also provides
logistics services to fleet operators who are looking to move to emobility.
The company procures vehicles from automakers, converts them into electric
cars and leases them out to fleet operators. As of now, the company is only
permitted to transform small passenger cars into electric vehicles.

The company is also looking to enter the ebikes market, which is going
through a minor slump currently, to boost EV adoption for short-distance
journeys. Yalamanchili said that the electric bike is currently under
testing, but didn’t reveal a launch date for it.  

Can E-Trio’s Retrofitting Strategy Drive Emobility?

Currently, electric four-wheelers in the affordable segment are priced
between INR 8 Lakh and 10 Lakh, while the cost of premium electric vehicles
can go from INR 80 Lakh all the way up to INR 3 Cr.

Given the relatively high cost of ownership, people with existing vehicles
either have to sell their old cars or buy new EVs. That’s where retrofitting
existing vehicles becomes a smart and cost-effective solution.In contrast to
the high prices of vehicles, an E-Trio electric kit is priced between INR
3.5 and 5 Lakh with the batteries accounting for the majority of the
production cost. Yalamanchili explained that the price will differ for
consumers based on their per-day range requirement in kilometres.   

He added that the company is primarily focussing on the B2B segment for
sales, as the kit is currently most feasible for fleet operators who operate
vehicles that exceed the 150-kilometre range per day. Currently, E-Trio is
working with six fleet operators and employee transportation startups.
E-Trio’s Plans To Scale Up As An OEM

According to Yalamanchili, E-Trio is planning to scale up to become an
original equipment manufacturer (OEM) within the electric vehicle space. To
achieve this, the bootstrapped startup is now scouting for strategic
investors and plans to raise its first round of funding within the next six
months in order to scale up.

Geographically, the startup is looking to launch services in Delhi as it
believes the market is five times bigger than Hyderabad. “Delhi’s car
population is very high and thus retrofitting is not only the right solution
but also the need of the hour,” said Yalamanchili.

The founder claimed that E-Trio has converted close to 100 vehicles into
electric cars in the last financial year. Now it is aiming to convert around
150 units into EVs in the next two months.

Government Support For Retrofitting
As the Indian government looks to address the gaps in electric mobility
through various policies, EV retrofitting could very well become an
important point of focus for companies. For instance, the EV retrofitting
market is not yet recognised by the government under the Faster Adoption and
Manufacture of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME II) policy.

Yalamanchili claimed that E-Trio has also reached out to NITI Aayog over
concerns regarding the FAME exclusion, which just goes to show how lacking
the existing policy is to help EV penetration.

The matter will come up for discussion with the body after the results of
the General Elections are announced and a new government is formed. Till
that time, E-Trio is partnering with companies in the EV domain and is
enabling two startups in Hyderabad to enter this space and get certified
under ARAI’s rules for EV retrofitting. Despite the lack of a clear roadmap
for emobility in India, E-Trio’s progress shows that when it comes to
innovation, the Indian EV market is alive and well.

With developing electric vehicles in India and the government’s push to help
them make affordable by providing incentives, players are coming up and
manufacturing their own electric vehicle, retrofitting the existing vehicles
may also be an important step to meet the emobility goals. This step will
also reduce the number of existing conventional vehicles in India and
thereby reducing vehicular emissions.

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