6 minutes reading time
Propelling growth with e-hauling products
The Cellestial E-Mobility founding members (L to R): Syed Mubasheer (Partner), Siddhartha Durairajan (CEO), Midhun Kumar (Director-Manufacturing), and Vinod Moudgil (Director)
The Hyderabad-based startup Cellestial E-Mobility, launched its first e-tractor early last month. The electric powered tractor, engineered to be zero-emission and environment-friendly, is designed to benefit the Indian agri and goods carriage market.
The 6HP e-tractor (equivalent to 21HP diesel tractor) is equipped with features like battery swapping, regenerative braking, power inversion (can be used to power a UPS), charging from residential AC outlet and fast charging. Making it an ideal vehicle for horticultural or greenhouse works, or even moving goods within factories, warehouses and to haul baggage at airports.
Cellestial E-Mobility was set up in May 2019, and was funded with $200,000 as initial investment from Singapore-based strategic investor. Its e-haulage products and services aim to cater to the requirement of electrical mobility systems. The company believes 'Green is the new Innovation', and is working on creating smart automotive solutions through designing and manufacturing vehicles powered by sustainable energy sources.
Following is an online interview with Siddharth Durairajan, CEO & Founder – Cellestial E-Mobility, where he talks about the salient features of the e-tractor and the company's future plans.
There isn't much of a demand for e-tractors in India yet, earlier launches have not seen much of a success. What is going to be your strategy for the Indian market?
At business model development stage, we have investigated reasons for e-tractors failure, globally. With major reason for failure being low run-time, we have completely separated out the e-tractor business model from that of batteries and introduced what is called e-Huts, a battery swapping station.
Cellestial e-tractors also come with powerful BMS (Battery Management System) to optimize supply between motor and battery. Addressing these issues has been our strategy since day one of Cellestial incorporation.
What are the things, according to you, that will pose a challenge in creating a niche for a product like yours?
There are quite a few challenges I could think of, but the major challenges are lack of standardization in advanced agricultural equipment, poor charging infrastructure by government and high investment capital required for setting up the business.
What is the battery technology used? Do all your e-tractors come with the battery swapping feature? Where are the batteries manufactured?
Battery technology used in our first e-tractor is high-energy lithium battery pack (Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide). While cells are USA made, battery pack is integrated at Chennai. And yes, all our e-tractors come with a battery swapping feature.
Do you have a tie-up for the production of the e-tractors? What are your initial production plans?
One of Cellestial's Directors is also an owner of a large manufacturing unit at Balanagar. So, I would say Cellestial already has a production line of its own. Nevertheless, we would be singing a few tie-ups in next few months to scale production. We plan to build around 8,000 e-tractors in the next 36 months.
Cellestial E-tractor Specs
• Can cover up to 75kms on a single charge
• Has max power of 18 HP and 53 NM peak torque
• Reaches a speed of up to 20 kmph
• Recharges in 6 hours with Cellestial's proprietary Residential Charger, at any conventional single-phase 16 Amps outlet
• Can fast-charge in 2 hours, in an industrial infrastructure setup
Tell us about the unique features of your e-tractor. Can it be used as an all-terrain vehicle or mainly for agricultural purposes? Which tractor type segment do you fall under?
The Cellestial electric tractor
Cellestial e-tractors come with interesting features such as battery swap model, regenerative braking system, and a very powerful battery management system. In addition to this, we are likely to introduce our patent features EPEA, to eliminate physical elements such as steering assembly, hydraulic braking assembly, gearbox and other transmission units. These can be eliminated with a simple Microprocessor, Intelligent Unit, taking the e-tractor to a whole new level.
With implements attached, the e-tractor can be used to perform most of the agricultural tasks. It can also be used for multiple terrains. Apart from agricultural conditions, these tractors can be used for warehouses haulage, airport haulage, ground lawn dressing application, landscaping, etc. By appearance, our e-tractor falls under narrow tractors segment. We will enter other segments as we develop more variants.
The homologation process for newer, smaller companies can be quite expensive… would you call it a deterrent?
Everyone big had to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually small. We are inspired to make it big and inspire others to join us in the journey. Only competition can propel growth. We are all in!
One of the problems facing the farming community is the lack of skilled people, so using your vehicle might pose similar issues; how do you propose to tackle that?
With rapid advancement in agricultural industry and growing every year, I would say basic understanding of farming is essential over complete farming skill. Since we are the early bird in the market, this enables us to roll out number of variants in a very short time. In a year or so we plan to roll out first Indian automated e-tractor to perform all agricultural tasks automatically.
Are you planning to introduce an autonomous version of the e-tractor in the future?
Yes, we are working on an autonomous e-tractor, with an idea to minimalize human intervention in the farming process. In a year or two we will be ready with first working prototype. It will be the most fascinating invention in agricultural field yet.
Tell us a bit about your venture… how it started, your partners, product range, etc.
The Cellestial e-mobility team comprises seasoned professionals from varied domains, with an idea of developing electric vehicles. It all started with casual conversion over a cup of coffee with Syed, our battery expertise partner. From there on the idea shaped further as other partners, Midhun and Vinod joined us. Of course, with a lot of help from our angel investor M. Sudhakar Reddy.
While we are working on developing the e-tractor, we are simultaneously working on other products to cater electric vehicles for passenger carriers, goods carriers and haulage vehicles.
How has the infusion of funding impacted your growth plans? Which area are the funds being focused on and why?
It hardly took us a month to raise the first round of investment, and we are in discussions with prospective investors. This shows willingness of investors to invest in e-mobility. Our idea to manufacture 8,000 e-tractors in the next 36 months and developing further advanced variants in e-tractors and other e-products, seem like an obvious reality now.
Developing electric tractors and vehicles is more about technology than anything else. So, majority of our start-up capital was directed towards R&D. With prototype in place, we are now channelizing our funds equally between R&D and improving manufacturing capabilities.
Battery swapping: Game changer for EVs in India
Explained: The inner workings of an electric vehic...