When the National Green Tribunal imposed a ban on all diesel vehicles with more than 10 years’ service in select cities in Kerala, the move was vehemently opposed. Many termed the move quixotic and impractical, since all the public and commercial transport carriages are running on diesel. The Kerala High Court also stayed the ban, observing that it would create far-reaching implications and mess up the transport industry in the state.
India is grappling with air pollution and increasing carbon emission. Things are getting worse with each passing day. While states like Delhi have already successfully implemented an odd-even formula, where vehicles with odd and even registration numbers hit the streets on alternative days, other cities are contemplating a similar move. However, a total ban on fossil fuel vehicles, especially diesel vehicles, is not in the picture.
A group of veteran techies have decided to help people to come out of this quagmire. Their startup Altigreen Propulsion Labs has developed a proprietary electric vehicle technology that converts in-use fossil-fuel based vehicles into hybrid electrics, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.
“Stubbornly high fuel costs, poor urban health due to air pollution and the change in climate due to greenhouse gas emissions — all these are worsening in developing countries because of the growing middle-class and traffic density,” says Amitabh Saran, Co-founder and CEO of Bangalore-based Altigreen. “The only solution is to reduce fossil fuel intensity of transportation.”
Pure electric vehicles (EVs) are not the answer. “Power generation through predominately coal-based grids lead to higher emissions from EVs than from gasoline/diesel vehicles. We also need to deal with a large ageing population of existing vehicles with old ICE technology. The answer lies in ‘grid independent’ electrification of in-use vehicles, by a product designed specifically for the needs of the developing countries,” he points out
Altigreen was founded in 2012 by Saran, along with Lasse Moklegaard, Shalendra Gupta and John Bangura — three of them PhD holders. Saran has 26 years of engineering and entrepreneurial experience, while Moklegaard has 17 years’ experience in engine control. Gupta is a veteran in finance, business development and manufacturing. Bangura has 20 years’ experience in high-performance motors and electronics for aerospace, military and hybrid vehicles.
Altigreen has created a low-cost retrofit system, called HyPixi, that transforms fossil-fuel based vehicles into hybrid electrics, increasing mileage by over 20 per cent and cutting tailpipe emissions by 20 per cent.
Its kit is the ‘fit & forget’ variety, which requires no external charging and uses a low-cost lead acid battery pack. It does not affect the combustion engine’s robustness or durability. The driver behaviour is also unchanged.
“We have successfully tested the system on petrol and diesel cars as well as small trucks in India. Regulatory clearances and certification have been received. Customer pilots have commenced with a few customers including Carzonrent, BigBasket, Coca-Cola, etc,” he says.
According to Saran, the potential for HyPixi is high and the total addressable market is 50 million vehicles in 10 years. In the initial phase, the company will target fleets of taxis, pick-ups, small trucks and in the second phase personal cars. The technology can be adapted to buses, trucks and others, he claims.
“High-density cities of ASEAN, South America and Africa are also on our radar,” Saran notes.
The system is priced under US$1,500 and saves taxi/LCV owners an equal amount every year, on fuel costs alone. It can be installed in under four hours by two technicians.
Early this year, Altigreen secured US$2 million in funding from Bangalore-based Jupiter Capital.
There is no doubt that Altgreen can become a game changer, not just in developed markets but across developed economies, as the world struggles to reduce carbon footprint and save the earth from dying an untimely death.