“EVs are going to dominate the automobile sector in the future, and it's not a matt
er of if, it's a matter of when," believes Anubhav Sharma, the co-founder of Baaz Bikes. The founding members of Baaz Bikes Anubhav Sharma, Abhijeet Saxena, Karan Singla, Sahil Malik, and Shubham Srivastava all came together at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi while working in Axlr8r Formula Racing, an automobile club of IIT Delhi. Working together in this club, they gained the expertise and vision of producing state-of-the-art Electric Vehicles.
The Vision & The Differentiator
Since 2019, Covid-19 has led to the transition from physical purchasing to online retail. But a crucial sector of online retailing has never been appreciated as it should have been; it's the delivery workers, sometimes known as Gig workers.
Wondering who are Gig workers? Well, Gig workers are temporary workers and independent contractors who a company hires to provide essential services based on the demand. Famous examples include workers employed in Zomato, Swiggy, Amazon, etc. For a majority of the unskilled/semi-skilled workforce, the Gig economy is their only source of income. Two significant concerns surround this workforce. Firstly, Gig workers don't have sufficient capital to buy bikes/scooters and the fuel prices they endure while delivering. The more they deliver, the more they earn. Accompanied with this, expenditure on fuel and maintenance costs also increases. Secondly, with ever-rising demand in the online retail sector, the gig workers have to travel a lot which is nowadays majorly achieved with ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles. The pollutants emitted harm the environment. With the vision and will to solve these issues, Baaz Bikes have delivered purpose-built Electric Bikes.
Branding it as “Baaz”
The founders of Baaz Bikes wanted to dispel the notion that EVs in the 2-wheeler segment are unsuitable for rugged terrain and long distances. They wanted to bring a robust EV bike that would be sturdy and could go long distances as and when required by the gig workers, as a result of which the founders considered their Bikes analogous to a "Baaz" (Hawk), leading to the name "Baaz Bikes," following which Baaz refers to its riders (Gig workers) as "Baazigars."
From the factory to the road
Baaz designs and assembles its bikes in-house, while the manufacturing is outsourced. These bikes are sold to the rental partners at an average cost of Rs 30,000. These rental partners provide the Baaz Bikes to the Gig workers at a monthly rent of Rs 2000.
“Buying an EV scooter for a gig worker is nearly impossible. So, by providing the Baaz Bike for rent, the upfront cost is greatly reduced. We sell these scooters to our rental partners without the batteries, which reduces the requirement of the initial capital manifold, as the batteries themselves are very costly. The batteries are provided through our battery network Baaz Swap. Also, many don't trust the sturdiness and mileage of Electric 2-wheelers, which is why many people hesitate to buy electric vehicles. Providing the Baaz EVs for rent makes it a less risky investment and reduces people’s reluctance to drive EVs. We provide the workers with more flexibility in exploring the EV mobility sector. The gig worker has to book the Baaz EV on rent, and he only has to pay us on a per kilometer basis for the distance he travels.” says Anubhav Sharma.
Making the EVs “Smart”
Baaz EVs are "smart." Unlike actual human interaction between the human and the Internal Combustion Engine, Gearbox, etc., via a mechanical tool piece, in the case of Baaz EVs, the interaction is supported via a microcontroller. A microcontroller, in straightforward terms, is a computer on a chip. It is an integrated circuit that incorporates one or more processors, input/output peripherals, and memory. A 2-wheeler automobile software architecture is deployed on the microcontroller. Whenever the human rider presses a throttle or pushes the brake, it is registered via electric circuits, after which the signal is converted into digital signals and fed to the microcontroller. Upon receiving this signal, the Microcontroller Unit (MCU) action will be driven by the software developed by Baaz Bikes. This "smart" system also helps alter the sensitivity of throttles, brakes, etc., by making appropriate changes in the software working at the microcontroller's core. The microcontroller generally employed in the Baaz EVs is the ARM 32-bit microcontroller.
The Baaz EV is supported by sensors that detect any anomaly in the underlying system. In recent news, EVs are often caught in accidents involving batteries bursting due to extreme temperatures and system failure. Every Baaz Bike is equipped with a Battery Management System (BMS) to prevent this. The BMS is the brain of the EV, which monitors the temperature and operational performance of the battery by measuring and validating the current, voltage, load, and temperature across different components. Baaz Bikes have also integrated its system with Controller Area Network (CAN bus). The CAN bus is a message-based protocol that helps other microcontrollers, devices, and electrical units communicate without a host computer. So, CAN facilitates checking battery health and safety by assisting Electrical Control Units (ECUs) inter-communicate.
Baaz – A Full Stack Solution
The success of Baaz Bikes is a subtle interplay of in-house developed four Baaz platforms, namely, Baaz Bike, Baaz Swap, Baazigar Platform, and the Baaz VU. Together they manage the start-up's hardware, software, logistics, and design.
Baaz Swap is a battery-swapping station where the discharged batteries can be exchanged with a fully charged battery. The process is very efficient and takes significantly less time. The Baazigar Platform allows each Baazigar to register, book Baaz EVs, and swap batteries. They are provided with an Identity Card. This card is scanned at the swapping stations to verify the identity of the gig worker. The Baazigar can take out the discharged battery from his bike and insert it into an empty compartment, which automatically opens up after successfully verifying the worker's identity with the Baaz database. The discharged battery placed in the Baaz Swap starts charging immediately. The battery can be swapped at any remaining charge like 40%,35%, 5 %, etc. The number of kilometers traveled by the worker is calculated based on the remaining charge in the battery. Based on this, the worker pays on a per-kilometer basis, after which a new compartment opens up, providing a fully charged battery that the worker can place in his bike and travel along. Baaz batteries have a life of 1000 cycles, which means if charged once each day, they will last for approximately three years. On a full charge, the Baaz Bike can go for 60 Km.
The Baaz Swap is temperature-controlled using cooling systems which counter the heating effects of batteries being charged continuously, thus preventing any damage to the swap station. Each Baaz Swap can accommodate 9 batteries.
Baaz VU is a cloud-based fleet management platform for vehicle rental partners. Fleet management is necessary for any business involved in commercial vehicles. The Baaz VU helps oversee fleet operations like battery usage, efficient route planning, driver safety, and EV maintenance for increased productivity and efficient management for the rental partners. It also collects data to establish a new swapping station at the appropriate location in the future.
Through these software and hardware platforms, Baaz has delivered an end-to-end solution consisting of EVs (Baaz Bike), Gig worker platform (Baazigar Platform), Swapping stations (Baaz Swap), and fleet management services (Baaz VU).
Why Swap the batteries instead of providing charging ports?
“Our focus is on the Gig worker. On average, a delivery worker does 20 to 22 deliveries per day; the thing is, if he uses a charging port, he has to spend 2-3 hours charging. Spending 2 to 3 hours in charging during the working hours will greatly reduce his incentives which is a major chunk of his income. Actually, we have seen a lot of movement from the charging model to our model," says Anubhav Sharma.
Baaz installs swapping stations near markets, restaurants, and Kirana stores for easy access to the gig workers. Baaz believes that charging ports would require more space as EVs may need to wait for charging. Swapping, on the other hand, requires much less space and time, thus making it possible to equip any crowded location with swapping stations.
The journey so far and the road ahead
At present, Baaz Bikes has 3 battery swapping stations in New Delhi, 2 in Saket, and 1 in Malviya Nagar. There are 50 Baaz Bikes active on the road. These EVs and swapping stations belong to the generation 3 model. Baaz Bikes will soon launch the generation 4 EVs. These generation 4 bikes are sturdier and are built with the experience acquired by running operations on the generation 3 model. This will gain the trust of gig workers who consider EVs frail and require a lot of maintenance.
Baaz believes that the Government of India is supporting the faster adoption of EVs through schemes like FAME India (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India) with its Phase II in action. NITI Aayog has formulated battery swapping frameworks for increased efficiency in EV mobility after the announcement of the Union Budget 2022-23 by the Hon’ble Finance Minister.
Baaz Bikes plans to cover Delhi in the next 9 months. They have established a factory in Faridabad for delivering EVs in more significant numbers, equipping them with the ability to roll out 100 EVs per month. With these next-generation Baaz Swaps and EVs, Baaz can deploy different models of scooters without changing the battery network. Baaz has achieved a 2 million dollars Pre-Series A funding from Kalaari Capital, 9Unicorns, AdvantEdge, and Sumant Sinha (CMD of Renew Power). Baaz Bikes is profitable on a per kilometer basis and is heavily investing in Research and Development to improve its efficiency and quality with an aim to build innovative and sustainable EVs for easy delivery by Baazigars and a cleaner environment.