Located in the town of Pochampalli in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu and surrounded by shoe factories, temples, bakeries, coconut trees and dusty roads, is the new Ola Futurefactory.
It takes more than three hours by road and more than 130 km from the technological (tech) center of Bengaluru to reach the largest factory in the world reserved for women. It is also being expanded to become the largest two-wheeler factory in the world with an annual production capacity of 10 million units, contributing to one in seven two-wheelers sold worldwide.
Inside, the hangar-like building echoes with creaking metallic sounds as robots work alongside humans, with songs like Blinding Lights by The Weeknd playing in the background.
The Futurefactory, spread over 500 acres, or approximately 378 football pitches, is a fully automated factory. The facility, built according to Industry 4.0 principles, has more than 3,000 robots.
Ola, backed by SoftBank, said it uses proprietary artificial intelligence for optimal performance. Many robots can be seen moving autonomously, transporting loads from place to place in the factory. There are also robots working on key manufacturing process lines like painting and welding, as well as battery and motor assembly.
“This factory was built in seven months at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Bhavish Aggarwal, Founder and CEO of Ola, speaking to 3,000 customers visiting the factory.
Currently, the factory produces 1,000 electric scooters per day. There are more than 2,000 women employed in the factory. These women are trained and employed to run the entire production cycle – from battery to assembly.
At full capacity, Futurefactory will have a workforce of 10,000 women.
“Right now, we have the Ola S1 Pro product on the market. We are working on a few more prototypes,” he says.
Aggarwal recently retired from day-to-day operations to focus more on engineering functions, team building and products, in addition to focusing on long-term strategic projects, such as two-wheelers, cars and innovations in rapid trade and international expansion. .
Other strategic projects include cellular research and development (R&D), construction of the Pune Technology Center and Futurefoundry UK.
“Over the next two years you will see many deployments of two-wheelers. We are also building an (electric) car,” says Aggarwal, who also gives a taste of a red electric car.
It will probably be a large sedan and not a compact sedan for intra-urban use.
“We’re also building the core technology behind it – which is the cell. All of this is built in India. I believe that by the end of 2025, India will be selling no more petrol powered two-wheelers,” he says.
Aggarwal says his mission is to help India step onto the global stage of electric revolution. There are many large companies innovating in this area, such as Elon Musk’s Tesla and a large number of American and Chinese companies.
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Most of these big companies, including Tesla and NIO Inc., focus on high-end and luxury products, experts say.
“The reason India is going through this wave of electric mobility is the consumers. They have flatly rejected petrol and embraced an electric future,” says Aggarwal.
“Will you buy a gas scooter again? No. Our vision is to put India on the global electrification map,” he adds.
However, Aggarwal is sharing these plans at a time when the company is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Recently, safety concerns were heightened when an Ola electric scooter recently caught fire in Pune. Many customers have complained about the scooters, which has led to more scrutiny of electric vehicles. Customers also expressed frustration with delivery delays and a few technical issues.
The company said it was stepping up its core R&D in advanced cell chemistry and manufacturing, as well as other battery technologies and new energy systems. It is also working on fast-charging battery cell technology and aims to commercialize it. It will set up a battery cell manufacturing plant in India with a capacity of up to 50 gigawatt hours.
In India, Ola is now in direct competition with manufacturers of electric two-wheelers like Ather Energy, Hero Electric, Bajaj and TVS Motor Company.
Ola Electric said it has over 50,000 scooters on the road today, with customers having traveled 45 million miles (km).
During the customer event in Tamil Nadu, Ola also launched the MoveOS 2 software update for all its customers at the Ola Futurefactory. With this, over 50,000 Ola S1 Pro customers across the country will receive an over-the-air update. The firm says this will make the scooter a feature-rich two-wheeler in the country.
With the software update, the Ola S1 Pro will feature improved accessibility. The company says the MoveOS 2 update also enables fixes for bugs that were previously found in isolated cases, such as range drop and battery drain.
The software update will allow riders to remotely access their scooters using the Ola Electric Companion application (app). Lock, unlock and open the scooter’s trunk with the push of a button. Customers can access important real-time vehicle metrics such as charge status, range between modes, odometer reading and software version on the app.
It has a music playback function, allowing riders to pair their phones with scooters via Bluetooth. An all-new Eco mode, with a range of 165 km per charge, will solve range anxiety.
There’s a new cruise control feature – a feature found mostly in high-end four-wheelers. Here, cyclists can now maintain a constant speed between 20 km/h (km/h) and 80 km/h on routes without traffic jams. There is also a feature that enables turn-by-turn navigation support and a live route map, ensuring that passengers reach their selected destinations faster.