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Ex-SpaceX engineer looks to electrify mobility in emerging markets

Former SpaceX engineer Porter Harris has gone from electrifying rockets to rickshaws in a bid to bring efficient, emissions-free mobility to emerging markets with his new company, Power Global.

Image Credit: Flickr/Matt J. Kelley

Officially launching today, Power Global is taking aim at the roughly $16 billion market for three-wheeled transportation in India.

While electrification in developed markets focuses primarily on passenger and commercial vehicles, in emerging markets there’s a huge concerted push to clean up motorcycles and three-wheelers.

They’ve become the go-to mobility solution in nations where car ownership is lower. They’re also typically powered by either internal combustion engines or lead acid batteries. And neither power source is all that great from an environmental perspective. Lead acid batteries need to be swapped out every six to eight months and are incredibly toxic… while fossil fuels are a leading contributor to global climate change.

Enter Power Global. It’s offering owners of three wheelers a subscription service that would upgrade them from either lead acid batteries or internal combustion engines to its swappable battery service.

Close up of Power.Global’s battery systems. Image Credit: Power Global

The company’s first product, the eZee, is a swappable battery for light vehicles. The company’s co-founders, Harris and Pankaj Dubey, a former Yamaha Motors and Polaris Inc. executive, see their mission as providing electric vehicle and clean energy products to global markets that have been left behind in the world’s push to sustainable mobility.

Power Global will launch its services outside of New Delhi, with the goal of planting a kiosk roughly every three kilometers, Harris told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

The company also has plans to provide drivers with an app that will allow them to see how many kilometers they’ve traveled, their current battery charge, and where they can find a swapping station.

The mobility solutions are also just a point of entry to a broader array of energy services. There are plans in place to add solar panels to the battery charging stations in efforts to provide rural electrification.

The company’s lithium ion batteries are projected to last for around five years and after they’re done, the batteries will be sent to a recycler.

Right now, the Power Global is starting with battery manufacturing. It aims to have a plant up and running with the capacity to produce about one gigawatt hour worth of batteries (approximately 10,000 Model S packs), according to TechCrunch.

The swappable eZee battery offering will be available early next year, with the retrofit services rolling out a bit later.

“Do we really need another solution for the top 10% of the world? No, we don’t,” Harris told TechCrunch. “Let’s focus on the other 90% of the world and actually make a difference.”

The company is currently taking pre-orders for its swappable batteries now.

“We are on a mission to improve access to clean energy solutions in India and other emerging markets by sharing our collective years of expertise in bringing affordable battery technology to market,” said Dubey, co-founder and CEO of Power Global’s India subsidiary, in a statement. “While the eZee™ will give light mobility vehicles new life, it also represents a path to help build local economies with direct and indirect job creation, while supporting evolving regional environmental goals...”

Following the launch of the eZee™ battery module, Power Global will announce its first line of Retrofit Kits to convert diesel- and petrol-fueled auto rickshaws into zero-emissions electric vehicles. The swappable eZee™ battery module will also power future product lines, including upcoming applications for second-life stationary storage and automotive sectors.

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