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Mahindra Reva builds India's first intelligent car using telematics and mobility

Debarati Roy | Feb. 17, 2014
How Mahindra Reva leveraged the magic of telematics and mobility to give India its very first smart car.

"The Reva-Lion—a lithium-ion battery version of the Reva-I—was introduced in Europe with telematics. This was the first time we were experimenting with telematics. It was the first generation of intelligent cars, the lessons from which were later brought into the e2o. The telematics unit is just like the black-box inside an aircraft's cockpit," says Gopal.

Electric Vehicles (EV) are very different from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars. Mahindra Reva realized that since most parts of an EV's drivetrain (powertrain) deal with voltages and currents, it is easy to digitize and sense various performance parameters and communicate them over a wireless channel.

A study of customer usage patterns helped Mahindra Reva realize that people leave their EV on charge overnight, expecting the car to be ready for travel in the morning. But sometimes people plug in the vehicle but forget to switch on the mains, or sometimes the car stops charging due to voltage fluctuations, loose plugs or power failure. "In many such situations, the customer only realizes, a little too late, that the batteries are not fully charged," says Gopal.

Another battle that Mahindra Reva had to fight was the issue of 'range anxiety' among customers. Range anxiety refers to drivers who constantly worry that their vehicles have insufficient charge to reach their destination. The term is primarily used in reference to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and is considered to be one of the major barriers to large scale adoption of all-electric cars. Mahindra Reva wanted to fix that.

It wanted a system in the car that could make the car converse with its owner and proactively alert him or her about the general health of the battery, the amount of charge left in the car and whether the car is charging perfectly or not. The answer: A telematics system that could help the company's customer care team keep a close watch on the performance of its cars.

Another problem that the company was hoping to solve was after-sales service. In 2012, a Frost & Sullivan Customer Insights Report asked customers spread across 14 cities in India to rate different parameters that influence their buying decision. More than 60 percent of respondents rated after-sales service experience as a very important factor for buying a particular brand of car.

But providing customers excellent after sales service comes at a price. Apart from India, Mahindra Reva also exports the EV to 24 other countries. The company would have to pay through its nose to set up physical service networks in these countries.

Thankfully, it wouldn't have to. Unlike normal cars that have more mechanical parts, due to the basic build of EVs, a lot of issues can be handled and solved via OTA (over the air) firmware and parameter updates. This opened up a completely new service model for Mahindra Reva, one that will allow it to resolve customers' car issues faster but also help the company keep its service center costs down.


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