Pinnacle-VDL JV to break ground of its first plant in Pithampur in September

The ground-breaking of the 50-acre plant will take place in September and in the next six to nine months the facility will be operational, a senior company executive said.

Pinnacle Mobility Solutions, a unit of Pune-based Pinnacle Industries, which has forayed into the electric bus business, is all set to establish its first plant in Pithampur, Madhya Pradesh, in partnership with European company VDL Groep investing INR 2000 crore over the next five years.

The ground-breaking of the 50-acre plant will take place in September and in the next six to nine months the facility will be operational, a senior company executive said.

“The company is planning to invest INR 300 crore in the current financial year. One-third of this will be invested in research and development and two-thirds on the plant equipment and setup,” Sudhir Mehta, Chairman of Pinnacle Mobility Solutions, said.

The Pune-based electric vehicle maker has recently received Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) certification for its 9 meter pure electric, zero-emission bus under the brand name EKA.

The initial manufacturing of EKA electric buses will take place in the mother company’s plant in the same region. “We are using the current facility as a stopgap which has a capacity to produce 100 buses a month. The new manufacturing units will start in full swing in the next six to nine months where the production ramp-up will take place in two-phase,” he said.

By June 2023, the facility will enter its first phase with a manufacturing capacity of 500 buses a month, Mehta said, adding that production can be expanded to 1,000 buses a month in phase II. Under the 74:26 partnership, Pinnacle will provide interiors and seating components of the EKA electric buses, while VDL Groep will take care of fixing and tooling.

The company has plans to deploy 9 meter and 13 meter city buses through government and state tenders. However, it is supplying its first 100 buses to the private sector which includes a combination of staff and school bus transport.

When asked about market expansion, Mehta said that by the first quarter of FY24 the company will start exporting 15% of its production. “We are targeting to export 30% of our production by the end of FY24 to the markets of Asia and Africa,” he added.

The overall size of the used to be around 80,000 units in the pre-COVID years. According to Mehta, the acceleration in public transport electrification from the government in the past two years is acting as a catalyst for the electric bus market. “By 2027, the domestic electric bus will be around 100,000 units and I believe that 40%-45% of this market will be electric, which is about 40,000-45,000 units a year. This presents a very big opportunity for us,” Mehta added.

Towards the end of the next financial year, the company is also planning to enter into intercity long-haul buses with alternative fuels. “Government is ready with a hydrogen roadmap and we are all set to take the first mover benefit on this front. We feel that long-haul intercity buses are the ones where the maximum shift towards hydrogen will happen,” Mehta said.

Electric LCVs

Going forward, Pinnacle also intends to use JV expertise in producing four-wheeler electric light commercial vehicles (LCV) for the cargo segment. The company will start the production of electric LCV in the new Pithampur plant and will eventually shift the production to its proposed plant in Maharashtra.

“The new Pithampur facility will produce 1000 electric LCVs a month. At present, we are in discussion with the Maharashtra government and hoping to come up with our second plant in the state by the middle of next year,” Mehta added.

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