As green tech and climate-conscious business models electrify the auto industry, Bengaluru e-mobility startup Ola Electric Mobility is working to build its own electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem—sans two of the wheels. The AI-powered Ola Futurefactory, now under construction at a 500-acre (202-hectare) site in Tamil Nadu, India, will use 10 production lines to produce 10 million Ola electric scooters annually. That’s one scooter every 2 seconds. And these won’t be the “boring, dull, slow, clunky” two-wheelers currently on the market, says Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal. They’ll be the “best scooter ever built”—super-speedy high-performers served up in cool colors and fully loaded with sweet tech touches.
The objective: create a next-gen product that can help combat climate change in the world’s second-most populous country, where two-wheeled vehicles account for 40 percent of air pollution and 80 percent of the vehicles sold are two-wheelers.
“To reverse this situation on climate change, we need a revolution,” says Aggarwal. Ground zero of that revolution? The company’s Futurefactory, which broke ground in February. And Aggarwal is thinking big—like, really, really big, constructing what he claims is the biggest building in India, able to hold a Mumbai or Delhi airport terminal within its walls. “This scale is the only way we bring this revolution here fast and make electric two-wheelers accessible to everybody,” he says.
As one of the fastest growing Indian startups to reach coveted unicorn status, Ola is no stranger to innovating at light-year speed. And construction of its Futurefactory is putting that creative problem-solving to the test. Envisioned as a highly automated operation—with more than 3,000 robots working alongside human employees—the Futurefactory will be powered by Ola’s own “AI engine” and tech stack. And the company also partnered with German tech giant Siemens and Swiss powerhouse ABB Robotics for robotics and automation solutions.
Along with all the Industry 4.0 tech, Ola is incorporating sustainable construction practices to make its mega-factory just as green as the two-wheeler scooters it plans to manufacture. A solar array on the rooftop will power the Futurefactory and allow it to run carbon negative. And rather than simply build around the local landscape, the team designed space inside the factory itself to house a 2-acre (0.8-hectare) living forest. It also plans to incorporate excavated soil and rocks from the construction site, and transplant all the trees uprooted during the build.
As phase one of construction wraps up, Ola Futurefactory has already begun rolling out its first S1 scooters and filling 10,000 new manufacturing jobs—all of which are slated for women, the company says.
Also on Ola’s agenda: a mission to fully commit India to electric vehicles, completely phasing out petrol two-wheelers by 2025. But that will require infrastructure. So, with its Futurefactory fully operational by 2022, the company is already working on a project to set up extensive charging and swapping networks across the country.
“The future of manufacturing will be written here in India,” says Aggarwal. “India can and will be a leader in manufacturing products of the future in the factories of the future.”