How much of an investment on VEGA EVX Supercar so far?
So, there’s another question. How much of an investment have you put into Vega innovation ( VEGA EVX Supercar ) so far? I must tell you before I just ran some numbers when we started this project, we ran some numbers without much experience at all. It really showed, kind of, the level that we were five years ago. We just added all the big car components together and thought that was the budget that we needed. We have exceeded that by about 10, 15 times now. Previous article on VEGA EVX Supercar.
I could easily say that we have spent more than a million dollars on this project now trying to build this technology, to build not just a prototype, but to build the technology. I think that’s very different, I want to explain that to the viewers more because when other car companies, most of them, even Tesla, when they produce some of their cars, they bought the components from other vendors.
We started building all of VEGA EVX Supercar here…
Now, these are also publicly available. If you do some research, you’d know where the motor came from, where the motor controller came from, where did the battery management system come from, who did this and whatnot but we took a very different route. We started building all of it ( VEGA EVX Supercar ) here, the motor controller, the battery management system, the vehicle controlling unit, including the electronics and the software.
So, our scope of building this product prototype is much larger than what a conventional company would do. It really added to our challenges but looking back, it really made a huge value addition in terms of what our team can provide to another entity or to the society as a whole, and we have used that expertise to build and gone off and done a lot of other products in this country.
Other areas to compete with the larger companies is on the prototyping and designing side of things. Now, larger companies spend about $5 billion or so to build a new prototype, a new model whereas, we could do it for much cheaper. So that is one particular place where we can do things cheaper in this country is the designing and the manufacturing of a prototype, not the manufacturing of high volume mass production area. So, that is something that we are now looking at to kind of compete with the larger companies.
For example, we built a company called Charge Net. We are one of the largest electric vehicle service providers in the country. We built all of the charges in Sri Lanka by us, and now we have another company called AiGrow Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture and we developed a lot of cutting edge technologies also in-house, 100% by us here in Sri Lanka. So, the investment is not just for the prototype. So, don’t think like, you spent $1 million on a prototype, what is your plan? But it’s needed to build all these expertise within this country.
A Sponsor For Mass Production..
So, moving on. If any multinational foreign company agreed to sponsor for this mass production, what will be your decision? Yeah, so we’ve been talking to a few companies abroad trying to see what aspirations they have and how we can collaborate together.
So out of that, we have a partnership with a Japanese company now to develop a small electric car in parallel to the VEGA EVX Supercar that we’re doing. So, we are hoping to start the manufacturing process for that particular vehicle by end of next year, so that will be a huge step for us in terms of learning from, you know, how to manufacture in high quality and low cost and with high efficiency and so on. So these are some of the things that we are looking at now in terms of engaging with foreign partners to move this forward because we have no intention to stop after this prototype. We are full steam ahead. We want to build more these cars in Sri Lanka and start selling them across the world so, that is our goal.
Please describe the software parts. So yeah, we have over about 60 micro-controllers on this car now. They range from placing motor controllers to vehicle controlling unit to light controller, door controllers, we have these parts called body controllers. So, all those electronics have many, many micro-controllers and the center console that goes in the middle of the car with the touchscreen and also the digital instrument panel that sits in front of the driver, those are all done by a software.
So, there are two high-performance controllers on those that run a full stack for software. So, it’s a massive task to do the software on this car, especially the firmware side because it has to be high performance. If we are to get certification one day, then there has to be redundancy there, critical failures, there can’t be single-point failures on the system so lots of things to worry about, but like many, we all started with Arduino or some small micro-controller and here we are developing high-end stuff on different micro-controllers.
So, I think it’s important to note that trying to learn new software as you go is important because technology has changed and we are also now looking at what is the next step in terms of micro-controllers and software and other things that we need to place on production level Vegas (Vega EVX Supercar). I hope I described the software part.
We are also doing a little bit of artificial intelligence, AI-based autonomous navigation stuff to see how we can integrate in media-based autonomous navigation into our platform. We are quite a long ways off, but, that’s something that we are also doing some research in parallel to bring AI into the picture and it’s been done all around the world but especially in countries like ours, doing software for AI and autonomous navigation is quite a big task, more complex I feel because of the road rules and all the other problems that we faced in this area.
Quality, Features, Brand name, and then Pricing…
What are the plans to compete with the other large companies? Yeah, so, that is one of the biggest challenges for us. How do you compete in quality, features, brand name, and then pricing, costs and things like that?
To be honest, when we started, for any product, we were with the impression that we can build things cheaper in Sri Lanka and I think, one of the biggest lessons for me personally is that that is not the case for most things. You can’t build things cheaper here. Our tax policies, our volumes, our manufacturing capabilities in this country is not geared to do that, so you have to look at what value additions that you can provide that will bring you to the international market and if you thought that building things for cheaper is the way to go it’s just not.
If our labor profiles are even not there, for example, if you look at the apparel industry, now companies are moving to Bangladesh because labor is cheaper there and it’s more expensive to do things here in Sri Lanka. So, bringing automation and robotics and all of these things are very important. So, what I’m trying to say is that you need that kind of ecosystem to kind of compete with the larger companies.
Reference – The Sustainable Education Foundation, Sri Lanka