Software tools help EV startups reduce capital and environmental cost, says Manish Kumar, CEO, Solidworks, Auto News, ET Auto

Software tools help EV startups reduce capital and environmental cost, says Manish Kumar, CEO, Solidworks, Auto News, ET Auto

 Manish Kumar, CEO, Solidworks.
Manish Kumar, CEO, Solidworks.

Q: Electric vehicle technology is disrupting the mobility space which is also enabling different shapes and sizes of companies/startups to develop new products. How do you see the development?

In my view, this is something that is inevitable, depending on who you talk to and where in the world you are. In December, the European Union implemented a policy where if you want to export anything to the Union, based on the carbon consumption of your product, you will have to pay an extra penalty, which means at this point, sustainability is becoming a way of life there.

Sustainability is a way to do business; if you are sustainable, you will be more profitable; if you’re not, you’re not going to be profitable. If you look at the biggest pollutants, of course, you can say cars, and I should say the automotive industry, not just in terms of consuming gas.

When you produce something—anything you produce—it goes through a process. You have to go and get the material from somewhere on Earth; I would say you have to mine it. Then you have to process it, which consumes energy. Then you have to ship it somewhere where you have to process more in order to manufacture something out of it, and then it goes through the entire lifecycle of that product, users, and day-to-day life, undergoing wear and tear.

And ultimately, it has to go back to where it came from. So in this full lifecycle lifespan of any given product, the amount of carbon that you produce, if you combine all of that together, goes into the car that you produce. Forget about the users; I’m not even coming to the users of the car. So, just to produce the car, you have already emitted that much carbon; now the question is, how do you reduce that? And in order to reduce that, if you look at any of these cars roaming around, there are certain parts that cannot be replaced, so the car will have to have been on a maglev ride, unless you go into a world of science fiction with maglev trains, as shown on TV.

There can be ways, of course, and the next question is: What about the battery itself? Because, if you think about it carefully, how do you calculate how to reduce the cost of a car’s carbon footprint? That’s question number one, and where itself the EV industry is going to help in a huge way because by using electric vehicles, you are reducing the number of components that are going in any car for that matter, whether it is a scooter or whether it is a truck, it doesn’t matter, you have reduced the number of moving parts.

As a result, your carbon footprint is reduced, which means you are more profitable and also more environmentally friendly. And by doing that, ultimately every country will have to abide by some kind of environmental law at some point.

Q: How are you helping startups since the problem is the supply chain? How are you helping them in terms of organising things and getting things done from a product point of view?

We have a big startup program. In fact, SolidWorks is currently used by—well, I can’t give you specific numbers. But I can easily say that thousands of startups use SolidWorks. We have a startup program in which we give a startup SolidWorks for free, our entire portfolio, and they can grow up to five users without paying us anything, and they can use it to convert their idea into something feasible. Once they start to become profitable only then we think of returns from them.

The beauty there again is, as I said, that the number of components required is less, your initial investment is less, and the number of people you need to depend on is less. If you want to build even an engine in a car, you must rely on a large number of people. The cost of building an engine is enormous, whereas the cost of building an EV scooter is not. And you may be able to, and I would also add that the other benefit is that you might be able to source it using the local resources; you do not always have to go and look for the sort of established suppliers, because it might be slightly more expensive.

But you must first prove your idea. To prove your idea, you do not have to wait. You do not have to go and beg the big suppliers, “Can I have your components?” Sorry, go to any machine shop next door; if they can do it for you, you have everything you need.

Q: Since you’re working with thousands of startups, what will be the nature or shape of future mobility for the Indian and global markets? What kind of new form factors we can see in future?

I will quote Bernard, who says that the future of mobility is that you want a mobility experience, you do not want to own a car at this point, but the mobility experience. If you are driving a car, you have to pay full attention to what is happening on the road in front of you. If you are travelling in a train, it doesn’t matter which direction you sit or what kind of things you do. You trust that someone is driving it, you never see that person, maybe that person doesn’t exist, maybe it’s auto autopilot. The future of the car is going to be autopilot, something else takes control of your need to go from point A to point B.

That itself is going to change, the way that experience is going to be designed. So now that changes the way you think. There is a customer of Dassault Systemes. So, they have limited their scope. If you have an autonomous vehicle and you put it on the road, you have to think about a lot of things. In a community-type setup, the constraints are limited; you can put certain additional sensors and so on. So they started with that kind of approach. But if you look at that car, it looks exactly the same from the front or the back.

I am in a car, which is not being driven by me, but it’s self-driven. My comfort is more important than the driver’s comfort, because most of the cars were built for the driver’s comfort, not for the passenger’s. When you go and sit in there, you have beautiful experiences in front of you. You can put your laptop on a table, and you have a TV in front of you, because that is what you want. If I’m driving to work, I want to do work, why should I do something else? It’s a waste. Today, it’s a waste of my time. Tomorrow, it should not be a waste. I should be sitting in something where my experience should be as if I’m sitting in my office.

If you ask me, what is the future of this auto industry? It’s about the experience of transportation; it’s not about ownership anymore.

Q: What role does Dassault Systemes play for reducing carbon footprint?

I believe we are among the most sustainable companies in the world, because the amount of carbon footprint we are able to reduce every year is huge. If you have a product, you need to know the carbon footprint of the product. If I ship a product from here to the US, its carbon footprint is much more than that of sending from China to us? Because it’s coming on a ship. But the environmental cost of carrying things in a ship is less than carrying them in a truck because the amount of goods that you transport over the ocean is very large. Similarly, planes are more fuel efficient than a two-wheeler which is more polluting per person per km. The same is about shipping cost.

We say that there are two ways you create. In the virtual world, things in 3D, and then using that virtual world, we are able to reduce the carbon footprint. But at times, we have to learn from the real- world data. It’s something which we cannot predict because it’s real-world data. This is where our platform is useful. We call it Plus in the sense that it is virtual and real.

In order to reduce our cost or environmental footprint of our customers, we are also able to use r plus V which is real, get the data from the real world and use it in the virtual world in order to predict the cost. So in this particular scenario, we are using a database, where if you have a product, we will ask some simple questions like where is it getting sourced from? How long is the shipping distance? Where is it coming from, what kind of material you’re using, what kind of scenario and machining operations is going to go on and finally to where it is going.

Then use the real-world information that we have gathered to compute that environmental footprint and give it back to you. This is where not only we are reducing the cost by going from v plus r, we are also using real world data. So RT plus V, we are able to help our customers reduce the carbon footprint.

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