Kripa Ananthan on the Krux Studio Two2
You’re crazy about cars. You’ve just sold your start-up for an eye-watering sum and have access to an even bigger pile of venture money. The ultimate dream is to see your name, your brand, on the backside of a car. And now with electric vehicles having removed the one big, daunting barrier to car manufacturing ― the Internal Combustion Engine ― your dream of a car start-up doesn’t sound too far-fetched.
You could start by blowing your credit card and buying an entire vehicle like Ola have done or you could reach out to suppliers for the skateboard ― for instance Benteler, part of the Bosch Group, will sell you an entire platform complete with batteries, motor, axles, suspension, everything. Next you contract a design studio to sketch out the car and that’s where Krux Studio comes in. Founded by Kripa Ananthan, the former head of design at Mahindra Auto, this is among the first advanced design studios in India, established on the lines of Pininfarina and offering an end-to-end design solution. This includes creating the design brief, establishing product specifications, conducting customer clinics, productionising the concept and goes all the way to portfolio design that comprises multiple vehicle designs on the same platform, mid-life facelifts and product lifecycle management for the seven years on average every car has. Kripa is particularly keen on diving into white spaces with sustainable mobility solutions on the lines of the Bajaj Qute and Mahindra Atom (shown at the 2020 Auto Expo). The Two2 is her first concept, a micro-mobility vehicle designed and built in barely four months, and one with a footprint claimed to be smaller than a rickshaw.
At the very core of this concept is upcycling ― using parts that would otherwise go into landfills and finding a second or even third life for it. The lynchpin of this design, would you believe, is the door. Kripa has used the second-generation Swift doors because it is widely available at every car bazaar, and door engineering is a time and money consuming process. Why waste either asks Kripa before pointing out that by reusing and recycling she has used less energy and less materials. Efficient design is another core concept ― for instance the rear fender is the same piece on the left and right and two of these joined together makes for the tailpiece. Lights, fenders, a whole host of parts have just been picked up from car markets ― things that are easily available and cheap ― and hooking it all together is a tubular frame that doubles up as roll hoops. Wheels are 13 inches, Kripa actually wanted to use 12s but they aren’t as easily available. Kripa’s initial plan was to do tandem seating but that wasn’t feasible and so the width went up to 1350mm. That said the Two2 isn’t much wider than a Royal Enfield Classic making parking a breeze, driving in congested roads equally breezy, and leads to a novel seating solution with a bench behind the single driver’s seat. Technically this is a 2-seater though a smaller person can squeeze in behind the driver while the far side passenger has plenty of space to stretch out (or keep bags).
As for the underpinnings, the assumption is that the client will bring their own mechanicals and so Kripa has used a carry-over platform pulled from the very first electric car to be sold in India. This isn’t technically a car, rather a quadricycle, designed purely for in-city use. Weight is quoted at 400kg (excluding the batteries) and top speed is between 45 and 60kmph which is enough for ridesharing Applications.
While self-driven, Kripa is clear that this isn’t intended for personal mobility. Rather like those cycles all over the city that you can rent out with an app, you’ll be able to do the same with the Two2, pick up and drop it off at designated spots, and the service provider will ensure the car is charged up for the next user. Legislation has to catch up with this idea but Kripa points out that car designers have to design for the future and be ahead of policy. Her manufacturing idea is also novel ― a mother plant will supply the parts and chassis to satellite workshops who will then use reconditioned parts (such as the doors, seats, etc) to build their own cars. She has even had conversations with used car dealers who, she says, are now getting into selling used parts and thus giving her a wide pool to pick from.
We have to clarify that what you see here is not ready nor will it ever go into production. This is but a proof of concept, that something like this can actually be done. So if you want to see your name on the back of a car, you know whom to call.