Finally push has come to shove in the e-electric vehicle business. After a decade of dithering, government has finally decided to encourage non-fossil-fuel bikes and cars, with more than pious platitudes. It has created a Rs 800 crore corpus to fund FAME India — Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India — and once manufacturers qualify, they will be offered incentives of up to Rs 29,000 for a bike and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars.
But good old Indian jugaad has already kicked in, even before government subsidies do. A number of startups are putting electric transporters of all kinds on the road by 2017. A few were previewed at the recently concluded Indian Gadgetz Expo in Bangalore:
Volta motors is a Chennai start-up which has designed India’s first cross-over electric bike: something between a bicycle and a moped. Called Volta ZAP, it offers a 60km range for a single charge without pedalling, with an operating cost of around 7 paise per kilometre. Top speed is restricted to 25 Kmph. The battery of Volta Zap weighs just 3kgs, among the lightest battery for an e-bike. Usefully, the battery is removable, which allows you to charge one battery while using another.
The Pedal assist feature is geared and gives 3 full wheels of rotation for every pedal rotation. With the battery off, I could pedal the Zap as I would any geared bicycle. The Zap comes with a digital display on the handlebar, LED lights and a mobile app. No driving licence or registration is required.
The Irrway, from Bangalore-headquartered Greendzine is quite different from anything seen on Indian roads. It is a personal transporter that will remind people of the famous Segway launched in the US in 2002. In fact the Irrway is designed developed, by a small team of Indian engineers, led by co-founders Anjan Kumar and Karthikeyan Sundaram. It is a rear wheel powered, 3-wheel, stable platform, battery driven electric vehicle with intelligent safety systems. It runs at around 12-15kmph and has simple controls: a brake and an accelerator. It is already available to businesses but for lay users will be available from January 2017 for Rs 39,500. I can see it being a useful transporter within enclosed spaces like apartment complexes, gated communities, college campuses and the like. But since most public roads in Indian cities are scary for pedestrians anyway, the makers are working on a model with more safety features for our roads.
Six months ago a premium e-scooter was previewed: the Ather S340 (S for the Scooter, 3 for the 3KWh motor and 40 for the 40 Amp battery). It can achieve 72 KMPH with a 60 KM range on full battery. It sports a dashboard with 7 inch touch screen that integrates with cloud-based data through a SIM card to enable constant data transfer and updates. The rider can access on-board navigation and switch between two modes - Sports and Economy. The company was started by IIT Madras grads, Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain and production will commence at year end. No price has been mentioned but it will likely cost than Rs 1 lakh.
If you already have a bike — but aspire to some of the features of so-called smart bikes, Bitmotion has just the solution for you: a conversion kit that you can connect to your motorbike to get tools like automatic smart lights that turn on when needed, turn off when your ride ends and dim when you stop; a connection to a smart phone app; an accident detection mode that sends a message to priority contacts; turn by turn GPS navigation and route optimiser. The Bitmotion kit will cost around Rs 8000 but currently information at their website is scant and no date is set for availability. The makers say they are offering a special custom-made unit for Harley Davidson bikes
These are just some of the new e-bike ideas I tried out this year. Many e-scooters are already available at prices between Rs 25,000 and Rs 60,000 from makers like Hero, Lohia, Avon, Indus, Palatino etc. When I checked at the web portal BikeDekho.com, I found 28 models listed. The signs are clear: It's time to think 'e' for electric for your personal transportation!