The Nextgen bikes are here, and they’re not Townies or XVS1300A Midnight Stars. Riding a wave of public discontent over rising fuel prices, Ultra Motor, Electrotherm (India) and ACE Motors are driving out the green-wheelers: battery-charged bikes (35-50 kms per charge; the ‘socket-friendly’ charges take 3-4 hours), high on torque and the ‘good looks’ factor, low on sound — and zero on emission.
Internal combustion engines (ICE)-propelled two-wheelers give you 90 paise/km; eBikes will give you 10 paise/km (with battery maintenance, it could go up to 15 paise/km). And the mean machines will come with price tags lesser than the ICE variants.
ACNielsen conducted a 10-city survey across India (markets with populations of 5 lakh-plus) to get a better grip on the eBike: 62 per cent reacted “positively”; 28 per cent “extremely positively”; and 30 per cent were keen to buy such a bike.
“In India, 9 million bicycles are sold every year,” says Deba Ghoshal, director, marketing (India), Ultra Motor, that plans to launch its brand of U-Bykes and U-Scootis (U=ultra-powered) in October. “Most owners are looking for an upgrade, and we’ll offer price-effective variants for this category.” There would also be “the converts” who’d switch gears to eBikes from their gas-guzzlers. The other big catchment will be teenagers and kids: some variants don’t need licence or registration because there’s speed control mechanism. “They’re also safer,” adds Ghoshal.
Mukesh Bhandari, chairman and MD, Electrotherm (that kickstarted its brand YObikes in Rajasthan earlier this month), says, “They have the technology to empower the masses and are value for money,” The way forward for India is to be like China, where in the last four years the eBikes market, in only 16 cities, has grown to 12 million.