Get ready for charge of the green machines
THE NEXT-GENERATION bikes are here, and they are not Townies or XVS1300A Midnight Stars. Riding the wave of public discontent over rising fuel prices, companies like Ultra Motor, Electrotherm (India) and ACE Motors are driving out the green-wheelers: battery-charged bikes. They run 35-50 km per charge (and the 'socket-friendly' charges take 3-4 hours), are high on the 'good looks' factor, low on sound — and zero on emission.
Here's how the economics play out: the most fuel-efficient internal combustion engines-propelled two-wheeler will give you a km for 90 paise; eBikes will give you a km for 10 paise (throw in maintenance for the batteries, and it will go to 15 paise maximum). And the mean machines are going to come for a price tag less than the ICE variants.
ACNielsen conducted a survey in 10 cities across India to get a grip on the market: 62 per cent respondents reacted "positively" to the concept of an eBike, while 28 per cent reacted "extremely positively". Around 30 per cent expressed a willingness to buy such a bike. Where is the market? "In India, nine 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 stands for 'ultra-powered') in October. "Most of them are looking for an upgrade, and we are offering a suitable price-effective variant for this category."
There would also be "the converts" who'd switch gears to eBikes from gas-guzzlers. The other big catchment area is going to be teenagers and kids. For a few of the variants, you don't need a licence or registration, because even though the models are automated, there's a speed-control mechanism. "So they're safer," says Ghoshal.
Mukesh Bhandari, chairman and managing director, Electrotherm — that kickstarted its brand YObikes in Rajasthan earlier this month — says, "Considering the rising fuel prices, this is an option people never had till now — it has the technology to empower the masses and give them value-for-money two-wheelers."