India sees start-ups ride on electric bicycles

Electric bicycles are slowly coming back.

The hotbed for revival of battery powered bicycles is Coimbatore, the engineering hub of Tamil Nadu, which is famous for electric motors and wet grinders.

Eco Fibers, a Coimbatore-based is building a concept that can travel between 30 and 100 kilometers on a single charge. The start-up is now raising funds through crowd sourcing to deliver its bicycle, named SPERO that can also be pedaled by conscious riders.

Traditionally, electric vehicles in India have been powered by lead acid batteries that are heavy and have limited charging capability. Eco Fibers is looking at the more compact but expensive lithium ion batteries - similar battery technology used in Tesla cars, to power the bicycles that can carry its rider for as high as 100 kms on a single charge.

Eco Fibers plan to manufacture the first batch of 70 bicycles by August, for which it is raising Rs 30 lakh on a crowdfunding platform Fuel a Dream. The company has already raise Rs 9.6 lakh from enthusiasts.

"We want people to reduce emission of harmful gas and also keep themselves fit," said S Manikandan, founder of the company.

Last year, Hulikkal, another Coimbatore start-up launched the electric bicycles and has seen traction for its premium bikes in large metros such as Bengaluru and Chennai

"The market for Electric Bicycles lies primarily in the urban areas where we see more affordability and awareness for electric vehicles. The customers look for long term usage and functionality of the bicycles before buying. Typically, they choose electric bicycles to avoid traffic congestion, easy commutation, and improving levels by choosing minimal pedaling over scooters, bikes or cars," said, Prashant Goel, managing director, Hulikkal.

Their average sales per month is 200 to 250 as of today most of the orders are being placed online. Their electric bicycles start at a cost Rs 30,000 for a electric bicycle that has a range of 30 km they have six more varieties with varied ranges. " As the awareness of such a bicycle increased there are more people wanting to place orders. There are customers who have used the bicycle and become repeat customers for the ones with a better range or a higher model," Goel, added.

The concept of electric bicycles is not new. For nearly a decade, sellers in India have imported these cycles from China, where it is more popular due to its mass adoption, but with limited success.

Large cycle makers such as Hero Electric and BSA Cycles launched similar products for the Indian market by producing it locally. While Hero continues to make and sell two models branded Avior, BSA has stopped production of the electric cycles around three years back due to lack of demand. Electric bicycles are priced between Rs 17000 to Rs 25,000 by these manufacturers, which is two to three times expensive than conventional pedalled cycles, and sales may be limited to the large metros.

Ranganath Thota, founder of Fuel-a-Dream, the crowd funding platform that Eco Fibers is on, says that the option of getting the cycle repaired at local shops and a pedal option would help in e-bicycles becoming popular.

However, a regular cyclist in the city expressed concerns over the theft of such bicycles and not having proper infrastructure for cyclists which discourages people for buying these bicycles.

'The main reason for people not taking up cycling is threat to life. There are no cycling paths in the city. People are constantly scared for their life. Not only has that it become worse because the family members are constantly worried about the safety. This pulls back people from cycling, " said, Sampath Ramanujam, founder of Zest Pedal Cycling group in Bengaluru.

Also the low weight electric cycles attract more attention in terms of theft. "We pay almost equal amount for the bicycle as a bike. However, there is no registration number or insurance or a way to track the bicycle. With the battery box visible outside, thieves are immediately attracted to it and would either lift the cycle away or steal the battery box away. Both of these have a high value in the market and hence it becomes a huge threat," he added.

(Sourced from business-standard.com)