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Entrepreneurs taking up initiatives to bring down cost of e-bikes

Raghuvir Badrinath  |  Chennai/ Bangalore 

Given the relative success that Reva Electric Car has achieved and with M&M and Tata Group looking at an lineup of electric vehicles in its portfolio, the scenario in India of entrepreneurs looking to play in this sector is growing. Reva Electric Car has been growing in strength and after M&M taking this company under its fold, it is expected that the costs will come down so will the network of sales and service will expand.

One more of Bangalore’s entrepreneurial set up Eko Vehicles is expected to come under the fold of US-based NEAH Power. And with more and more people expected to buy electric vehicles, the market is expected to move forward. According to industry data, around 200,000 electric two wheelers are being sold with only a handful of players like BSA Motors, Yo Bykes, Ultra Motors being the large national players.

In such a scenario, one more player — iBike — from Bangalore has emerged on the scenario in an effort to spread the concept of clean energy. i-Bike started by two entrepreneurs — Sandeep Dama and R Manikantan — has started rolling out its network of dealership for their range of bikes. The company has set up an assembly unit at Jigani with motors, the main component, being imported from China.

“While there has been an overall growth of the E-bike market in the last three years, the market is still very small compared to the petrol 2-wheeler market. We want to go out to the market and establish ourselves stating that we are here for the long run,” said Dama. The e-bike market, besides the established players, has been facing some problems due to some individual players being just importers and not being able to service post the sale, which has left a bitter taste with the consumers. “We want to change this and offer a network of service as we grow,” added Dama.

Speaking about the differentiators which i-Bike offers, Dama said they have been able to bring down the cost of replacing the battery of the bike drastically. “While the running costs are a fraction of the petrol operated vehicles, E-bike batteries need to be changed after a usage of 15,000 - 18,000 kms depending on the usage pattern of the customer, costing '10,000 - 14,000 per battery pack. What we have done is to bring this cost down to '6,000 by having a strategic relationship with Bangalore-based Southern Batteries Ltd,” Dama detailed. “The relationship also helps us offer recycling options to the customer further reducing the cost of ownership as well as the damage to the environment, due to improperly disposed batteries,” he added.

Industry analysts further detail that with introduction of Lithium ion and other compounds in the E-bike batteries, the life as well as the running distance of the batteries would more than double. “There would also be a drop in charging times from current approx. 6 hrs to 2 hrs with Lithium ion batteries. But the high cost of ownership, which is nearly 3 times the existing Lead Acid batteries, is a deterring factor,” Dama highlighted adding that they will work on this technology as well going forward.

“We believe that with recent discovery of significant sources of Li Ion compounds, the cost of the Li ion batteries should reduce and in the next 2-3 years the cost of Li Ion batteries would reduce significantly,” he noted.

According to various industry players, the government is presently encouraging the electric vehicle industry through reduction in customs duties on certain components. While some state governments like Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh have reduced the VAT rate, there is still a lot of help that the E-bike makers can use. Delhi state government is already doing this by giving incentives of nearly 30 per cent of the cost to the customers of Electric Vehicles. If this can be done in other states too, the cost of the ownership of these vehicles will reduce significantly and create a viable alternative for the petrol driven vehicles, industry players echoed.

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First Published: Wed, November 10 2010. 00:00 IST