Eicher Motors, known for its iconic Royal Enfield brand, has set up a core team to develop an electric motorcycle, which the company’s chief executive says “seems relatively inevitable” now.
Eicher dominates the middleweight motorcycle segment, which comprises bikes with engine capacity of 250-650 cubic centimetres (cc).
“It seems relatively inevitable to have an e-motorcycle. We have a nucleus of a dedicated team, and some of us are also involved. We have started to ideate and will be working on the proof of concept. However, we do not want to be an innovator but an early follower and learn from others,” Siddhartha Lal, managing director and chief executive officer, Eicher Motors, told Business Standard. However, this did not mean there would be a product to show very soon, he added.
Eicher is the first mainstream mobike firm that has decided to look into the e-bikes space. In the two-wheeler segment, TVS and Hero MotoCorp have shown interest, but for e-scooters. Despite speculation about Bajaj Auto getting into e-motorcycles, there has been no official statement from them.
According to a Goldman Sachs report on the e-vehicle market, the TVS group seems to be way ahead of other two-wheeler manufacturers, with the scheduled launch of its LiB hybrid scooter this year, followed by LiB electric scooters next year. Hero lags behind its competitors, TVS and Honda, in the e-vehicle space by two-three years, the report says. While Hero has picked up a 30 per cent stake in Ather Energy, which is making a high-end e-scooter, the vehicle is expected to be launched only next year.
Pune-based Tork Motors, which is building an e-motorcycle, seems to be ahead in the race. Funded by angel investors, which include Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal, the firm is building its own in-house battery with a life to run for 100,000 km, enough for a five-six years’ run with a top speed of 100 kmph.
Lal says there are various challenges in the quest for making an e-mobike and they are looking at them from the brand, consumer, retail and business perspectives. He points out that globally, the problem is that bikes are being made at $30,000 and sold at half the price. “What should happen is that it should be made at a cost of $7,000 for it to sell at $15,000.”
Carmakers, he says, are taking the “lazy way” to make e-cars to “save their skins”. “They are using the existing form factor, taking out the engine and sticking in a battery pack. After all, they have billions of dollars tied up in infra like weld shops or paint shops which they have invested in and they do not want to loose that,” he says.
“We do not have to follow the same path, as we do not have that kind of infrastructure. We can start with a clean sheet of paper and not the same form factor. We have the ability to innovate,” he adds.