Remember the time when we played around with battery operated remote control toys which would knock themselves about, annoy the parents, and drink batteries like a hungry kid would candy? The lucky ones got rechargeable cells... it never occurred to any of us that they were the ‘fuel of the future,’ right?
Reset to the present day. India’s electric movement was started by the Maini Electric Car Company’s tiny Reva. And now, the two-wheeler equivalent is Bangalore-based Ekovehicles’ electric scooterette, the Cosmic-1. And I’m about to take it out for a spin.
In the parking lot, you won’t need to hide the Cosmic – it is kind of cute. The front-end is rakish, with a Scooty-like appearance and a mudguard for good measure. The handlebar-mounted headlight, however, is not a clear lens type – I’d say unlike its counterparts, but it doesn’t have any yet! The instruments are strikingly colourful and house the usuals, plus a fuel... er, charge gauge. Once seated, you will notice that the seat doesn’t quite have space for two Indian bums. But the generous dealer will be happy to retrofit a longer unit, so add that to the total bill as an option. There is a neat plastic luggage rack; its longevity may be doubtful, but it looks neat. The tail lamp includes the indicators and blends into the rear panel.
The Cosmic-1 isn’t quirk free, as you would have gathered. Switches are a bit iffy, but get this, it has two horn buttons. Most convenient! How come no one’s thought of that before?
I did think that while the paint job is good and makes the scoot look very sleek, the plastics could be better. Ekovehicles have stayed away from graphics, though stickers all over leave no one in doubt that the motor’s electric. The scooter uses a (jargon warning!) Neodymium Iron Boron permanent magnet brushless DC hub motor (warning ends) mounted directly to the rear wheel. Power output is 500 watts at 48 volts. The claimed torque is 1.1 kgm, which is just a bit less than the Pulsar 180. Astonishing! Also eye-opening is the regular MCB (like the ones in your home’s electrical board) under the seat, which will trip in case of fluctuations. Flip it back on and you are on the move again.
Since the motor is directly mounted to the wheel, there aren’t any chains or belt to wear out. That’s good. However, there is the possibility of getting it submerged in water-logged streets... Zzzzt! What happens then is something which remains to be seen.
To get going, you just switch the ignition on and wring. Initial acceleration is quite deceptive as the scooter surges ahead. But soon, the excitement gives way to boredom. The top speed is 40 kph and this is a major drawback. On long roads you could foreseeably fall asleep! The only thing you hear is the motor whine. Part of the charm of riding is to listen to the engine note and this is one thing I constantly missed in this scoot!
When you press the rear brake, a switch cuts the power. This is automatic and you don’t have to switch it on once you let go of the brake lever. The brakes seem a bit oversized and have a good bite. Then again, it isn’t very fast to begin with. However, the few times I braked on wet surfaces, the rear seemed to slide too easily, although dry braking is good. If you’re planning to ride after-hours, the headlight is quite bright, and since the rear lamp isn’t obstructed by a spare wheel, it should be safer. The Cosmic is shorter than other scooters – handy while zig-zagging though the congested city. It’s taller than both the Zing and Scooty, though and it actually has a longer wheelbase than the Activa! And it never scraped urban hills masquerading as speed breakers, even two up! The floorboard is also quite large and should be comfy for young guys and gals and the elderly, the likely customers.
The Cosmic-1 corners like a 250cc GP racer and is a joy to trail brake... oh wait, Shumi isn’t writing this story. The scooter does not feel too confident so you won’t bend it over too much in corners. But ride like a gentleman, and the scooter reciprocates.The suspension format is similar to the Kinetic Honda variety of scooters and the two chromed rear shocks make it look polished. However, the light weight gives it a tendency to bounce over B’lore’s craters, and it feels better two up.
The Cosmic-1 returns 50 kilometres to the litre of Coke. Kidding... Four 12-volt, 22AH batteries power this scooter, and full charge takes just four hours, requiring one unit of electricity. This will keep them wheels moving for 45-50 km. Not bad, eh? The sealed lead gel batts need to be replaced at 15,000 km, which I thought was pretty decent. Running costs for an economy-minded rider would be about Rs 2,000 for that distance, so the Rs 6,000 you’ll spend replacing the batteries will still be a fraction of the equivalent fuel cost. To charge it, you need only a normal 220 volt plug point and the charging cord.
And to own it, you need to have Rs 32,000, which includes the twin-seat, registration, and accessories. Being a non-polluting vehicle, the Karnataka government has exempted it from road tax! Finally, some enlightenment.But why would someone buy this 50 km-at-a-go scooter? If your college is nearby and the only place you hang out at is the nearest cinema (and you have no intention of street racing; and don’t mind being overtaken by a Luna), this is the right choice. The Cosmic-1 would also be an economical option as a second two-wheeler in the house. In Bangalore, dealerships are easy to find, and the first service simply involves tightening nuts and bolts, checking electrical connections and a wash. And this one is guaranteed not to annoy the parents as well.