Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Eko Cosmic - I

In January this year, Bangalore-based Ekovehicles launched an electric scooter, which had caught public attention just a month before at the Grahak Utsav-2004 in Bangalore. Here is an interview with Anil Ananthakrishna, Chairman of Ekovehicles, where among other things he announces plans to launch an electric motorcycle sometime next year.

About the electric scooter: Launched on Jan 21, 2005 in Bangalore, it was christened Eko Cosmic-I. Costing Rs 30,000 onroad in Bangalore, it returns 50 km on a single charge that costs Rs 3, thus returning the amazing mileage of just 6 paise per km. The top speed though is just 40 kmph. The good part is it looks as good as the best scooters in India, and considering the low output (500 watts or 10cc), it needs no road tax to be paid or even a driving liscense.

Is this India's first electric scooter? No. The first scooter was Vidyut-24, also launched by Eko Vehicles in Bangalore way back in the 1980s. The product bombed back then. Since then Mr Ananthakrishna, an electric vehicle technologist has worked on several types of battery operated vehicles in Germany, the US and China. (In fact China has sold about 4 million locally manufactured electric two wheelers.)

Is this truly a Made-In-India product?Trick question! Though the Eko Cosmic-I is his own design, the components are almost completely imported (a majority from China), and only assembled in Bangalore. However, talks are on for localization. Crompton Greaves could supply the motors, Roloform the wheel rims and Fiem the headlights and taillights. An 80-85 percent localization is the immediate target, with high-end electronics from Japan and Europe the only imports.

So whats the future? At a rapid battery charging station, the vehicle needs just 10 minutes to charge. Eko is setting up 140 such stations in Bangalore this year. A tie-up with reliance to introduce charging stations at petrol pumps along the highway is on the anvil. A lithium-ion battery can increase the range from 40 to 100 kms, but will cost substantially (Rs 20,000) more.

The Karnataka government is likely to give a sales tax rebate of Rs 3,300 on the Eko Cosmic.

While the company is targeting 100,000 in sales in the next one year (only 400 have been sold so far), they are also planning to launch an electric motorcycle, an electric cycle called the E-bike and sometime next year a 3 or 4 wheeler costing just Rs 80,000.