Thursday, March 22, 2007

E-Bikes - Revolution in the Making

From California to China, e-bikes are rapidly becoming popular. India is no exception, though it is just taking off, and the segment they cater to in India might be totally different.
In many countries around the world, e-bikes are essentially electric-motorized bicycles. So they are popular among bicyclists who want to "move up". In India on the contrary, they are being positioned as low-cost, low-maintenance and "cool" replacements for motorcycles and scooters.

From Bangalore-based Ekovehicle's Eco-Cosmic I in 2005 to a wide range of manufacturers today, the electric bike segment in India is crowded and also set to explode. From next to nothing two years ago, companies sold 50,000 electric bikes in India last year. Electrotherm, a company traditionally into furnaces and metal melting, is one of the big new entrants into the space, having launched its bikes branded 'No Petrol' YObykes in a number of states like Gujarat, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Probably the biggest promise however is held out by the Hero group's joint venture with British company Ultratech. The joint venture company called Ultra Motors should give a big boost to the e-bike industry bringing in Hero Motors' vaunted distribution, marketing and after-sales network.

The power of most bikes is equivalent to their 25 cc petrol counterparts, with a max speed ranging from 25 to 40 kmph. The lower power also means no registration or taxes or even a license. But they cost less than 10 paise ($0.002) per km, and get totally charged in a few hours. Moreover the speed does lie within the average speed range of traffic in most Indian cities.

The Outlook

Apart from the players mentioned above the market also has players like Avon Cycles, KEV India, Kaiser Auto Moto, Standard Group, Atlas Cycles and Ace Motors. Electrotherm alone plans to sell 150,000 vehicles a year by next year, while Ultra Motors also has a similar target.