Varun Mittal is aware that at INR 5 lakh (US$7,700), his electric smart bike will be a hard-sell in a price-conscious market like India. However, this Paris-educated techie is confident that with the high-end features embedded into it, this eco-friendly sports bike will eventually make a mark, at least three to five years down the line.
“It is definitely a hard-sell at an approximate price of INR 5 lakh per unit, but in order to deliver a product without compromises, it is very difficult to offer a better price at this point of time without making losses to ourselves,” Mittal tells e27. “Considering all this, we have included features that you could find only in very high-end bikes, such as single-sided swing arm, crazy acceleration, futuristic design and console, 180mm wide tyres, carbon fibre body panels, 43mm forks, etc. We hope this could make wonders for us.”
Emflux Motors, an electric two-wheeler startup in Bangalore, was born out of Mittal’s passion for electronics, robotics, and fast motorcycles. An IIT Delhi and ESCP Paris alumnus, Mittal is committed to make it a success, although electric vehicles (EVs) in India are still treated as a pariah.
“Motorcycles and electronics have been my passion since childhood. I was the head of IIT Delhi’s Robotics team which won the Robocon India 2007. Since then, I have been part of two US$100 million-plus B2C startups Jumia and Jugnoo, in the capacities as vertical head and the founder core member, respectively. However, my pull to build a performance super bike with an electric drivetrain was quite compelling and led me to start Emflux,” explains Mittal, who set up the company in 2016, along with Ankit Khatry and Vinay Raj Somasekher.
India’s first electric sports bike
Based out of the IT hub of Bangalore, Emflux develops what it calls India’s first electric sports bike. Mittal claims that its first model, expected to hit the market by October 2018, offers a technologically-advanced, unique, high-performance electric motorcycle that will provide emission-free transport to commuters.
“Our product is designed as a lithium ion battery alternative to the petrol/gas motorcycle. With instant acceleration, this motorcycle can accelerate from 0-100 km/hr in under 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 170 km/h, with a sensible commuting range of 200 km. The time to charge 80 per cent will be in less than 36 minutes from a DC fast charge station,” he says as he boasts of its unique features.
It is a fact that Lithium ion battery is the single component that adds significantly to the cost of the making of two-wheeler EVs (around 50 per cent). However, the prices are coming down continuously and will reduce further by 50 per cent over the next five years, thanks to innovations happening on this segment across the world.
“By 2022, electric two wheelers should reach a price parity with the gas bikes for similar performance. Any player who survives in the market for the next five years will see a jump in the adoption of their products. By then, Emflux will have compelling products priced aggressively for the performance segment,” says the optimistic Mittal.
Strangely enough, India has not been very receptive to EVs for various reasons, including the huge price, which is about double than a conventional vehicle, and also the relatively poor performance.
Reva Motors, an electric compact car company, for instance, had to sell to Mahindra after it failed to make a huge impact in the market. It managed to sell just 4,000 units across the world since its launch in 1994. This is despite the multitudes of studies that point to the hazards of fossil fuel-based vehicles, which have been adding to the rising carbon emission, destroying the environment, and posing huge health risks to the population.
“Reva was a pioneer in the EV segment, but the timing was not suitable for the Indian market,” adds Mittal. “Things have now improved, and people are realising the importance of emission-free vehicles. The huge positive response to Tesla’s car is a a good omen,” he says.
Having said that, after Mahindra’s acquisition of Reva in 2010, there has not been much activity in the EV market, until two IIT Madras alumni set up Ather Energy, an electric scooter company out of Bangalore.
Ather has become quite a familiar name even before the vehicle hit the market. The company got a shot in the arm when Hero Motocorp, the largest two-wheeler company in India, fuelled Ather’s tank with a whopping US$27 million in October last year. Ather is looking at commercial production for its firs model, S340, sometime early next year.
“We are fundamentally different from Ather and targeting different market segment,” says Mittal. “Ather is an electric scooter company catering to the mass market, whereas we are focusing on the high-end users who love high-performance bikes.”
Ather vs Emflux
Mittal claims that Emflux is far better in terms of looks, performance and design. “In terms of power, Emflux can produce 50KW peak (67HP) whereas Ather S340 can produce only 5KW peak. When it comes to acceleration, Emflux can go from 0 to 60 Km/h in just 2 sec and 0 to 100 Km/h in 3.5 sec, whereas Ather can take 12 sec to do achieve the same. Moreover, Emflux can move at a speed of up to 170 Km/h while Ather can move only at 72 Km/h.”
He adds that range is one significant advantage of Emflux bikes. “In addition, our range in city driving will be 200 Kms in a single charge. At the same time, Ather cannot exceed 60 Kms for a single recharge. Also, we are providing an on-board charger with 6 times higher power capacity (6.5KW) than the on-board charger in S340 (1KW). There are also other features like single-sided swing arm, aggressive looks, crazy acceleration etc which pit us against the likes of Ducati whereas Ather is like Honda Activa,” he remarks.
Emflux is very conservative and targets an exclusive production run of just 199 units spread over two years, he adds.
While the primary target market is India, Emflux also nurses global ambitions. “We have plans to tap the European and US markets after cracking India. We are even planning to get our first model certified in the US and use that certification to get it homologated in India. This will enable us to sell 50 units of model 1 in San Francisco Bay Area and remaining 149 in India.”
A few moths ago, Emflux raised an undisclosed sum in funding from IIT Delhi alumnus and cryptocurrency expert Meher Roy; investment bankers Nikhil Arora, Meet Kanodia and Krit Sankalp; Nitish Singh, CFO of on-demand urban transport aggregator Jugnoo; and serial entrepreneur Risabh Gupta. The startup is now in talks with investors to raise its next round of funding to develop the first model, take certifications for the circuits and parts and showcase it in Delhi Auto Expo 2018.
Mittal is of a view that the performance vehicle segment (equivalent to 250CC) will have a demand of more than 3 million units annually by 2022. This is the market potential that Emflux is looking to tap into. “However, lack of funding is the key challenge faced by hardware startups like us. Most investors look for software and service startups. People think that the investment required in a hardware startup is huge but that’s not entirely true,” he says.
As of now, Emflux is not exploring partnerships with any two-wheeler companies in India. In future, it will make itself open to the idea of technology licensing to other companies. It may also consider taking investment from bigger players like Bajaj or Eicher but does not intend to sell out, Mittal concludes.
EVs are the future of mobility, with global giants like Tesla are already piloting their eco-friendly vehicles in the US. However, comparatively higher prices are discouraging consumers to adopt EVs in developing countries like India. With the cost of Lithium ion battery technology coming down, the adoption is expected to go up. This will also encourage more entrepreneurs to plunge into the cleantech space to ensure better sustainability, in terms of the environment.
Image Credit: Emflux Motors
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