Electric Vehicles

March 22, 2010

If you are suburban Chennaite like me then you would have faced following constraints/requirements

a.You need a vehicle to goto nearest railway station and then catch suburban train to reach your office

b.Bus stand/railway station is not in a walkable distance – nothing within 300-500metres

c.Autos will empty your pocket if you travel regularly

d.You need a vehicle to drop children to school – to escape costly and inconvenient school vans.

e. You need a vehicle for shopping

f. You use vehicle within a radius of 5km, beyond which you prefer public transport

g. You need to pickup/guide relatives/friends to your home from nearest bus stand/railway station

The best solution is owning a two wheeler – not necessarily costly and/or powerful.

I haven’t owned a bike so far. I like to pedal my way to reach railway station. However, due to factors mentioned above a two wheeler becomes essential at home. I have decided to give a try – due to constant pestering by my wife to buy one – that too electric one.

Electric Vehicles are attracting interest among manufacturers and users in recent times. Technology is now well advanced to provide commercially viable vehicles. Right now two wheelers popularly called e-bikes are hitting road in good numbers.

Generally e-bikes claim to have following advantage

a.Pollution free

This is only partly true. Yes, there is no burning, hence no smoke, no pollution. However, what is not highlighted is the pollution that is caused by power generating plants, batteries etc. But clearly they are lot cleaner than petrol/diesel vehicles.

b.Noise free

This is absolutely true. They are relatively very calm. Probably 1 petrol/diesel vehicle will produce noise produced by 100 e-bikes.

c.Speed limit in urban transport

Right now they are slow speed vehicles with 25-30km maximum. Common urban transport in India is so congested that average speed cannot exceed 25km/h. The not-so-fast e-bikes improve the safety even in the hands of youngsters.

d.They do not need registration/licence

Owing to low power they do not require vehicle registration/licence – upto certain limits. This is an advantage in Indian cities which I am sure every two wheeler driver will realise.

e.Futuristic Technology

I think petrol/diesel driven vehicles will be a thing of past soon – may be in 20-25 years time. If we buy an e-bike now we help the industry to innovate, invest more in the technology – after all industry responds to users interest.

f. Cost per km

The cost per km should be roughly 1/4th of petrol/diesel driven vehicle. It is too early for me attest the fact.

On the down side of e-bike following facts are worth noting

a.Range: At present they are limited to 60-70km per charge. This means if you charge a vehicle for 8 hours you can drive about 60kms. It may get better in future.

b.Load: The stated capacity is about 75kgs. In practice I found two average South Indian adults can travel comfortably. i.e about 120-125kgs easily. There should be some improvement in future

c.Long hours of charging: It takes about 8hours to charge. Which means roughly 8minutes charging per km. This needs to be improved.

d. Lack of proper/cheap solar charging. If the manufacturers can provide proper technology to charge, with solar energy it would be nice – really environment friendly.

After careful study and some consultation with existing owners, I decided to buy an e-bike. I selected a vehicle named ‘DITI’ by Ampere Vehicles Pvt Ltd. This is a Coimbatore based company. The first test drive was impressive and I got it in a week. It costs about Rs.31,460/-.

These are observations based on my experience for past 3 weeks

  • The vehicle has very a beautiful look, makes heads turn.
  • It performs as it claims (I am planning to post a review once in a 3 months)
  • Two normal adults can travel comfortably
  • Very good pickup, braking system etc.
  • Very very low noise – nearly zero when compared with petrol/diesel vehicle.
  • Enough storage space

  • They can improve following
    • Provide Odometer
    • A small basket in leg room, as it will be convenient shopping.
    • A hook should be provided in leg room for hanging bags
    • Bring a cheap solar charger

On the whole the experience seems to be quite satisfactory. Some pictures