An electric miracle in the offing
Personal mobility could soon come to mean something new once polarity launches its electric bikes. Off-roading is another option
The streets of Europe and China are thronged with two-wheel contraptions. They could be your conventional petrol mopeds or a regular bicycle. But it's only when they zoom through red lights at pedestrian crossings, their eerie silence and lack of exhaust reveals them as electric. Electric bicycles that have been hacked together with a battery strapped to the frame and wired to a back-wheel hub containing a motor are a common sight.
Such sights often tug at the heartstrings. For one, India could have adopted this years ago considering our inadequate infrastructure, and foreseeing the increasing density of four-wheelers on roads today. It's only recently that the government has been talking about electric vehicles. While the focus has been mainly confined to four-wheelers, it is now turning to two-wheelers. But that again seems to have met with some opposition from mainstream two-wheeler makers.
But there is a way. Two Pune-based young automobile enthusiasts have shown the road. After spending almost a decade being gainfully employed, Sachin Jadhav, CMD, and Anand Mohan, executive director, Polarity Bikes, have spent the last two years working on a concept that was conceived nearly a decade ago when they were peers at Coventry. Jadhav's competence is automobile design, while Mohan went on to become an automotive journalist.
What the duo have created could be a harbinger for quick movement at large locations such as shop floor of manufacturing plants, malls, airports, etc.
A Moving story
What Jadhav and Mohan have created might end transportation woes for millions of people traversing short distances to work and back.
By the end of the year, the duo plan to unveil two-wheeled electric bikes that offer a top speed of 100kmph! "We wanted to create a product that was hitherto little thought or heard of in India. So we considered all aspects of the product, ranging from design, looks, weight, price, etc. Importantly, the trouble with EVs is that if you run out of juice, you are compelled to drag the vehicle home or the nearest charging point. Polarity Bikes will not give you that chance. You see, it comes with pedals and doubles up as a bicycle as it comes with a chain drive," Jadhav says with a smile.
For starters, the innovation has not stopped at just one model. Mohan says, "Six different prototypes at six different price points and six different frames is what the Indian buyer will get. The top-end model gets an artificial intelligent system that will allow you to track your vehicle and comes with GPS navigation. With maximum weight of up to 60kg, which is where lightweighting steps in, the e-bikes will come in the price range of Rs 35,000 to Rs 1.2 lakh. With a range of 80km, these bikes are 'road legal'. It means you will have to undergo the pain of registration and will require a license."
The vehicle will go through Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) testing in Pune to be released as a road-legal vehicle.
Perhaps, providence has also smiled on these two. Regulations of FAME-II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles) could not have come at a better time. Jadhav says they plan to ensure that all the benefits of this scheme find favour here. The process for approvals is ongoing and they don't see a problem there.
Pedals of fire
The bike is certainly distinct in many ways. For one, it is 50kg lighter than a scooter, which gives them the advantage of even shipping it via e-commerce portals. Made for one rider, a 100km ride will not cost more than Rs 15, which is what eight hours of charging might cost you. Even more enchanting is the lack of 'charging points' that would otherwise be required for four-wheelers. Jadhav says, "The bike can be charged even at 5Amp. So there is the convenience too."
With a motor power of 1-3kW, front and rear disc brakes, a digital speedometre and odometre (one can use it as an exercise bike too), self-starter, a TFT/LCD screen, headlight indicators, upside down fork, hub motor on the rear wheel powered by a lithium ion battery, the cross-over may seem like a motorcycle in terms of performance, but looks like a bicycle. Polarity Bikes has also furnished the bicycle with a gas-charged monoshock at the rear and fat, knobby tyres that can used for off-roading too. The company is planning to introduce dual-sport tyres in the production model so that it can be used anywhere. The lithium ion battery is easily removable for easy charging.
The chassis has been custom made, and Jadhav says that it will come with a chassis number, once the ARAI approvals come in, then the buyer can avail of a bank loan and insurance on these vehicles.
Working out of 2500+ sq-ft workshop near Hinjewadi, Mohan says that they have the wherewithal "to bring out 2,500 vehicles on our own but we intend to do a national launch". With a sense of pride, Jadhav adds that the company has filed for design patents and it has already received the patent for the frame and swing arm. To this Mohan says that it was Jadhav's design maturity that helped them realise the ultimate product in less than two years' time.
Looks like the duo have thought through everything. What few would have thought of is also shoving in a gaming software that one can play on the TFT/LCD screen. Being young, Jadhav and Mohan, perhaps may have played truant at some stage in their life. For this reason, they have provided for a mechanism that would allow the patriarch to lock the vehicle to a certain acceptable speed limit, thus ensuring safety of the youngster.
After-sales support can be easily accessed through locating the service centre through one's mobile phone and avail of free service, paying only for parts. Polarity expects to sell around 15,000 units in the first year and plans to touch 75,000 in the next five years.
For Jadhav and Mohan, the journey has just begun. Soon, India will be impelled to begin its journey on electric novels that come with a twist.