Electric bikes unconfined to charging infrastructure

Pune-based start-up Polarity Smart Bikes will unveil two-wheeled electric vehicles (EV) with speed up to 100 kmph. (DH Photo)

When the government is all set to float two large proposals within this week, offering subsidy to states for deployment of 5,000 electric charging stations in cities, there is one start-up that’s working for customers to ride on its environment-friendly electric bikes, without relying on charging stations, if and when they run out of juice on the way to their destination.

Pune-based start-up Polarity Smart Bikes will unveil two-wheeled electric vehicles (EV) with speed up to 100 kmph, a battery range above 80 km along with pedal assistance this year.

Sachin Jadhav and Anand Mohan, the men behind Polarity, met when they were pursuing their Master’s degree from UK’s Coventry. Sachin, founder and managing director of Polarity Smart Bikes, was fascinated by cars from a young age. His interest led him to do a diploma course in Automobile engineering. Anand, the executive director of Polarity, on the other hand, has worked as an automotive journalist for about ten years. Both Jadhav and Mohan also have design backgrounds.

The duo wanted to design an electric vehicle that does not put constraints on customers but gives them solutions, vis-a-vis their own comfort, and the environment. Their idea took roots with Polarity Smart Bikes coming into being in August 2017.

Jadhav and Mohan had anticipated that electric vehicles are definitely going to change the urban landscape in India. And with expertise in the field, they knew where to head. The plan, however, was to make something different from others.

Some details of the bike include -- Motor: 1-3KW hub motors, Weight: 45-55kg, Technology: 36-72V and Price: Rs 35,000-1.2 lakh, Lower carbon footprint and  running costs of less than Rs 15 per 100 km.

“The start-up is self-funded and the price has been set, bearing in mind the number of units that we would like to sell per year. We are looking for investments, and once we get that, the cost might as well drop,” said Mohan.

Range anxiety

“The problem with electric vehicles is that there’s a lot of range anxiety. If you run out of juice in the middle of the road, you can’t push your scooters. So we thought of designing something that’s light weight and that has pedal assistance,” Mohan said.

One of the USPs of these bikes, the founders believe, is their weight, which also means that the force required to get momentum is much lesser, and you need a smaller motor and smaller battery, which bring down the overall costs.

But primarily, the start-up wanted its customers to escape the trouble of spending hours on a charging station, even if the government manages to build as planned, the charging infrastructure with a station every 3 kms in cities and every 25 kms on both sides of highways.

“Every electric vehicle manufacturer has to plan charging infrastructure. The sale of the bike depends on the infrastructure present,” said Mohan.

“Our bikes, however, are compact enough to take in a service elevator at your home, so they can be parked and charged at home itself. When EVs are dependent on charging infrastructure, you need to set up another business altogether. It’s like running one company within other, and you need to depend on the success of one, for the success of another,” Mohan added.

Getting style right

Sachin has designed the bikes and the camouflage is to hide the details, while keeping up with the aesthetics.

The bikes are environmentally friendly, but they are not slow or boring, they also have a style quotient, the duo mentioned.

Getting a head start

Talking about the competition, Jadhav said, “We haven’t started selling yet, so competition is on hold for at least 6 months. We are developing a website from which customers would be able to start pre-ordering by next month, and we would start delivering by the end of the year.“

This is not a usual electric two-wheeler, so even registration bodies like ARAI need to figure out how to certify these bikes. They have already certified EVs but this comes as a new segment of smart bikes, giving the start-up a head start.

“Smart” bikes

“We are calling them smart, because they are light in weight, and they are a hybrid of bicycles and bike. We are planning to connect LCD screens integrated with health apps,” said Jadhav.

The bikes also come with a lock-up option, in which you can lock-up the top speed through your phone, and the person riding would not be able to ride beyond the top speed that has been locked. You can also track the 30 days data of the vehicle.

Major Challenges

Mohan mentioned that the major challenge they faced was in terms of sourcing of a lot of components initially, “The supplier base in India in auto vehicle Industry is small and they don’t supply small quantities. We have imported components from abroad, and personalised them to suit our needs,” said Mohan.

“We have approached domestic as well as international suppliers for research and development,” added Jadhav.

There was also a Challenge in terms of time, said Mohan, as it took almost two years. However, we put on a bigger challenge on us by making six prototypes. The six prototypes are different vis-a-vis the performance, design and a few other features. The price range is an attempt to be inclusive, targeting all sections from those who can afford bikes costing Rs 35,000 to those who can afford a bike in lakhs.

Polarity only about bikes?

Jadhav had been designing cars for a few years before founding Polarity and started designing bikes. So, the idea of manufacturing electric cars is on their cards from the start.

“For a new car manufacturer, you need to develop credibility first and the funding required is a lot more. The credibility, we think, will come through bikes, and eventually, we want to spread out with a lot of products. Within two years, we would like to get the car project running,” said Mohan.

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