An active triathlete, marathon runner and long distance cyclist, for Ajeet Kumar, risk is sport, and winning at it involves a fool-proof algorithm of preparation and performance. Thus, when the government seemed to be preparing for the incoming e-vehicle wave by resolving to put seven million EVs on the roads yearly by 2020, Ajeet was ready to hold up his end of the deal, and put in a performance with the “Ride2Happiness,” which is his take on the eBicycle.
Not a startup, but a mission
Kumar is an NIT Kurukshetra graduate in mechanical engineering. The 44-year-old grew up in a Gujarat village named Bihat - popularly known as mini Moscow in the 70s. His career’s first leg was a decade in manufacturing, mostly in the automotive sector. His leap was long in coming, but when the time came, it was also a story in itself - it was the day his younger daughter was born. “Looking back, it seems the timing was odd, as it’s on the top of my wife’s sin-list for me,” he jokes.
He first ventured into health snacks, which, he admits, was a bit ahead of its time. He also tried his hand at web and mobile application development, and eGrocery, miscalculating the timing once again.
But his next attempt wasn’t like the others. This one was a mission. To be precise, it was ‘the’ mission of his life. “Being an automotive guy, when I visited China, I was stunned to see that conventional bikes were completely banned from metros, and replaced by eBikes. But when I started digging deeper into the scenario here, everybody had a failure-story to share. This propelled me to take matters into my own hands,” says Ajeet.
eBiking for the adventurous soul
An ongoing debate of great relevance has been whether eBikes must be considered for government subsidy. Currently, the government doesn’t provide subsidies for it, making it a non-starter for most. But Ajeet saw it this way - it was a cue to lay the foundation for a sustainable future.
“I aim to make R2H the preferred mode of local transportation for the masses. That meant it had to cover decent range (that is, the distance covered between recharges), at an affordable cost,” says Ajeet.
80 percent of the Indian population travel less than 40 km a day. So Ajeet created a prototype of an eBike that can cover a distance of 50 km - 100km per recharge. Moreover, today’s lifestyle diseases are one of major epidemics in the world. R2H lets you combine fitness with economics. “So say, on a nice pleasant morning, I will paddle an R2H to my office, and can use the motor during my return,” says Ajeet. He is gunning to make “cycling to work” a thing.
For starters, R2H resonates with users whose daily commuting patterns are less than 40 km, those who are more sensitised to environmental issues, students who cannot use conventional bikes before a certain age, and senior citizens, who are unable to use conventional bikes due to their heavy weight and high speed,
Stayed in India, Made in India
“Most eBikes are created through imports – in parts or as a whole. We decided to go ahead with 100 percent localisation. It will not only provide us very good control on pricing, but also on the quality of our product,” says Ajeet.
At this stage, two models have been engineered. R2H – Pluto can run a distance of 50 km with the juice of a single recharge, while R2H – Eryx can cover a distance of 100 km. The products are available in multiple frames and colours, packed in with various accessories like a disc brake, suspension fork and mud guard so the users need not spend money on having these extensions installed externally. This compares well to a market-peer Spero, India’s first “crowdsourced ecycle”, which travels about 30 km on a single charge. The more expensive models of the Spero, though, can run up to 60 km and 100 km on a single charge. And like the Ratan Tata-backed Ampere, R2H is also designed and manufactured from scratch locally.
The bike uses MTB, which is a high performance type of frame. It also employs a high performance Lithium Ion battery. Plans are underway for building the BLDC motor locally, as well, which will provide them better control and understanding of customer.
With the maximum speed on both Pluto and Eryx being 25 kmph, both variants go from 0-25 in ten seconds. Weighing 25 and 28 kg respectively, the former takes 6 hours to charge fully, whereas the latter takes a span of 10 hours to attain 100 percent charge. That is because the latter has a superior motor rating at 48 V/ 250 W, compared to Pluto's 36 V/ 250 W.
To ensure that eBicycles catch on as a full-fledged - and the most preferred - mode of local transport, Ajeet has priced the Pluto at Rs 24,500, whereas the Eryx is Rs 37,500, which is slightly lower than Spero’s bikes ranging from Rs 29,900 to Rs 50,000, but higher than Ampere, the prices of which range from Rs 20,000 to Rs. 30,000.
“You are here”
They are now in the process of establishing dealerships across India. “We prefer to route most of our sales through dealerships, as it will assure the customer better personal attention and support,” says Ajeet. R2H already has over six dealerships across NCR, and plans to set up at least 15 more across Delhi and Chennai by the end of the year.
Set to launch in a fortnight, R2H has a pipeline of over 100 customers who have pre-ordered their eBicycles, and they are targeting sales of 1,000 R2H bikes per month at this stage. They plan to maximise their reach to tier II and tier III cities across the country by 2018.
As per the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, the potential for electric two-wheelers is around 3.5 to 4 million units of sales per year. The Government of India, however, trumped that projection by announcing its ambition of putting seven million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road every year by 2020.
Spero and Ampere are currently leading the charge, the latter now moving upwards of 200 bikes a month. But Ajeet points out that some flagship concepts by the government, like FAME to promote EVs, have been lobbied against, and no serious effort is being made to localise major products - like motors or batteries - because this is a low-margin segment. So, whether this technology finds more takers in what has so far been an unpopulated market remains to be seen.