WATCH: These two automobile enthusiasts' EV startup's bike doubles as a cycle
It’s early morning and a sporty-looking single seater two-wheeler is zipping across the empty streets of Pune. Morning walkers pause to take in the sight, which is Sachin Jadhav and Anand Mohan’s labour of love. It is an electric vehicle (EV) bike, with an impressive USP - it is the lightest in the EV segment, standing at less than 60 kg. And if it runs out of charge, its pedals allow the user to cycle back home.
Bootstrapped Polarity Smartbikes, founded by Sachin and Anand in 2017, is in the product development stage. Now, in about six months, the Pune-based startup will launch six variants of its bikes, each catering to the needs of various consumer segments.
In this video interview with YourStory, the founders tell us about their journey to revolutionise the EV market:
When two automobile enthusiasts met
The startup had its beginnings in circa 2009 when Sachin and Anand met in Coventry, England. Sachin, from a small town in Satara district of Maharashtra, was a gold medalist in engineering, who received a scholarship to study design in England. Anand, on the other hand, studied automobile journalism. They soon became friends and vowed to do something together in the future.
What followed were a few years of each gaining experience in the automobile industry in some form or the other. Sachin went on to join a design firm that worked for Jaguar and Land Rover. He also designed for Rolls Royce.
"Coming from a small town I never realised that I would design a luxury car. Being abroad opened up many horizons to me. I realised that I must think big too. I came back in five years to set up my own consulting firm here in Pune," says Sachin.
Anand returned to India and worked in automobile media for around 10 years. Meanwhile, Sachin also built India's first indigenous sports car. While it was not officially launched, Sachin's design and R&D paid the bills.
Finally, in 2016, the duo decided to roll up their sleeves and finally start something together in the EV space, where they knew the Indian automobile industry has been steadily hurtling towards.
Anand and Sachin invested all their savings in Polarity and began making the prototypes for the EV bikes in March 2017.
"We really took to making a smart bike rather than choose a scooter or a motorcycle. We travelled to Europe to see what is happening and found out that we had to solve for smart and for fun. So, we combined the best of an off-road bike and brought in electric mobility with that," explains Anand.
A Made-in-India ride
The ride is by India for India: except the batteries and battery controllers, all of Polarity’s design and production is done in-house. The startup is holding onto the IP rather than sourcing products from China and assembling them in India. The frames, parts, and dyes are all made locally. Even the battery management system has been built by the startup. The vehicle will go through Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) testing in Pune to be released as a road-worthy vehicle.
When launched, the owner can charge the vehicle in a normal electric socket at home. This company has features like Bluetooth and is fitted with a 3KW hub-motor. Polarity will launch the brand in July and will be ready for a release by early 2020. The company believes that being bootstrapped they can manufacture 2,500 vehicles on their own.
"Like any startup we need money to scale," says Sachin. The founders add that the pricing of the vehicle is very competitive as customers have the choice of six variants of vehicles, like high-speed, long-range, and fast charge, etc.
The base price is predicted to be at Rs 35,000. Polarity will start taking orders online like any EV company today and will deliver them through their experience centres. The startup did not want to divulge those plans.
Polarity SmartBikes have bluetooth features along with a powerful 3KW hub-motor for a vehicle of this size
The impressive EV growth story
According to SIAM India, the nodal body for the Indian automobile industry, there has been a phenomenal rise in sales of EVs in two years. In FY18, India sold only 56,000 EVs, and in FY19, it sold over 750,000 electric vehicles. A majority of these were three-wheelers, which sold 630,000 units, while 126,000 units are e-bikes. Cars sold a dismal 3,500 units.
While India grapples with EV charging infrastructure, which will take a few years to be set up and standardised - imagine charging a bike like a mobile phone. Polarity seems to have cracked it by designing a bike for the college-going generation and office commuters alike.
It will now have to rev up for some serious competition with established players like Tork Motors and Ather.