Are electric scooters viable?

I finally had to give away my old Suzuki Samurai bike. It was a 1999 model, which makes it 9 years old.

Bikeview lake

I used to call it ‘The Last Samurai’ because it is one of the few Samurai bikes that I could see on the roads.

Sigh. It feels like I’m giving away so many memories.


Now that I have to move on to a new mode of transport, I’ve been looking at the various alternatives:

  • I’ve become a big fan of city metros ever since my visits to Singapore and Delhi, but Namma Metro is scheduled to be completed only by 2011.
  • Local buses are a good option. For example, it took me just 16 rupees to travel more than 10 km. And it was far more convenient than inquiring 5-6 auto rickshaws before getting one auto-wala guy to agree to take you to your destination.
    • However, the biggest problem is finding out which bus goes to your destination as well as finding out the timings/frequency of that bus. I had bought one of the 30-rupees “Bangalore Metro Transport Corporation Travel Planner” maps but I still haven’t understood how to use it to take you from Point A to Point B, even though all the points are plotted on it.
  • A car is out of the question, because
    1. I can’t afford one (because, uh, I don’t have a salary…)
    2. It just adds to the already-high traffic on the road.
    3. It is not cost-effective – 15 kmpl vs. > 50 kmpl for a motorbike.
  • A new good motorcycle still costs upwards of 50,000 rupees. So this is the best option so far.
  • But what about an electric scooter?

YoSpeed bike picture

I took a test drive of the ‘Yo! Speed’ bike and it was pretty decent. It did not have good pickup, and it takes some getting used to the quick movements it does. The positives are that it made no noise, no pollution, has no gears and requires no petrol! You just have to charge it for 6-8 hours at a stretch and it will run for 50 km.

Rediff says YO! Speed is twice as cheap as an equivalent petrol scooter. On the other hand, the manufacturers claim that “YOSpeed runs for 500km in Rs. 50”. I’m not sure which one is more accurate, but it is definitely far cheaper than a petrol two-wheeler.

I’m also looking at vehicles which are a combination of a bicycle and an electric scooter – pedal when you want to, when you’re tired/bored, you can switch from human power to battery power, and it’ll whiz along.

I have been looking at the EVFuture website, and it really looks like electric vehicles are going to be a major wave in the future. I’m surprised there are so many electric scooters in India, including models by Hero Electric and TVS. My understanding is that the business, the technology and the market are yet to mature before it can take on the petrol and diesel two-wheeler industry.

The only question is which ones are viable today? And I’m talking about viability in terms of reliability, quality, service, spare parts, safety, etc.

5 thoughts on “Are electric scooters viable?

  1. I didn’t know there were so many electric scooters in Indian markets. YO looks more like a scooty at almost the same price. I’m gonna test ride it soon.
    I wonder when will we have something that will work as good as an 100cc bike. The technology already seems to exists. Tesla ? I hear they also sell power train. It’s not far I guess before some Indian buys this and puts it in a bike. Again in such a situation, there will be huge demand for power. Peak load will be during nights ! They will charge u more during nights. Never ending energy crisis… Ok I guess I’m too much into the future :)
    I remember reading ionlab has a powertrain guy ?

  2. I drive a car, though I don’t own it, but judging by the traffic these days and I believe it’s about the same in every country, you’d way better off with a good electric motor if you think you won’t need to carry lots of luggage… or people… or go uphill… or run for more than 50km a day… sigh

  3. Hi,

    People do not know what is electric vehicle.
    companies too has not explained. Since, the market is just evolving.

    So far vehicles available in the market are economy models. These products are suitable for high milage at less speed. The electric vehicle is basically run on batteries. The lead acid batteries do not give good milage. New batteries are coming into the world market. These will give good milage per charge. But expensive. These batteries survive for three years.

    If you buy 750w vehicle with these batteries it is more than 100cc and equivalent to 125cc of normal bike.

    The cost of these vehicles will be around Rs.60000/- But no maintenance. Electricity will be one unit per day.

  4. Supposedly these bikes’ charge gets discharged quickly when you apply brakes, during traffic jams etc. then it’d be too hard to use in BLR!

  5. @Anil Yes, the upfront cost is the same, but the positive is that the running cost is far cheaper than a petrol scooter.

    The Tesla part is interesting, but again, it comes down to how to make it a viable alternative in terms of price.

    Its a tradeoff between clamoring for power and clamoring for petrol. I would wager that it is better to have a power situation because there are many ways to generate it – from the new nuclear power capabilities we will be getting from USA, to solar power to existing/new hydel plants, etc. There are no alternatives to a chemical like petrol!

    On an unrelated note, yes, the other two people in IONLAB are both powertrain guys :)

    @Paul-Sebastian We can’t have everything, but yes, it would be ultimately be better if everyone took conscious choices.

    @Nagaraj Good insight into what’s happening. I did get a vibe that the technology has to mature, and it seems evident from what you have explained.

    @Ravi Not sure about that, hope it isn’t too bad.

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