Over 39 per cent of India’s population drives two-wheelers releasing toxic gases, polluting environment. Benling India, which sells electric bikes and scooters using technology from China, wants to reduce the usage of internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles in lieu of electric variants.
Given the government push to promote electric vehicles (EVs), the firm is planning to launch the country’s first electric motorcycle, said Paritosh Dey, co-founder and CEO, Benling India.
How did Benling’s India foray come about?
I was earlier associated with an organisation that manufactured electric three-wheelers and used to regularly visit China, where I saw the massive development of infrastructure from ICE to EVs. China has a large population that is depended on two-wheeler commutes and being so densely populated, the use of ICE vehicles was large and released excess of CO2. China understood the concern in 2001 and started making EVs and soon were able to convince over 70 per cent of their population to use EVs. In India, over 39 per cent of thepopulation is dependent on two-wheelers, which is a matter of concern. Following the recent government initiatives to promote EVs, we started Benling India bringing technology from China to provide us vehicles with zero-emission.
What were the initial hiccups? And how did you overcome the challenges?
There were some challenges right from start, to research and development, availability of parts, charging infrastructure and others. In China, there are almost three lakh plus charging stations, but in India, the number is still far less to about 650 till date. Bringing innovation and quality at an affordable price was one of the foremost challenges and we did significant research in our product to provide the best product. Costs are high as vehicles are primarily run on lithium-ion batteries that sometimes comprise up to 70 per cent of the total vehicle cost. India is short of lithium that makes the situation worse. High charging time is another concern, and consumes about 6 to 8 hours. More charging stations are needed to handle the situation and save time.
How do you see the market for e-motorcycles in India versus other markets?
Currently, Benling India offers low-speed segment vehicles and our target market includes anyone be it
individuals, college students, working professionals, housewives, senior citizens and short distance commuters. In terms of corporates, we are targeting restaurant owners, delivery firms like courier services and even online shopping firms. Our low-speed vehicles can be driven by an age group of 18 and above. The auto sector witnessed rapid evolution with ongoing developments in engineering and technology. The EV market in India has already generated a revenue of about $80 million in 2018 and is expected to record a CAGR of 37 per cent in future.
How safe and reliable are these vehicles?
EVs have to pass through safety test norms designed by the government. As these vehicles don’t consume any liquid flammable fuel they are safer compared to normal ICE vehicles.
How many more models do you intend to launch in India and by when?
Benling currently has three models available in low-speed segment namely — Kriti, Icon and Falcon — with a speed of around 25 kms per hour. Soon we will be launching our high-speed model named Aura, followed by another high-speed bike in FY20. So far, we have invested nearly $100 million and raised additional funds to support our future expansion.
These bikes are economical
Electricity is less expensive than gasoline and electricity tariffs are generally stable than gasoline prices. On an average, it costs less than half as much to travel the same distance on an electric vehicle than a conventional vehicle.