Electric scooter manufacturer Ather’s offerings—which retail for between Rs 1,10,000-Rs 1,25,000 ($1,600-1,820)—are already considered too precious for the Indian masses. A comparative internal combustion engine (ICE) scooter, like the best-selling Honda Activa, for example, retails for much less: Rs 70,000 ($1,020).
With popular mass-market ICE motorcycles such as the Hero Splendour retailing for an affordable Rs 60,000 ($875) and electric scooters barely able to make a dent in the market, electric bikes may be an even harder sell.
Still limited infrastructure
Then there are issues such as a limited range of —150 kilometers. While this is still double that of Ather’s scooters, it is still limited in a country with a shortfall of charging infrastructure. And to top all of it, the bike’s mixed bag of tricks—middling top speed, high acceleration, and adjustable power delivery—makes its intended target demographic also unclear.
Yet, Revolt and a few others like it sense an opportunity. According to Bengaluru-based startup Ultraviolette’s co-founders, CEO Narayan Subramaniam and CTO Niraj Rajmohan, “[ICE bike makers] are incurring higher costs to build vehicles to higher emission standards. So it’s sort of going to level out at some point, and that crossover point is very close.”
The number of startups working on electric motorcycles in India. These do not include existing ICE bike manufacturers
From Micromax to Revolt
Sharma says he started his EV journey around five years ago, after realizing that connected mobility was the future. He claims he initially wanted to build an all-electric car, like Tesla, but what started as a car project became a two-wheeler one.
His conversations with experts, peers, and customers led him to identify three key problem areas:
1) No one had made a product that equaled or bettered an ICE—“If we give you an inferior product, in terms of experience, in terms of design, in terms of everything, you’ll never switch.”
2) Range—“If someone who stays in Gurgaon wants to go to Noida, even if it’s just once a month, how many times will he borrow your bike? You have to take that thing out of his mind.”
3) Portable and swappable batteries—“80% of people don’t have a place to park their vehicles inside or close enough to their homes.”
So, Sharma adopted his Micromax game for Revolt too, bundling feature after feature into the product, based on a keen understanding of customer tastes. (By virtue of pioneering, many category-defining features in its phones—like long-life batteries, dual-SIM and selfie cameras, Micromax’s phones were very popular. They were, at one point, the highest-selling phones in India. But today, Micromax’s market share stands at under 5%.)
With Revolt, Sharma wants to make a bike that not only competes with other electric bikes but also replaces petrol-powered bikes right off the bat.
Some common questions asked
The Revolt RV 400 boasts a range of 150 km on ‘Eco mode’ and a top speed of 85 km/hr. In the country of “Kitna deti hai?,” (how much does it give?) mileage, or in this case, range, is the key. Revolt says the RV400 will do about 150 km on a single charge. That is approximately 50% more than Ather and Tork’s best bets.
What happens after the juice runs out? Revolt’s solution is to build every possible permutation. Its batteries can be pulled out and swapped. Or taken inside a home or office and charged. Or swapped via mobile swapping stations run by the company. Or ordered like pizzas via hyperlocal delivery partners.
The revolt has started pre-booking for the RV 400 on its website and on e-commerce site Amazon at Rs 1,000 ($15). Sales will start in Delhi and spread out slowly. Revolt, eventually, plans to sell in seven cities. While most sales will happen online, there will also be offline stores for people to experience the bikes. “I just need four dealerships in Bangalore, not 50,” says Sharma.