Amaan AhmedNov 26, 2021 17:00:37 IST
Hero MotoCorp’s electrification journey begins in 2022, with the world’s biggest two-wheeler player set to launch its first electric scooter by March. While the e-scooter space is witnessing spectacular growth, Hero MotoCorp’s core business still lies in the motorcycle segment, and given the dearth of e-motorcycles in the country at present, it’s a valid question to ask – will Hero also roll out an electric motorcycle of its own? The answer to that, at least for the foreseeable future, is no, as Hero sees present-day limitations making e-motorcycles unfeasible on several fronts.
Motorcycles – which are heavily favoured by the Indian masses for their daily commutes – are more efficiency-oriented than scooters, and have the kind of power and high travel range to appeal to two-wheeler buyers, especially to those who live beyond urban settings. Additionally, there’s the cost factor – in Hero’s case, its most popular models, the Splendor and HF series, are also its most affordable models.
To build an electric motorcycle that could offer the power and range to match petrol-powered bikes, Hero would need a substantial battery pack and a suitably powerful electric motor, which would drive costs up, and that is why the company believes pure electric motorcycles are “way off” as things stand.
“EV in motorcycles is way off in our view. There’s a big difference in the fuel efficiency of a motorcycle versus a scooter, especially entry-level motorcycles. Secondly, you also look at the pricing, which is different. Thirdly, if you look at the range and power required to suit the average motorcyclist’s usage and the distances they need to cover, if you are to cater to that consumer, the battery pack size and capacity has to be far more. On one hand, you have to cater to a lower price but with a higher battery capacity and higher range, because the use of a scooter, on daily average, would be far lower than a commuter motorcycle’s”, said Niranjan Gupta, Chief Financial Officer at Hero MotoCorp, during a recent interaction with analysts.
At present, the only options for those seeking to buy an electric motorcycle in India are the Revolt RV400 (which recently received a hefty price hike) and a glut of made-in-China kit bikes. Hero is of the opinion that given the current battery technology, the cost of incorporating a pure electric powertrain into a commuter or even a mid-capacity motorcycle would be too high, and that electric motorcycles currently only make sense for players operating in the premium segments.
“There are some players globally at the super-premium end where a customer can pay a huge premium for possessing that vehicle, but as far as commuter and right up to probably mid-capacity segment is concerned, they are way off”, remarked Gupta.
In overseas markets, too, there aren’t many electric motorcycles to choose from – the only established bikemaker to have an e-motorcycle in its portfolio is Harley-Davidson, which rolled out the LiveWire a couple of years ago, and reception for the bike was lukewarm at best. Other major names in the business are in the process of readying electric motorcycles – Ducati will supply motorcycles to the all-electric MotoE class of MotoGP with an eye on eventually building e-bikes for road use, and Triumph is set to unveil its first electric superbike, currently known by its working name ‘Project TE-1’, in 2022.
For now, Hero MotoCorp believes it is scooters that will lead the proliferation of electric vehicles in the country in the time to come. The company is open to revisiting the idea of an electric motorcycle when present battery technology evolves significantly enough to make it feasible, or if alternative battery technologies prove to be more effective solutions.
“EV penetration, at least over the next few years, will be driven by scooters, and thereafter as battery technology develops, where you can pack more with less and with costs reduced; maybe other cell technologies (like solid-state batteries) emerge, only then can we look at it”, said Gupta on the prospects of an electric motorcycle from Hero MotoCorp.
Hero’s first electric scooter – which is expected to rival the likes of the Ather 450X and Ola S1 – has been developed at the Hero MotoCorp CIT in Rajasthan, in collaboration with the Hero Tech Centre in Germany, and will be manufactured in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.
To gain an edge on other manufacturers, Hero MotoCorp has decided to adopt Ather Energy’s fast-charging tech for its electric scooters that will have a fixed charging system, and has also partnered with Gogoro to roll out Hero-branded e-scooters with a swappable battery, the first of which may arrive sometime in the second half of 2022.