India's EV revolution opens new vehicle segments and opportunities

Prasanth Aby Thomas, DIGITIMES, Bangalore 0

Ebikego's electric reverse trike, Velocipedo. Credit: Ebikego

Anyone who has traveled on Indian roads will realize that two-wheelers are the most preferred mode of private transport here. Although the number of car owners is increasing, four-wheelers account for only about 8 percent of households, according to a government survey. In contrast, two-wheelers account for about 54 percent of households.

Two-wheelers are also the main reason for road accident fatalities in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 44.5 percent of road accident deaths in 2021 involved two-wheelers.

Despite this, the convenience and affordability of two-wheelers continue to drive people towards this segment, so much that "bike taxis" are now in stiff competition with traditional cabs. The truth is that there really has not been any reliable and safer alternative to two-wheelers in India.

But this could change if some promising EV startups have their way. Ebikego, a Mumbai-based startup, is planning to bring electric reverse trikes to the Indian market. With three wheels and just enough width to ensure stability, reverse trikes are an excellent alternative to two- and four-wheelers.

Focus on cabs and cargo

Speaking to Digitimes Asia, Irfan Khan, Founder and CEO of Ebikego, pointed out that across the world, cab aggregators like Uber and Lyft that use four-wheelers have found that most of their customers are solo passengers. This is a colossal waste of resources and unnecessary stress on the environment.

"Ninety percent of the passengers of cab aggregators travel alone," Khan said. "It's overkill. Another point to note is that there is no vehicle in the price range between two- and four-wheelers. So, we have to create a segment in between."

The reverse trike can provide an upgrade over the bike taxis that ply in India now, offering essential safety features like seatbelts and does not require a helmet. Currently, the helmets for pillion riders are provided by the cab rider. People may not always be comfortable using a shared helmet. Pillion riding is not a comfortable activity either, especially on India's roads.

"Keeping all these points in mind, we thought of offering a vehicle that has a seatbelt and does not require a helmet because we have seen that many customers are not comfortable in the current two-wheeler taxis," Khan continued. "Our reverse trike can reach speeds up to 120 km/hour with a range of 160 and 200 kilometers in two separate variants. The load carrying capacity is 140 kilos, which means that if someone wants to use this for light logistics purposes, it can work well too."

The eCommerce sector would come across as an excellent potential market for this vehicle. Several retail delivery startups rely on two-wheelers for home delivery of groceries and essential items, but these vehicles are often overloaded. To carry anything slightly bigger, like an air conditioner, the only option in India is a three-wheeler. If a cargo-delivering reverse trike is available, it can replace the three-wheeler in such situations and reduce the costs.

EV rental business model

Khan suggests that the company's reverse trike can cater to consumers, ride-hailing services, and eCommerce delivery partners. To make things easier for the latter - commercial segment customers - Ebikego offers an easy rental system.

"What we propose is that delivery partners opt for a rental solution through us," Khan said. "We make the process easier for them because we don't require address proof, ID proof, and such details. We have control over the vehicles with IoT technology. So any consumer can book a vehicle from our site in three clicks, and they can immediately start working as delivery partners."

This is particularly relevant in India, where people travel from one state to another to work and have difficulties with regard to providing proof of local address.

Making for the world

Ebikego plans to offer its reverse trike in Europe and North America, where demand and regulations allow quicker market entry. In India, the launch may take a while longer, as creating a new segment may take regulatory delays.

We have started two subsidiaries, one in Barcelona and the other in Virginia," Khan said. "We also have a subsidiary in India called Vajram Electric Mobility that will produce the vehicle. For the Indian market, we would have B2C on the one hand and B2B renting on the other. The same vehicle is offered in all markets."

The B2B segment, including customers from the logistics and ride-hailing service providers, could be the initial focus area for Ebikego in India. Being a new segment, B2C customers could take a bit longer to understand the vehicle and its features.

Opening opportunities

From an Indian market perspective, the creation of a new segment opens more opportunities for several sectors of people, including supply chain partners, B2B service providers, etc. The fact that Ebikego is focusing specifically on the last mile delivery and ride-hailing services encourages the growth even more. But we would have to wait and see how it all unfolds when the vehicle eventually hits the market.