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Delivery of crowd-funded e-bike Spero this month; capacity to be expanded

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 16, 2018

Going places The Spero electric bike in a file photo

The delivery of Spero, India’s first crowd-funded battery-run bicycle, will begin later this month, even as its manufacturing plant is gearing up to double capacity by April 2017.

During its first round of crowd-funding in July, Milltex Engineers Pvt Ltd, the Coimbatore-based jute machinery producer that launched the vehicle as a cross between a bicycle and an electric bike, had mopped up ₹38.65 lakh.

That was 125 per cent of its target of ₹30 lakh, raised from the pre-booking of 105 e-bikes e-bycles on the crowd-funding platform FuelADream.com.

In the second round of crowd-funding launched recently, it has already raised nearly ₹13 lakh, 84 per cent of the target of ₹15 lakh, with 17 days still left. In the first campaign, many people contributed a token ₹100 just to promote the innovation.

“We will be expanding our capacity from 250 e-bikes a month to about 600-800 a month by April 2017,” S Manikandan, Managing Director, Milltex, told BusinessLine.

Cost-effective

The e-bikes come at ₹30,000-48,000 apiece. The e-bikes of the last decade had not been able to capture the market due to higher prices and heavy batteries, besides a fall in fuel prices that pushed buyers back to petrol-run vehicles. The prices of Spero are about 40 per cent lower than the imported ones with the same specifications.

Manikandan, a 38-year-old technocrat who worked on this project for nearly three years, said he has so far invested about ₹1 crore in the plant.

Crowd-funding is providing him with working capital and he expects more investments for capacity expansion soon.

He is not averse to appointing dealerships in the future, he added. “We are also appointing six to eight technical support hands in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune for providing any operational and maintenance assistance to those who have booked the e-bikes.”

Manikandan expects the Centre’s Smart City mission to boost the use of e-bikes as these cities will have dedicated bicycle tracks.

The Spero is equipped with a new 48-volt Samsung detachable lithium-ion battery that charges 20-80 per cent in four-six hours. Unlike the heavy lead acid batteries weighing 8-12 kg used in earlier e-bikes, the new batteries weigh only up to 4.3 kg in a vehicle weighing up to 26 kg.

The lead acid batteries often weighed about 25 per cent of the total weight of the e-bike, took up to 10 hours to charge, and were not fit for potholed Indian roads. “In a couple of years, we would introduce batteries with a charging time reduced to half,” said Manikandan.

Equipped with 5-speed digital gears, Spero will come in three models that would have a range of 30-100 km, at just 10 paisa per km, on a single charge and a maximum speed of 25 km per hour, achievable in 10 seconds.

The e-bike will also have pedals for exercise and for recharging, and will need neither a driving licence nor any insurance.

Ranganath Thota, founder-CEO of Bengaluru-based FuelADream.com, said the global crowd-funding market is currently worth $34 billion and growing. “We have run nearly 40 campaigns and raised ₹1.3 crore so far. We charge 9 per cent of returns as our fee whereas the balance 91 per cent goes to the campaigner.”

Published on September 07, 2016

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