As mainstream manufacturers are getting into the groove with electric scooters, TVS tries to find its niche with the iQube
Let me not keep you waiting.
The iQube, as the name may suggest, is an all-electric scooter. This one comes hot off the production lines in Hosur, home of TVS Motors. We have had a host of start-ups and make-do assembly lines put together an entire range of scooters. Most of them aren’t very well known and thankfully so.
Apart from the likes of Aether Energy, few have made an impression. That was till Bajaj Auto showed up with the return of a legendary name - the Chetak; this time as an electric scooter to keep up with the new millennium that it was brought back in.
Between the flash value of the Aether and the solid credentials of the Chetak, where exactly does the iQube fit in?
Back to the Future
In case you are waiting for me to comment about the iQube name (Apple references et all), well, TVS has stuck to it since their first showing of a concept scooter when few of us knew what else the ‘i’ entailed. This is good, given the disconnect that was caused when they decided to switch names of a long-anticipated motorcycle, the one that borrowed its name from a shark. Began with an ‘A’ and followed with a ‘Kula’. Or something like that.
When you approach the iQube, there is a certain degree of retro-cool ‘bot appeal about it, especially with the day-time lamps forming a bit of a smiley under the black face. The flat-ish panels and black-and-white contrast makes for an easy design. The fat bars of LED lamps at the front and rear add to its appeal while the all-LED treatment keeps it contemporary. There is, of course, a sizeable colour display that throws up all sorts of information, additionally so when it has been paired with your device.
TVS has decided to do a key-fob design for the iQube to give it that extra special feel. Once you turn the key the scooter plays a little jingle as systems run a diagnostic check for a couple of seconds and it displays an animated ‘hello’ screen.
Unlike other scooters where you twist and go, the iQube requires you to hold the brake lever and press the mode button before the screen switches to the regular display from a battery percentage visual. You also need to have made sure to swing the side-stand back in place before you can set off.
TVS promises a 75km range in ‘Eco’ mode and 55kms in ‘Power’ mode. The former is restricted to 50kpmh while the latter allows you to get up to 78kmph. Good enough for a run to work and back in an urban environment. In case you do need an extra bit of juice, an hour's worth of charging will get you roughly 15-20kms and five hours will get you a full charge. There isn’t a fast charger option at the moment and the batteries aren’t removable to charge indoors. You also don’t get a conventional plug to charge off a regular connection. Speaking of practical bits, you get an under-seat compartment for a full-face helmet and a USB charger slot but lose any storage at the front. Except if you’d like to hang a bag off a hook. Three separate lithium-ion batteries combine to supply the hub motor, which in turn generates 3kW (roughly 4hp) in Eco and 4.4kW (roughly 6hp) in Power mode. You also get a three-year/ 50,000kms warranty on the batteries, in case you were wondering about that.
On the move, the iQube feels surprisingly conventional. Power delivery is linear and builds up without any sudden spikes. There isn’t much difference in the way it accelerates in either mode apart from the obvious difference in top speed. The 12-inch wheels make it nimble enough, although I only speak from experience of lane-change manoeuvres on a spot-less test track at the TVS plant. I can also report that the iQube turns right perfectly well, the long sweeping kind as well as at a slow hairpin. I’m kidding, it turns left too. Thanks to the rigid construction and firm suspension it feels sharp, but undulations bring out a bit of ‘springiness’ about the suspension.
Having spent a fair amount of time at full throttle, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the range prediction dropped only marginally below the claims made by TVS. It should be fairly easy to get close or even beat the expected range in the real world. In case you are wondering what happens if there are many over bridges on your route, well, the motor is strong enough to climb up comfortably and the regeneration from the motor on the way down will manage range pretty well. It would have been nice to have an automatic switch from ‘Eco’ to ‘Power’ mode in case throttle went past a certain percentage to help with overtakes, but alternatively, you could always leave it in the ‘Power’ mode till you got dangerously close to draining the battery. Either way, at 118kg, the iQube won’t be too difficult to push to the nearest charging point - something that the app will tell you. I almost forgot, the iQube gets a separate app altogether and has many features once you have paired it with the scooter.
Turn-by-turn directions are the most useful as is the ability to remotely check battery status. The display will also let you know who is calling and SMS alerts. At Rs 1.15 lakh (on-road Bangalore) the iQube is at par with the rest of its competition and manages to deliver a friendly, conventional experience with just the right amount of flash. It’s like an old friend that you have met after a makeover of some sort. Sure worth a try.