Older two-wheeler brands have been too focused on the traditional scooter market. They haven’t been as nimble as compared to start-ups which have forayed into the electrics space and taken a big chunk of the fast-growing e-scooter segment. After dragging their proverbial feet and barely making a noise about the tentative entry of their scooters, it is time for ICE brands to shake off legacy attitudes, because the time has come for e-scooters to overtake their ICE counterparts. TVS Motor has had a quiet tenure in the e-scooter category with the iQube. After months of staying in the shadows and relatively small numbers, the iQube has grown quarter-on-quarter to now garner a market share of about 23 per cent in the e-scooter segment with cumulative sales at about two lakh units. The recently upgraded iQube has improved its offering and is a reliable, no-nonsense e-scooter for commuters and buyers who are looking to go green without the need to make too much ‘noise’ about it.
The electric two-wheeler space is expanding rapidly and though more body styles are mere months away from becoming mainstream, e-motorcycles will need more time to find the kind of acceptance that e-scooters have managed. So, what can be the next steps even as more competitors enter the e-scooter space? TVS has taken the call smartly to go for a crossover as its next electric offering. The new ‘X’, which was unveiled just weeks ago in Dubai, will finally make its debut on our streets by December. With the e-scooter segment already populated by many close-set competitors, a crossover scooter can help target a younger, more design and lifestyle-conscious buyer who is willing to pay more. But will these e-scooter buyers be willing to pay a premium and that too without the support of the subsidy. At ₹2.5 lakh and being ineligible for FAME subsidy, the TVS X will be an ‘Xpensive’ crossover scooter. Is this the right one then for you to go electric?
The new TVS axis design comes across as a mix between a tall step-thru and a scooter. The fact that it is more scooter than a motorcycle is of course very clear. But when I look at the chassis/frame of the X, it does add a lot more credence to TVS’s claim that the same platform can spawn multiple two-wheeler body styles. The two-part aluminium alloy chassis includes a thick twin-spar frame for the front that seems more like it’ll be found on a bike. But instead of embracing an engine, the arms of the frame in the X are protecting the twin stacks of the 4.44kWh battery pack. The rear frame and swing arm are bolt on units. The rear frame has allowed TVS to give the X a fairly complex construction for the passenger section.
TVS calls it the “Xleton Platform” and officials claim that this versatile platform has been developed ground up entirely by TVS. It has been engineered to allow more e-2-wheeler body styles including possibly a motorcycle. This platform doesn’t have any connection with the BMW CE 02 EV which TVS contract manufactures for BMW Motorrad. With the battery sitting between the X frame’s arms and well above ground level, riders will be sitting astride with their calves resting on the frame. That is still a good riding position, somewhat like on the Yamaha Aerox, though the traditional floor of the scooter will be missed. The stepped-up pillion seat and the flip out, stalked foot pegs for the pillion would also make the rear seat position almost like that of a motorcycle. Naturally, the market positioning for the X is that of a sporty crossover with a young buyer as the TG.
The design is also very young with each section of the X being offbeat, reinterpreted, and modern. LED lamps all around, sequential turn indicators, and pilot and head lamps make a virtual light jingle animation, can even be personalised to offer sound signature. TVS calls it light sabre signature and the combination is a good intro to the X. The handlebar with adjustable levers feels good to hold and has been constructed well, though while riding on occasion it did feel a bit light. Of course, the large digital touchscreen will overwhelm your view when you get on to the saddle. The split seats are well constructed and the choice of silver, blue and red accents for the colour scheme gave the X a very young, yet sophisticated vibe.
The exposed thick frame and the body panels forming the front profile don’t seem like they will offer the flexibility of fitting storage boxes. The under seat storage is only 17 litres and that may also be taken up by the charging cable if you need to carry it with you. Elongated floor area on either side of the battery pack offers good resting position for the rider’s legs. The rear design with the tail-light and side panels reflects the youthful character of this crossover e-scooter. The flip out pillion footpeg is both aesthetically a nice touch and will also be practical in our parking spots. Finish quality of cast parts, electricals, paint job, plastic panels, and rubber parts and even the exposed chassis is a big step up for a TVS two-wheeler. While the build seemed good, there were a few niggles while using some of the switches like the parking lamp button which on occasion took multiple attempts to engage.
The new X features a pair of split front panels that look like think chest guards. Sitting in the middle and towards the lower part are glass cube projector LED headlamps. Lower down inside the recessed section are two ‘bending lamps’ as TVS likes to call these cornering lights. The new X has been loaded with features that will expectedly be used by young riders and the choice extends into enhancing both the riding and off-saddle experiences. So, while cruise control and hill hold are meant to make the X more practical on the road, the possibility of keeping oneself engaged with games on the touchscreen make it useful even while not riding the e-scooter. The 10.25-inch touchscreen is a big step up by itself for a scooter. The large size and the TFT screen’s clarity allows for multiple use cases. The tablet-like interface and real-time connectivity offering access to apps, online content, simple touch-based games, navigation, powertrain related info, and support for other remote functions. The entire unit and its operating system have been developed by TVS and company officials say that a lot more functionality can be built into it.
A couple of unique features about the TFT screen is that it is tilt adjustable for a more customised position for the rider and it offers the option of switching off touch sensitivity for 30 seconds if one needs to wipe the surface clean. The screen connects to a smartphone, smartwatch etc and multiple other applications open up for use. Some of them like the games, media playback etc will work only when the side stand is engaged (or when parked). Widgets on the touchscreen can be customised easily like on a smartphone. There is also a speaker for music, headlamp signature audio etc. The digitised features will need an embedded SIM and a service provider data package. My only expectation from this ecosystem will be for TVS to provide a manual override for the digital stem unlock.
TVS says that the battery electric system for the X is entirely developed in-house. The battery pack is a vertical stack with cooling fins, a middle channel to keep the operating temperature under control. It also gets a RAM-powered cooling system that feeds air through. The 4.44kWh battery looks like it is hanging from the front main frame, with a twin tube protector that wraps around and runs to the bottom plate. The motor that powers the rear wheel via chain drive has been developed in-house and delivers a nominal power of 7kW and a peak output of 11kW. The rated acceleration to 40kmph from standstill is 2.6 seconds. Top speed is a claimed 105kmph, though on the test track in TVS’s plant at Hosur, the X managed to cross that speed a couple of times.
The claimed acceleration run is in Xonic riding mode which is TVS speak for Sport mode. There is an Eco and a City riding mode too with TVS’s own terminology for them. Despite the light-weight and the use of aluminium, the X is still heavier than some of the smaller e-scooters in the market and that shows in the way it gets off the block. Xonic is quick and being able to shift on the fly is an advantage. But the covered chain drive clatters as it tries to handle the instant torque generated and takes a fraction of a second to stabilise. There were also a couple of occasions when the pre-production unit I was riding went into standby mode mid-ride; TVS engineers told me that it could’ve been due to an electrical spike in the system when the throttle was repeatedly whacked open fully. There are also five regen braking modes to choose from and apparently that can be changed irrespective of which riding mode one is on. The rated range for a full charge is 140kms under the Indian drive cycle (also in Eco mode).
The motor sits right behind the battery pack and the sealed silent chain can’t be a very long unit; so, tweaking the tension should take care of some of the issues there. And a minor correction to the BMS, throttle character would also be needed. The other minor correction that may be needed would be to the brakes. The X features single-channel ABS with 220mm and 195mm discs for the front and rear, respectively. The calibration for the brakes may need tweaking to ensure a more progressive feel. With the battery, motor and frame positioned for a central weight distribution, and with the chassis bringing in a lot of rigidity to the crossover e-scooter, it feels extremely stable on the track. There is a lot of confidence even when the X is ridden hard into corners. The offset monoshock at the rear has been positioned to ensure even handling, and while it is not possible to comment on the ride quality after just the handful of laps I got on the small track, the first impression is good.
A ground clearance of 175mm should be adequate for most riding conditions on our city roads. The IP67 rated battery pack can also handle water immersion, say TVS officials. Riding position is spot on with the twin spar frame’s arms offering a rest for my legs. Saddle height is also a perfect 770mm. The only impact on the grip and performance into corners was from the smaller 12-inch alloy rims and 110/80 (front) and 110/80 (rear) tyres. Larger rims with proportionate tyres may help. That said the low rolling resistance TVS Eurogrip tyres have been specially developed for the X. The battery pack can be charged using an offboard 950W charger or a 3kW wall charger; while it will take about four hours and 30 minutes for the former, it will take one hour and 20 minutes with the latter for a zero to 80 per cent SOC (state of charge).
There are a few niggles that need to be sorted out on the crossover e-scooter. But, the new TVS X is not focused on the average commuter e-scooter buyer. It represents a further evolution of the two-wheeler EV buyer and the related ecosystem. And that is a big step for TVS and for the industry as a whole. But, will an e-scooter that doesn’t get the prop of the FAME subsidy find acceptance in the market? Will the X’s tag of nearly ₹3 lakh including the charging box be an intimidating price point for buyers? Has the time arrived for this step up in electric mobility? The market will give us the answers in the coming months. But merely understanding and experiencing the TVS X does give me a lot of optimism for future two-wheelers from this platform.