This article is part of a deep dive into Electric Vehicles in India. #EVinIndia is the first chapter of ‘Shaping Sustainability’, an exclusive series by The Better India to give our readers an in-depth understanding of how Indians are making sustainability a priority in all walks of life. Find more stories from the series, here.
On 15 March 2022, Oben Electric, a Bengaluru-based electric vehicle (EV) startup, launched its first electric performance motorcycle — Rorr. Speaking to The Better India, Dinkar Agrawal, the co-founder and COO of the venture, claims that the Oben Rorr is a ‘Made-in-India’ product “designed, developed and manufactured in-house (except battery cells that aren’t currently manufactured anywhere in India) by a team of experienced professionals.”
Some of the standout features of Oben’s latest e-motorcycle are its acceleration of 0-40 kmph in just 3 seconds, which has become something of a performance baseline for high-performance EV two-wheelers manufactured in India, a top speed of 100 kmph and a claimed battery range of 200 km (IDC-Indian driving conditions) on a single charge.
“The Oben Rorr is powered by a 10kW (peak power) IPMS (Interior Permanent Magnet Synchronous) motor rated IP65 (protected from total dust and water ingress). The drivetrain is a single-stage belt drive. We’re using a non-removable 4.4 kWh battery pack with LFP (lithium ferrous phosphate) chemistry,” says Dinkar.
This LFP is a different type of lithium-ion battery that has been gaining popularity. Last year, Tesla announced that it would be switching to LFP batteries for all its standard range cars.
While this battery chemistry has a lower energy density compared to traditional Li-ion batteries, there are several advantages to the LFP battery chemistry. This type of battery requires no nickel or cobalt, so it’s environmentally safer to manufacture. Multiple news media reports have spoken about the disastrous environmental and ethical consequences of mining these rare earth metals. Also, LFP batteries have a longer life and better thermal and chemical stability.
It takes about two hours to charge this e-motorcycle from empty to full, which you can charge on a 15 Amp socket at home, where you run plugs for your ACs, or in your office.
“This is one of our innovations to make sure that customers do not need fast charging capabilities. We are not introducing fast chargers even though they are a little more efficient because it degrades the life of the battery. Also, customers want to charge their vehicles as per their requirements in terms of range. We are offering that robust amount of battery range to customers, besides giving a warranty of three years or 60,000 km on the battery, which can be extended further for two years with an additional extended warranty,” says Dinkar.
One of the interesting things about the Oben Rorr is that it comes with an onboard charger, which means all the charging hardware (transformer, etc) are housed inside the bike itself. So, all you have to do as a customer is carry around a cable, one end of which plugs into the 15 Amp socket, while the other end plugs into the bike’s connector.
This e-motorcycle also has interactive connected vehicle features such as predictive maintenance, battery status, geo-fencing, geo-tagging, battery theft protection, charging station locator and roadside assistance. Its ‘Combined Braking System’ and ‘Driver Alert System’ provide riders with visual and auditory cues, indicating when the vehicle is on, stationary, or needs maintenance.
Online booking for the Oben Rorr started on 18 March for Rs 999, and Dinkar claims that the startup will start fulfilling these orders by July 2022. Consumers can also check their eligibility for government exemptions, financing, and insurance options on the e-AMRIT portal of Niti-Aayog while buying an EV. Meanwhile, Oben Electric’s new manufacturing facility in Electronic City, Bengaluru, will soon begin its operations and production. Their Bengaluru-based plant is equipped to meet an initial capacity of 3 lakh units per annum, claims Dinkar.
Madhumita Agrawal, Co-Founder and CEO, says, “Moving ahead, we will also be following a stable approach in expanding to newer markets without compromising on after-sales support, service, and expectations of our customers. We are keen on expanding to Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and more cities in Karnataka in Q2, 2022.”
With a focus on after-sales support, Oben Electric claims it will follow the hub-and-spoke model for making spare parts available on time, along with doorstep servicing for a faster resolution. The Rorr will cost Rs 1.25 lakh (ex-showroom, including FAME II subsidy), but this price may fall even further to Rs 99,999 (ex-showroom) if you include subsidies offered by certain state governments.
Evolution of an EV Startup
“Dinkar and I were introduced to EVs in 2016 and began aggressively working in this space as consultants. Through this time, we began understanding the technology driving EVs and working across different value chains associated with the sector,” Madhumita says.
She adds, “In 2020, we stopped our consulting work and decided to get into product development. We started in August 2020, and the following month put together a team that has prior experience in the EV sector. All of us, whether it’s a founding team, founders or the co-team members and even those working in our finance department, have prior experience working in the EV sector.”
This, she believes, helped them “churn out better products”. By April 2021, they began developing the prototype of the Oben Rorr, and by March 2022, had the final product ready.
“Getting into e-motorcycles made business sense, but one of our bigger motivations was that we all had prior experience in EVs. Acquiring expertise in the Indian EV sector is difficult because it’s a very new and ever-evolving field. As founders, we had more than five years of experience in the sector before launching Oben and thus were able to identify and get the right people on board who had hands-on experience in developing and manufacturing EV two-wheelers from scratch. The learning curve that happens in any new startup, where they take more time, was not a mitigating factor for us. That is why we were able to come out with a complex product like an e-motorcycle in a relatively short amount of time,” says Madhumita.
Dinkar adds, “Every six months, we will be coming out with a different product for the consumer segment. At present, we have two other e-bike prototypes which are ready, running and currently undergoing testing. From the inception stage to the final product, it took us about a year and a half to develop the Rorr. India is predominantly a motorcycle market, but to help consumers shift to electric, you need internal combustion engine-comparable products.”
For that ICE-comparable product, you need a strong in-house research and development outlook. Startups cannot just buy parts from other parts of the world, reverse engineer certain things and build a product. That will not allow them to build an ICE-comparable bike, he adds.
Madhumita explains, “It has to be grounds-up, benchmarked with current highest selling products and you need to have the in-house capability to develop your components and integrate them into your product. This allows us to enter the e-motorcycle segment in India, a blue ocean given the lack of any major players. To enter this segment, we need the right kind of product.”
She also goes on to note that Oben has other products like e-scooters, entry-level two-wheelers, and in the next two years, will be rolling out four more products.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)