Ultra Motor, the UK-based two-wheeler maker has planned to invest Rs.150 crores in India over the next three years, and what better time other than now, is perfect for checking out their products. Myself and Harry went to one of the Ultra Motor showrooms in Chennai and a series of surprises unwound.
The build up-
Right after we finished our bit with the red colored R15, where me and harry took turns to play Rossi, and points for each person we gain attention from, it was time to head to our next destination- An Ultra Motor dealership which sold electric scooters! What a shift. This was like having a midday meal in a 7-Star hotel and hours later, heading to a roadside dhaba to have dinner. We were feeling sick. 0-60 times were the hindmost thing on our minds as we chuckled and doubted whether the electric scooters could do 40, leave alone 60.
We were cordially greeted into the showroom and the first bike which caught my attention right away was the Marathon. My goodness! Can electric bikes look so pleasant? Maybe this is some kind of a delusion, I thought to myself. It rested there, in the corner of the showroom, treated in grey and looked more or less like the Suzuki Access 125. But what the hell? It's nevertheless an electric scooter which causes cyclists on road to look like Micheal Schumacher. "Don't believe what you see, Jaz" I uttered to myself as the athletic looks of the marathon made me take the second, third and the fourth glance. It was good looking, no doubt.
The Marathon is 48V/250 W scooter employs a Brushless DC motor to drive its rear wheel. It's beefed up appearance and lofty seating wins all my brownie points. The lead-acid battery pack, which is maintenance-free, sits underneath the seat is a removable form, meaning you don't need to carry the scooter to the plug point behind your TV in the drawing room. The battery slips out neatly, although it's heavy, but with a little extra effort, it can be plugged into any of the sockets in your house with the help of a charger set which the company gives. The storage area neighbors the battery area and is of a decent volume to ingest a medium-sized hand bag. The scooter also boasts of visual enhancers like multi-reflector headlights, taillights and alloy wheels which blend in perfectly with the bike. Drum brakes are offered both on the front and rear wheels, which look puny but then, what more do you need to halt this 75 kg bike that can top just 25kph? So, from this instant onwards, my metamorphosis had commenced.
Marathon Picture Gallery
Marathon Test Drive-
I sat on to the Marathon, positioned my arms and body suitably. It felt easy, and the seating posture seemed perfect. The wide seats felt nice, just as if I was in a Honda Activa. Wait! What do I do next? I don't hear anything. I can't see any smoke or smell exhaust gases. Is the motor active or am I doing anything wrong?
Janagan, the chief of operations of the dealership, helped me out by turning the key and assuring me that it was OK and everything was how it's supposed to be. I twisted the throttle, and whoosh..the torque was impressive. More than what a TVS Scooty or a small sized scooter would kick out. I progressed out of the dealership slowly, and as I opened the throttle, hmm..things didn't actually move fast. Something which I was expecting.
To my disappointment, the Marathon, inspite of its size and features could only do 25 kph. 25?!! Yup. But then there is a brighter side to it.
The ride and handling-
The ride was astonishingly smooth. The dampers were doing an outstanding job in absorbing road shocks, and there was absolutely no vibration what so ever. It was like riding on air, and riding slowly. As I entered a sparsely populated road, I opened the taps and heard this whine from the motor under me. It was soft, but it reminded me of the noise that originates from superchargers. If Ultra could use a microphone and some speakers to amplify that noise, I would buy one just for that. It felt good. I was hooked. The only short fall was the handle bar. It felt loose and wobbly and to an extent unstable and gave you the feeling of an over-inflated front tire. Something that Ultra should work on in their prototypes of upcoming scooters.
I began thinking. Perhaps looks aren't everything. The sound is addicting. The ride is smooth and vibration-free, but the maximum speed? C'mon. Ask him again, is it 25 Kph Janagan?
"It is," he replied, however he said there were things which I required to consider before shaping an opinion. These were what he elaborated on
No need for a driver's License/ Registration
If I can walk out of an electronics shop with a 30-inch plasma TV, why can't I walk out of a two-wheeler showroom with a bike? Easy. It saves money, energy and more importantly time. It takes a major part of a day for a vehicle to get processed through the RTO (At least for my little sis' TVS moped, it did). The rider doesn't need a driver's license either. Just the ideal vehicle for your 16 year old who wants something to go to school. Furthermore, it'll do only 25 kph, so you don't need to bother about over speeding, or accidents or the dangers brought about because of them.
100 Km range- Unmatched and saves headache-
The extended range comes in handy for your lengthy trips. You genuinely don't have to bother about the batteries running out when moving little by little in a traffic jam with the lights turned on which is not the case with most of the electric scooters available in the market today. The 100km range is unparalled and as far as i know, the best in the market.
Running costs, almost nothing-
Think. For how much do you fuel your moped everyday. Be it a 50 cc or a 100 cc, fuel is the same, and the costs are increasing every single day. 10 paise per KM is what the dealership claims, and we wholly agree. 1/10 th of what it would cost for a petrol bike of equivalent performance. 1 unit of charge is what the scooter needs which costs approximately 7 rupees for which it will run 100 kms. A moped of similar size and performance will give a maximum mileage of 75 kmpl? which means I need 1.25 liters of petrol to cover the same distance, which costs around Rs 70(approx). So you can see the facts for yourself.
This is one of the crucial reasons why electric vehicles are catching up. The scooter won't give out any noise or smoke, which earns you an eco-friendly badge. The scooter is surprisingly silent, but the muted whine from the motor is terrific. Has to be experienced to be believed.
The Velociti looks more or less like the Bajaj Spirit, which was available in the market until sometime back. On 8 hrs of charge, the Velociti will take you 50 kms during which you can touch speeds upto 40 kph. It uses the same battery as that of the Marathon and is found under the seat. The motor though, is a different one. The 500 W motor is brushless DC type and similarly, powers the rear wheel. But the best bit is the disc brake up front which ensures timely stops and induces confidence into the rider. As this being a smaller scooter, and me being a 6-footer, things were a bit cramped, which needed me to sit a little further back, there by intruding into the pillion's space. As anticipated, the storage compartment under the seat was smaller than the Marathon but the pockets up front, would come in handy to carry notebooks or files.
Velociti Picture Gallery
Velociti test ride-
The increased power meant only one thing- Fun, and wasn't I having a ball! Especially after driving the Marathon, the Velociti felt exciting. The acceleration was considerably more, and the vehicle could go past the 25 kph mark. At one point, I was doing 40 as per the speedo. And remember, this is an electric bike!
The Disc brakes had enough bite. I could shed speed easily, which gave me confidence to push harder. The handlebar felt balanced and so was the ride. The whine from the motor was even more pronounced. This was the performance I was expecting out of the Marathon. Nevertheless, it was fun.
The down side of the Velociti-
The Velocity is capable of doing 40 kph and thus requires registration and a driver's license for the individual to whom it is intended for. It also has a diminished range of 50km per charge. Otherwise, the benefits are the same.
The ride and handling-
The Velociti, being tinier than the Marathon, has a slightly stiff ride. This is easily observable during braking when the vehicle exhibits almost zero front dive. Otherwise, the characteristics of both the vehicles are largely the same.
After riding both the scooters extensively, the way we conceived electric scooters changed. Yeah, maybe they can't do a 100 k's or accelerate to 60 in 5 seconds, but they are totally fun to ride. Part of the fun and the laughter was their low speed, I should admit.
The future is going to be all about electric vehicles. As we looked through pictures of concept vehicles from Ultra Motors, that became more clearer. Janagan claims once Lithium Ion batteries replace the Lead-Acid ones, the same Marathon scooter could do 100 kms in one single charge with a top speed of close to 80 kmph! He also added that Lithium Ion batteries take 15 minutes to recharge compared to 8 hrs for a conventional Lead Acid battery.
To buy your daily supplies, or to get your kids to school which is hardly a few kilometers away or the gym in the evening, an electric scooter makes more sense than a normal moped. We can't wait to get our hands on the Lithium Ion powered scooters or bikes which promise to be quick and more fun to ride.
On road, the Marathon costs 33,700/- on road in Chennai while the Velociti costs 42,000/-
We would like to thank P.Janagan, Sole Propreitor of Soody Motor, Chennai, for all his help and the knowledge that he gave us. We sure learned a lot about electric scooter, which changed our perception of electric vehicles, once and for all. You can reach Soody Motor at 044 2451 2752 or 09790710242. You can reach the ultra motor website at ultramotor.com to locate a dealer in your State.