TWO AUTOMOTIVE experts from the city wanted to change the way you travel. So, in 2017, they started work on an electric vehicle (EV) that will be “unique for India and yet familiar”. The result: a vehicle that looks like a bicycle and acts like a motorcycle.
The pedal-assisted bike is from a bootstrapped start-up founded by Sachin Jadhav, Anand Mohan and Vivek Gupta. You will do a double take at the bike’s sleek and unusual design, which has a battery that can last up to 80 km on a single recharge. The bike, called Polarity, can also notch up a speed of 100 kmph for the top-end model – claimed to be the highest for a pedal-assisted bike in India. The bike has been tested on highways and other parts of Pune and will be launched in Mumbai towards the end of July.
“It takes up little space on roads. Once the bike gains momentum, pedalling is not so tough. We have sensors to ensure that once you start pedalling, the battery disconnects electricity to the motor, which in turn saves energy. By using EVs, you are ensuring that the microclimate gets better,” says Mohan.
On Friday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures to encourage EVs, including moving the GST Council to reduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on EVs from 12 per cent to 5 per cent.
“The move to reduce the GST is a welcome one. While we have planned for competitive pricing for the bike, between Rs 35,000 and Rs 1.2 lakh, the GST cut sweetens the deal. The income tax deduction of interest paid on EV loans will boost not just the EV industry but the banking sector as well. The commitment from the government is also a positive sign for prospective customers in switching to electrical vehicles,” says Jadhav.
A topper in automotive engineering from Mumbai University, Jadhav belongs to a small town in Satara, where his relatives operated an automotive dealership. Jadhav grew up surrounded by cars and motorcycles, and it was in Coventry University in the UK, counted among the best in the world for automotive design, that Jadhav and Mohan met and became friends.
Mohan, after studying architecture, had enrolled at Coventry to study automotive journalism. When they returned to India, they decided to turn their common love for wheels into a business venture. Hence, Polarity was born in 2017.
At the Polarity workshop in Hinjewadi, half-a-dozen newly painted bikes stand in a row. Unlike most start-ups that introduce themselves with one product, Polarity is hitting the road with six products. All the bikes are single-seaters or personal mobility vehicle (PMV) with design and performance differences.
There are bikes with carriage and without, they have different motors and swing arms and performance parameters as per price points. If you run out of battery juice midway to your destination, you can pedal any of the bikes the rest of the way. The government is upgrading its EV infrastructure and there are plans to set up charging ports. The bikes, say the founders, can easily be disassembled and packed into the boot of a car or carried in a service elevator.
“Currently, the EV market is traditionally designed. Cost is an important factor in the Indian market. The lithium ion battery is a costly product that is integrated inside the EVs. The weight of the vehicle is a drain on the battery. Polarity bikes are single-seaters to cut the flab. They are also lightweight. As a result, while a battery in a normal scooter will give a 60 km or 70 km range, we considered creating a product that will go over 80 km on the same charge,” says Jadhav.
The bikes can be booked after the launch and deliveries are expected to start by the end of 2019.