The PluginIndia team had interviewed the founder of Earth Energy before via a podcast and we were delighted to meet the team in Thane. Also, we got to test BETA version of Glyde SX+ scooter. This scooter is pre production version of the scooter, which will be ready in January.. Here are thoughts and opinions from the event.
We have been following the progress of this company from the time that it was formed. As they say – you think you know someone well when you’ve seen the guy in his nappies. Raphae remembers his early visits when the only things he saw were CAD models and wiring harnesses. It was nice to see these transformed into stuff that we could actually whizz around on. The company has raised money from some middle East investors – and has put it to good use. The team is quite small compared to Ather and Ola – but they have an ambition of matching up with these two. Except for the battery cells, everything is Indian in the vehicle. They have followed a philosophy of recycling, borrowing components from the ICE industry. In a way that’s good, because you are using stuff that has already been tested over thousands of vehicles. So reliability levels should be good, at least for these components.
There is a flip side to it. A confused design language. Like the mule, the Glyde is a functional hybrid. But it does not have the grace of a horse – or the tenacity of the donkey. I would have been happy if this designed for India, made in India vehicle, had more ruggedness about it. A rural scooter if you like. The Glyde tips the scales at 116 kg, which is quite ok for a rural scooter. Road quality determines scooter density. The better the roads, the more scooters you expect to see on them. And in a sense, Indian village road quality is what makes motorcycles more popular. For a scooter to become popular in Bharat, you will need it to have bigger wheels for one. It will also need to be able to seat 3 people – with each of them carrying 2 milk cans! The frame and motor are built to do that job – but would be happy if the Glyde conveyed the ruggedness through its design language. A kind of motorcycle language if you must. More naked. More metal.
In today’s EV design space, there are the Vespa equivalents, the Dio equivalents and the Scooty equivalents. The Glyde, with its lowered headlamps, falls into the Dio camp. What makes a difference is the protruding belly, which seems to hold promise of better delivery a few months down the line :-) The belly, alas, is not a dicky area. It only houses the electronics. There is a reasonably spacious dicky –not Ola territory – but you can park a helmet inside it easily. Another piece of good news on the dicky front: the charger is an on board one. So you will only need to store the charging cable in the dicky. Would have been nice if Earth folks could have, Chetak style, put the cable in the belly.
The cells are NMC, which have a lower life compared to LFP. IMHO, the low speed Glyde should be offered with a LFP option. One of the key selling points for Lithium batteries, apart from weight, has been life. The Indian customer would hate to do a battery replacement in 3 years. Assuming a battery cost of 30 K and a 3 year usable life, the cost per km for battery alone would work out to Rs. 0.5, which is more than the energy cost. I would want any EV to have a minimum usable battery life of 10 years. Users should expect a degradation of about 50% during this time. With our 2013 purchased Mahindra E20, we are already at the 8 year, 80,000 km mark. And we are getting about 60 km of range, down from its initial 100 km. So 10 year life expectancy is not unrealistic.
The motor, sits higher up – and kind of protrudes into the dicky. (The dicky has an inverted camel hump that eats up almost 10% of the space.) There is some mystery as regards the vendor for the motor. But knowing the frugal mindset of the team, I think it would be a repurposed motor. The motor has a nominal rating of 3.5 kW – and a peak rating of 6 kW, making it zippy enough. Could do 60 kmph on the straights of the Raymond track. Double seat performance was okm but found the low speed torque to be inadequate. As the revs go up, it kicks in better. Waiting for a longer ride to see how it functions in highway rides – where you tend to cruise at 70 kmph for longer times. As a motor heats up, manufacturers usually de-rate performance to reduce current flow. And yes, another mystery that I still need to solve. Where do you top up the coolant from?
Suspension is another area where I would like more work to happen. Like the TVS Iqube, I found the Glyde a bit heavy in turns. Maybe it has to do something with the rake angle of the front fork. You cannot lean in on turns with confidence. The rear wheel in the preproduction version came fitted with a hub on which the disk brake was mounted. The additional hub weight results in increasing the unsprung mass of the vehicle – and more vibrations on bad roads. We were told that the production vehicles may be redesigned to have a smaller hub.
In conclusion, the team has done a great job. It’s still WIP – but as a rural low speed rugged scooter the Glyde would tick all the boxes. The low speed Glyde is amazingly Value for Money. At a price point of Rs. 70 to 75 K, with a real life range of 150 km, there is nothing more that I can ask for. A little bird tells me that the company is actually using the same motor for the high and low speed models, with only an electronic limiting of the speed. So you also get perfect load carrying capacity. Dealerships are expected to get the vehicles in their showrooms by January 2022. My new year wishes to our readers: Bhaiyon aur Behnon, humare iss desi Glyde SX gaddi ko test ride jaroor karna!