The distance between office and work for Dev is 17 km. The motor is switched on for between 40 to 50% of the time. I think this is about standard for most health conscious commuting cyclists, including yours truly. The range claimed is about 25 km – the battery is 5.5 Ah. This is a bit on the lower side. Dev claims that he uses up about 60% of the battery in his daily commute, so a real life range of 50 km. But any battery drain figure above 50% means that you need to charge every day. I would be happy with a buffer of 1 day. You can have days without power at home. There could be days when you make some extra trips. So a real life range of about 50 km for a pure commuter and 75 km for an exercising commuter would be good. This will require a battery pack of about 8 Ah (I assume that Lectro uses a 36 V system, so this would translate to a storage of 300 Wh – or 0.3 units)
Flat roads don’t really need e cycles. I don’t expect North India to be a big customer for commuter ebikes for that reason. The main sales are going to be in hilly or undulating terrains. Which is pretty much the rest of the country. The psychology at work is that instead of the pedalling rate (or cadence in cycling jargon) being constant, the commuter actually wants the speed to be constant. Or always above a certain threshold level – say 15 kmph. I wonder why? Maybe cyclists, though at the bottom of the traffic food chain, also have a sense of status. They would hate being seen crawling up slopes – or worse still, walking up with cycle in tow!
The other reason that e bikes are popular is sweat. Umesh Dixit, a college classmate, uses his E Addict cycle on full electric mode to office, as he does not want to arrive wet with sweat at work. (Goes without saying that like most Indian offices, even his office does not have a shower facility.) On the return journey back in the evening, he switches off the electric mode – and runs it as a plain cycle.
Indian RTO norms call for motors of 250 W or less to be fitted onto vehicles which don’t require licences. This rule has the same impact on Indian manufacturers, that having red lights switched on at 0200 hrs in the morning has on Delhi drivers. Let me share an anecdote. My friend’s wife was going to pick up my friend, who was arriving on a late night flight. She got hit by another car driver who had jumped his red signal and was merrily speeding along. She went to the police to complain. And was given some wise advise. ‘Ma’am at that hour, don’t assume that anyone obeys signals.’ Coming back to e bikes, they are the exception to the RTO power rules. You can have a genuine 250 W (though I think the peak is higher) and it is adequate for most commutes. Most of the other unregistered e scooters are all typically fitted with motors that actually rated between 500 to 1000 W. High time the government changed licensing norms – and allow 40 kmph and 1000 W as the unregistered limits.
The Lectro Glide was a good ride. My first Lectro ride was on a single gear lemon – it wouldn’t budge above 15 kmph in the assist mode. And though I got to keep the bike for 2 months – I think I made a total of 3 trips on it, the last being to return it back to the owner. I hope that Hero has killed that model. On the subject of models, the Glide is also no longer in production. The Hero website seems to be cluttered with e bike models – all of them I suspect with the same battery pack and motor. I think they would be better off giving fewer choices to the customers. A commuting cyclist has relatively simple expectations from her cycle. A comfortable ride, with no splattering around when the monsoon comes. The entry level commuter is Ok with steel frames – as the motor is doing the lugging around of the extra weight on the inclines. But front shock absorbers and good mudguards are a sine qua non. Unfortunately the Glide has neither. Dev has done some jugaad and fitted in mudguards – and also a carrier – for lugging around is office bag. His next project is to replace the front fork and get one with shock absorbers.
The batteries for most of the Lectro models are built into the frame. This is really good for Indian monsoons. But the chain is as strong as its weakest link. For most e cycles the weak link is the display or the assist selection panel. Dev has faced issues with this – and I have faced issues – both in my BSA electric – and also the Felidae. We need to ensure that manufacturers have IP67 ratings for the display. Most of the e scooters perform quite well on that front – but then they have a display which is embedded inside plastic panels. I think the display units should be use and throw ones, which are epoxy filled right at the time of manufacturing. This is standard practice for the spark plug ignition units for ICE two wheelers – and e cycle manufacturers should also be following this practice.
The components quality on the Hero Lectro Glide was quite good. The lockdown and the absence of public transport has given a fillip to cycle sales – as also e bike sales.
Hero Lectro has crossed 10,000 sales quite some time back and is galloping full speed ahead – thanks to its wide distribution network. But Dev has noticed that as sales volumes for Hero Lectro has gone up, components quality has gone down. And I guess this is true for a lot of other Indian e bike manufacturers too. The battery and motor contribute to almost 70% of costs in the entry level e bike segment. So every trick in the book is tried to bring frame and component costs down. If you are a non entry level discerning rider, I recommend that you look at buying a good bike and do a kit fitting on it.
The ideal kit would be something like the Copenhagen wheel, but that sells for an astronomical amount. E Addict sells a decent kit. And I hope that Felidae would be coming out soon with their own. A good bike – like a Montra Rock would cost around 28 K – add another 25 K for the kit – and you will end up with a budget of around 50 K for a comfortable commuting bike.