Raphae, there is one big valid criticism about the Indian electric scooter industry. That is about the design of these electric scooters which seem to resemble the design of the iconic Vespa Italian scooter or other large brands.
Yes that is a valid criticism. Mainly due to the fact that as recently as 2016-17, most electric scooters were 100% CKD imports usually from China. And China remains the world’s principal IP infringer across all types of IP theft. So the RnD teams of those Chinese companies, from where Indian electric scooter companies procured their kits, copied designs without any care and those IP infringed designs got to the Indian market.
Is that situation improving now?
Yes due to FAME 2 rules, many Indian EV companies are putting in the effort to localize more. For example they are getting chassis, chargers, DC-DC controller, Battery packs built here. Plastic moulds, cells are still being imported from China. Some companies are creating designs here and sending them there. So things are changing. However there are still smaller scooter companies who are getting 100% CKDs. And many companies are moving towards 90% localization.
Back to the lawsuit Essentially Honda claims that Hero Electric’s Dash scooter is “infringing” on the design of its Moove scooter, particularly the following areas
If you look at the side by side picture, you can clearly see the front light has the same design. So definitely we can see the similarity here.
The rear light section has little differences. But again we can see why Honda did not like this.
Rear cover is the body covering the rear frame/ drive system. And Honda claims even that is same
Even the front handlebar with the black hood is similar
Thanks for that investigation, Amit. Honda actually has a case here.
Vespa, the Italian scooter giant has sued multiple Chinese companies over the years. For the same reason - IP theft w.r.t design.
Here is another jolt for Hero Electric, Raphae.
Look at this image. This is a popular cargo electric scooter from Hero Electric. This is also an electric scooter sold by Jitendra Motors - a Nashik based company. The same design being used by Sahara Evols. The question is - who is copying who here?
Oh this is a case where all 3 scooter OEMs - Hero Electric, Sahara Evols and Jitendra Motors are importing the CKD kits from the same Chinese manufacturer. I can see some small changes, but essentially they are the same model. What these examples tell us, is that Hero Electric is importing the entire body as a CKD and is localizing certain components like the Battery Pack, Charger here.
Which is a shame. For a 10+ year old company and market leader, we expect more.
We have more such cases Raphae. Take a look at this. You have tested the PureEV ePluto 7G before. This is the ePluto 7G. Here is another OEM called Miracle scooters based out of Pune, who has the same freaking model.
Today there was a launch of a new electric scooter from Ampere vehicles called Magnus Pro. And this design looks suspiciously similar to Oma Star of Lohia Auto.
More cases of the same design being used by multiple OEMs.
We know the team at PureEV well and we did see the the photo of the Miracle Scooter at this year's Auto Expo. So we asked the PureEV design team which is based out of IIT Hyderabad on how PureEV is tackling this common design menace. And this is what they told us.
This is what Mr Reddy the founder said about his company's work on design.
But I’m happy to see progressive EV startups like PureEV, NDS Eco have actually recognized that problem and are investing in design teams to make their models look more distinctive.
So Raphae, back to Hero Electric, what will happen if Hero Electric loses this hearing?
Amit, If court tells them - u cant sell Dash - then it will be a huge loss for them. They will have to change designs for the entire stock and then sell it.
They might have to add other plastic molds and redo the design. This can take several months and we may not see the Dash anytime soon.
We only hope they don't trouble the dealers who have got stock. This is clearly the manufacturer’s fault.
Let this be a lesson for Hero Electric and all Scooter companies. Just getting CKDs from China and selling in India won't work anymore.
Invest in a design team, create your own designs and take intellectual property seriously.
This next news item is a very very strange one. Everyone knows OLA Cabs. All of us have used the ride hailing company’s cabs. Ola spun off its electric vehicles business into a separate unit called Ola Electric Mobility. And the strange thing is that Ola Electric just purchased a Dutch electric scooter company called Etergo.
Ola is known for cabs and electric taxis so why a scooter?
What is Ola Electric upto?
I was looking at the website of the Dutch company, Amit and I loved the ideas by the Etergo team. The first thing you notice is the large and easy navigation display on the scooter, just like our Ather. Then I was impressed by the modular batteries. You can choose a battery based on your range requirements - 80, 160 or 240 km.
The unique curved banana shaped batteries fit under the floorboard of the scooter. The curved batteries could be accessed from the cargo hatch under the seat. This design makes it easy to carry and also ensures you have all the space in the world in the boot.
The curved battery is unique indeed. I’m wondering how they fit the cylindrical lithium cells in a curved surface.
That is a good point Amit. I did not think of that. If you have curved enclosures, then instead of stacking cylindrical cells one top of another, you have to place the cells in parallel. This all means, you will need additional wiring and there will be more packaging work. This might be unnecessary adding complexity in the battery pack. Also the cost of the assembly will be higher compared to making a square battery. This might get Ola Electric to abandon the curved shape battery packs, unfortunately.
India is a price conscious market and imagine if Ola Electric can launch a super intelligent, connected and powerful scooter at say price of Rs 1 lakh to undercut the price of competitors like Ather, Chetak etc.
If they want to compete against the likes of Ather, Chetak, they will need to optimise costs wherever they can and unfortunately the unique curved battery design might be the first one on the chopping block.
So OLA might take technologies like connectivity, the touch screen, software and electronics from the dutch startup and launch an electric scooter in India. I still can't wrap my head about the concept of an OLA Scooter. That sounds weird to me as we always have known OLA as a cab company!
That is true Amit. But we also have to know that last year Ola Electric got massive funding of Rs 1725 CR from Japanese investment firm SoftBank, which is a huge amount of money for an electric vehicle startup. So they have money to burn and there were reports that Ola Electric has already been working on its own electric scooter.
Now they have access to Etergo’s advanced technology they can speed up development and launch it sooner.
Also look at the tweet by Mr Bhavish Aggarwal, founder of OLA.
From all of this information, it seems that Ola Electric will be a totally different company compared to Ola Cabs. They will be an electric vehicle startup offering world class EVs for personal mobility. Looks like they are focussed on an electric scooter. But they might even launch commercial vehicles. They can. They have the resources.
Also I liked what he said about electric two wheelers. He understands that there is huge scope to cause disruption of the 2 wheeler market. BIG ICE auto OEMs are not bothered with electric vehicles anyway. Also if i look at the Ola Electic website - it’s just a one page site - almost like a teaser. It feels like something big is coming from them.
Ultimately they are here to cause disruption by launching EVs.
We need more large independent EV focussed companies with no ICE Baggage or agendas.
That will push the entire EV ecosystem in India.
I love it! Good luck to Ola Electric team!