Ultraviolette Automotive: Indian EV start-up aims to take on global premium bikes

Founded by Narayan Subramaniam and Niraj Rajmohan, Ultraviolette Automotive aims to take on not only e-bikes by the likes on Harley-Davidson, but also premium petrol bikes

Ultraviolette Automotive: Indian EV start-up aims to take on global premium bikes

Narayan Subramaniam and Niraj Rajmohan, founders of Bengaluru-based Ultraviolette Automotive, have been friends for over 20 years; they used to compete with each other for the top rank first in the school and then in the university, but now they are a team.

Their goal is to compete in the global premium electric motorcycle market, and challenge the likes of Harley-Davidson (LiveWire) and electric bikes by Zero Motorcycles—both American companies. At the same time, they also aim to take on petrol motorcycles both in India and globally in the engine size of 300-500cc. While Narayan has honed his engineering and design skills working in Japan and Germany, with Toyota (Daihatsu) and Volkswagen, respectively, Niraj has worked in Bangalore and the US.

Their first electric premium motorcycle, called the F77, will be launched in India early next year, and in the global markets in 2024, “provided the ongoing chip shortage and the possible Covid-19 third wave in India don’t disrupt our plans,” Narayan said. The F77 is a premium electric motorcycle; it has a minimum riding range of 150 km, but will have variants with a longer range as well. The starting price, Niraj said, will be about Rs 3 lakh when it will be launched in India.

“In India, it will compete against motorcycles such as the Apache, and some models by Bajaj and KTM,” Niraj added. “The F77 is a proper performance bike.”

Over the last three years, Ultraviolette Automotive has been able to build a developer and marketing team that includes people from the aerospace industry, electronics, consumer technology, and so on, and not just automotive. The high-speed testing of the F77 has been extensively done on the Taneja airport track near Bengaluru. “Tests such as vibration, performance in different climatic conditions, the app and the software, handling and manoeuvrability, all are almost complete,” Narayan said.

The end-goal, both the partners added, is that the F77 has to compete with petrol motorcycles on price point.
As far as global plans for 2024 onwards are concerned, Narayan added it will be the first time that a high-technology product will be exported from India. “While India has been doing it for software products for years (exports), it will be the first hardware of its kind to be exported from India; we believe it will be a major turning point for Make in India (once we accomplish this),” he said.

If you see the global premium motorcycle market, the LiveWire and bikes by Zero are priced upwards of $10,000, and their equivalent petrol bikes (in terms of performance) are priced in the range of $6,000-7,000. There is a lot of price gap and we aim to close that by pricing our bikes closer to the petrol premium bikes,” Narayan said. “In global markets, our vehicles will be very price-competitive.”

Within a year of India launch they plan to start shipping to global markets. “We will first focus on the US, Western Europe and parts of Southeast Asia; our internal timeline is to be present in some countries by 2024,” Narayan said.
While a major investor in Ultraviolette Automotive is TVS Motor Company (Rs 30 crore in 2020, following on from Rs 6 crore in 2018), Niraj said theirs is an independent company as far as product decisions are concerned, and will remain so. “TVS has its own electric vehicle strategy that doesn’t interfere with our technology and plans,” he added.
Globally, a lot of electric vehicle start-ups have gone bust, but both the partners are of the firm opinion that Ultraviolette Automotive will thrive because they have a small but focused team, and they are learning from the failures of others; they are also focusing on a single product at a time, and not spreading their efforts out.
Also, right now they are not looking at entering the electric scooter segment, but Narayan said they may consider the same in due course of time.

As far as dealer interest in India is concerned, Niraj and Narayan said they are overwhelmed with the interest shown by prospective dealer partners. “Dealership for an electric two-wheeler isn’t as capital-intensive as for petrol two-wheelers,” they said. “The dealer doesn’t have to invest a lot of money on the servicing channel, because servicing of electric vehicles can be done at a person’s home as well.”

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