Electric scooter market is now real in India but one trend that is rather easy to spot is that most of the offerings come from electric vehicle startup companies. Our market sees so much potential for electric scooters that there are companies with no prior expertise in manufacturing electric two-wheelers getting into the business. This may have something to do with government agencies the likes of Niti Aayog proposing that internal combustion engines should be banned for two-wheelers below 150cc. The feasibility of the proposal is a whole different discussion, but if and when it happens, electric two-wheelers will see an overnight boom and hence we need to be prepared. One such manufacturer working towards this preparation is Benling India.
In August this year, we got in a conversation with Paritosh Dey, Co-Founder & CEO at Benling India Energy & Technology (P) Ltd, to find out about its current product lineup and the ones to come in the near future. Before we get to that, let's talk about Benling Kriti and what's it like now that we've ridden it.
I have a simple method to explain the design. When we were in the process of receiving a test vehicle from Benling, I was asked to simply log on to their website and pick a scooter to review. I chose the Kriti, well, simply because it looks quite nice.
The round headlamp and a matte finish paint job are working in its favour reflecting a hint of classic Italian scooters. The dimensions are friendly – too friendly, I'd say. It looks compact because it is. If you are five feet five like me or taller, you will find your knees conversing with your head. But considering that the Kriti will find its audience in younger riders new to two-wheelers, this is better than having the tips of your toes struggling to search the ground.
Benling Kriti is powered by a 48V lithium-ion battery and the charger is a 6A (Li-ion). I could write more of these specifications but what you're really interested in are range and top speed. So, here goes. The Kriti does 25 km/h of top speed and will go 70 km before running out. The basic concept is that the motor will use more charge while going fast or riding on an incline. The realistic range between charges will depend upon how it's ridden, much like a traditional scooter.
Kriti is as smooth as one would expect an electric scooter to be and quick to attain its maximum speed. Torque is instant, well, because electric motors can either be on or off - they don't need to build up revs like a traditional engine to churn out torque.
It's got plenty of these. It comes with a keyfob which you use to lock or unlock it and a security alarm which goes off if the scooter is fiddled with in any way. (It'll also set off if you walk up to your scooter and forget to unlock it before sitting on it – takes some getting used to).
Benling Kriti also features something called Smart Breakdown Assistance which can be used in case of a malfunction. If somehow the scooter is stalled, simply keep a button pressed on the left side of the handlebar and ride home or till 20 km, whichever comes first. Note that the feature is not applicable for troubles relating to the battery.
The battery pack is a portable one placed neatly under the under-seat storage unit and takes about 3-4 hours for a full charge on any 'ol regular power socket in the house. The instrument console is fully-digital and it has a USB port as well.
Making sense of it all
If I am brutally honest for a bit, the first couple of days were not very enjoyable for me on the Kriti and there's a good reason for that. We as two-wheeler riders are not used to constant speeds of 25 km/h or under. At these speeds, you have to constantly calculate where you are and where will you end up and whether you'll be able to throttle out of a situation.
However, by the third day, I realised that I must stop treating it like I would a Honda Activa for instance. Low-speed scooters have a host of benefits – you don't need a driver's licence, and there is no need for a licence plate.
The cost of ownership is low at about Rs 41,000 and so is the maintenance – electric motors don't need to be serviced like engines do since there are no moving parts. You further save because you never have to see a petrol station and it doesn't take very long to charge. Ride it around the city in the day and take the battery up to your apartment to charge in the evening. Making sense of it all, I'd say Benling Kriti fits the bill for young first-time scooter buyers for its ease of use and I see other applications for it in, for example, delivery fleets for its promise of low cost and efficiency.