The automobile industry in India took a breath of relief when Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari recently stated that ICE (internal combustion engine) and electric vehicles will co-exist and that there will be no stringent deadlines for bringing in electric mobility. But even so, electric vehicles are inevitable. Automobile manufacturers around the world are racing the clock to bring finesse to electric vehicle technology that is reliable. A story of progress on this subject comes from a Gurugram-based company called Revolt Intellicorp which today launched its very first product – giving India its first affordable electric motorcycle – the RV 400.
The brainchild of a man who co-founded Micromax smartphone company, the RV 400 reflects that it comes from a house of tech-savvies. I'd say it is a tech gadget that you can use for transport. If you come to think of it, we are a generation which has seen kickstarts on motorcycles to electric starter motors and now, the RV 400 using a smartphone's voice command to start. The times they are a-truely changing.
There are some electric motorcycle manufacturers who are taking advantage of the fact that electric motorcycle design can be extremely radical since there is no need for a fuel tank or an exhaust. And the result is onlookers gasping at how alien those designs look. The RV 400, however, is anything but.
It looks like a standard commuter motorcycle and I like that. The change from ICE to electric is big, so let's take baby steps – one at a time. Revolt have given the RV 400 a compact design with a low seat height which will make it easy to handle for a wider number of people.
It is like any other motorcycle – you throw a leg around to sit, you push a button to start and set off. But with the RV 400, there is no ignition key. You unlock the motorcycle using a button on the keyfob and then press start or you use your smartphone and slide to start or use voice command.
Talking about the ride itself. Once you set off, you notice the absence of sound and also, the absence of a rear brake pedal under the right foot. Instead, it's on the left of the handlebar. It took some getting used to. But it may be a good thing because those who've been using automatic scooters will find it very easy to ride the RV 400. As far the absence of sound is concerned, Revolt have attended to it with much attention.
The RV 400 has multiple exhaust sounds – Revolt, Rebel, Roar, and Race. So, you can choose from a superbike-like sound or a one like a big cruiser, which can be switched on or off by a press of a button on the right-hand side of the handlebar. Me? If I'm riding an electric vehicle, I prefer the electric whine.
Speaking of choice, Revolt RV 400 allows you to pick from three ride modes – Eco, City, and Sport. While Eco restricts the top speed at 45 km/h, it'll deliver the maximum range of 156 km (ARAI). City mode restricts the speed at 65 km/h and delivers a range of about 80-90 km and in the Sport mode, the top speed is bigger at 85 km/h but the range is smaller at 50-60 km. So, the range from your Revolt RV 400 will really depend on your riding style.
I could compare the performance of the RV 400 to a 125cc conventional motorcycle, but I'll have to admit that the RV 400 feels a bit quicker because the torque is just instant. That's the thing with electric motors, peak torque is achieved the moment the vehicle is accelerated as it doesn't have to wait for combustion to take place or RPMs to build up.
The brakes include the same size of discs upfront and at the rear and are both equipped with combined braking system (CBS), which means even if you only pull the rear brake lever, the front brake will also be applied. Moreover, it has another feature that only electrics can pull off – regenerative braking system. The RBS on board the RV 400 cuts the power from the motor each time brakes are applied, saving up on some juice.
For a suspension setup, the RV 400 is fitted with upside-down forks upfront and a monoshock over at the rear (sports bike-like specs there if you notice, certainly not that of a commuter). Speaking of which, we rode the RV 400 on a tight racetrack and yes, it was a lot of fun. But I did think the suspension set up felt a tad too stiff and I would've welcomed a little bit more bite from the disc brakes. But then, I suppose these things will be clearer when we ride the RV 400 in real-world conditions.
Another aspect that requires real-world testing is range and charging time. Revolt say that the RV 400 can be charged from 0-75% in 3 hours and 0-100% in 4.5 hours. A lot of us live in high rise apartment buildings and it won't ever be possible to live with an electric vehicle if A) your apartment building doesn't have a charging station or B) if your EV's battery isn't portable. Good news is that the RV 400's battery pack is. The battery weighs about 19 kg. How far is the elevator from your parking spot? Just saying.
To be quite frank, I was a bit skeptical about test riding an all-electric motorcycle. Yes, there is a cult of people of who say they don't want to see ICEs die or that how you interact with a petrol engine – the rumble, the climbing needle on the RPM gauge, the sensation of a good sounding exhaust – can't be matched otherwise. I signed up to this cult's membership some years ago.
But, what left me feeling even more skeptical (well, about myself) is that I returned feeling nothing but impressed after riding the RV 400. At its price bracket, the features it offers and the purpose it has been built for, the RV 400 might just be a milestone in the electric vehicle industry in India – one that teaches people to have faith in electric mobility and not dismiss it over range anxiety.
Before signing out, must explain Revolt’s MRP. So, Revolt boss Rahul Sharma insists that the RV400 does not have a standard price tag on it. It is instead available on My Revolt Plan, under which you can bring home an RV400 at Rs 3499 per month and its premium version at Rs 3999 per month (for 37 months). Along with the RV400, Revolt also launched its little sibling RV300 at Rs 3000 per month. Add to this, free service and a set of tyres for three years, it is a pretty good deal.