Three delays in customer deliveries — each lasting at least a quarter of a year or more — can kill a product. Simple Energy, however, used the time to breathe new life into it.
Simple Energy, a Bengaluru-based start-up, opened bookings of the One electric scooter on August 15, 2021. Customer deliveries were promised in December 2021, which were then pushed to June 2022, September 2022, and then to April 2023.
What caused delays?
The first delay was attributed to supply chain issues, as that was a year impacted by Covid-19.
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The second delay was apparently a conscious call taken by the start-up after a spate of EV fires in April 2021, when it said: “Keeping in mind the safety standards and the recent incidents in the EV industry, Simple had taken a conscious call of deferring the deliveries of the One.”
The third delay was to meet the new battery safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.
“These delays gave us the time not only to meet new safety standards, but also to make our scooter the best in business,” Suhas Rajkumar, founder & CEO, Simple Energy, told FE. “Customer interest, however, hasn’t waned, as our bookings have crossed 100,000 units.”
Rajkumar assured that customer deliveries will finally start by the end of April this year.
“The One is now faster, it has improved on aesthetics, on battery systems and powertrain, it is much more stable in terms of safety parameters — we had set out to meeting seven safety parameters during the unveil, but now we are meeting 18 safety parameters,” Rajkumar said. “Rich talent came to our organisation for the past one and a half years and their skill set has added to product quality.”
Simple Energy has hired people not only from the auto industry, but also from software, electronics, space start-ups and even a few people from Tesla.
The One has a range of 236 km, goes from 0-40 km/h in 2.77 seconds, battery of 4.8 kWh, and top speed of 105 km/h. During the unveil in 2021 it was priced Rs 1.1 lakh, but an auto analyst told FE that the price is likely to be revised when customer deliveries start.
Unlike players such as Ola Electric, which don’t have dealerships at all, Simple Energy will take an online plus offline approach to sell the One. “Customers will need a service station and a touch point. While in EVs the cost of maintenance is almost one-tenth of a traditional two-wheeler, periodic checks and trained staff is needed,” Rajkumar said. “But all online benefits would be there — such as delivery of the vehicle at home and servicing at home.”
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During the development stage the One was called the Mark 2, but a ‘simple’ name (One) was finally chosen. Will future products be called Simple Two, Simple Three, Simple Four, and so on?
“That could be one of the ways out, we have not yet decided on this,” he said. “But we are definitely working on multiple products, including motorcycles. Any form factor of two-wheelers is of interest to us.”
While most parts, including the battery pack, have been localised, Rajkumar said some electronics come from South Korea, Japan, China and Europe. “We’re heavily reliant on South Korea — the microcontroller comes from there,” he said.
Rajkumar didn’t share his sales target, but said for the right product there is enough demand. “We have a production capacity of 25,000 units per month, and we are looking at meeting that first, and then scaling it up,” he said. “The market has become more mature. Some low quality players have exited or have been forced to exit either by the market or by regulations.”
In February, the government launched a probe against some two-wheeler EV players about the alleged misappropriation of the FAME II subsidy scheme, and there are reported talks about the scheme not being extended beyond its March 31, 2024, deadline (even though a parliamentary panel has suggested extending it by two years).
“The government should go hard on those who don’t comply with the norms, but the scheme should be continued for some time. Make rules more stringent, but FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles) is needed so that the industry doesn’t lose the pace it has picked up,” he said.
A couple of years ago competition for Simple Energy was just start-ups, but now legacy players such as Hero MotoCorp, TVS and Bajaj are entering the electric field. “Legacy players come with all three muscles (R&D, manufacturing and sales). But for stabilised start-ups such a Simple Energy and others, legacy players are not much of a threat; in fact, legacy players are more worried about start-ups,” he said.
The Simple One is equipped with a fireproof technology that has been indigenously developed with IIT Indore. “We develop a PCM (phase-change material) that keeps batteries at optimum level, and even after five years of usage there is no probability of battery going into thermal runaway (a chain reaction leading to fires),” Rajkumar said.