Tork Motorcycles is a story of a technology fanboy who grew up tinkering with electronics. Little did he know that his affinity towards experimenting with technology would make him launch India’s first electric motorcycle company. Kapil Shelke, 29, Founder of Pune-based Tork Motorcycles traces the build-up to India’s first mass market electric motorcycle T6X in a dialogue with Entrepreneur.
How has been your affair with technology so far?
I have been a technology enthusiast since childhood and always had interest in cars particularly. When I was 10, I built a remote control toy car. When I was in college in 2005, I read more about automobile technology and its functions and realized that there will be a technological shift in terms of fuel because of multiple factors like increasing fuel cost and pollution. So I explored different fuel types and stumbled upon electricity as the most efficient fuel type. Around the same time I got fond of motorcycle racing and even aspired of becoming a racer.
What drifted you towards making a motorcycle?
Around 2008 when Tata Motors unveiled its Nano car, I thought of building an electric car but since the cost to build just a prototype was coming around Rs 25 lakh, it was too high for me. Nonetheless my love for being a racer drew me towards the idea of creating an electricsportbike. So, I along with four of my college friends pooled Rs 4 lakh towards prototyping which came out in 2009 called TX 01. Till 2014, we had already made five motorcycles with last one being TX 05. We finished third at The Isle of Man TT, the most prestigious electric motorcycle racing event globally.
Why did you shift gears last year to make a mass market motorcycle?
We usually never focused on the mass market. Our focus was always to build hi-speed motorcycles for racing. All of them were above 150 kmph with a range of around 40 km on single charge which is not economical for commercial purpose.
Instead people would prefer motorcycles with lesser speed but higher range. So in 2015 we shifted our focus to building a
commuter bike called T6X which is both aspirational and economical.
How T6X is doing right now?
We are currently testing its prototype which is being built to withstand global conditions. By end of 2016 we would bring T6X out for test ride and it would be available for sale earlier than 2017 end.
How does T6X differ from existing motorcycles?
The biggest difference that would excite rider is that T6X would give maximum torque at zero revolutions per minute (RPM) which one gets only in bigger bikes. Moreover, it would be a smart motorcycle connected through a smartphone app which would display calls and messages on the meter along with nearest charging point, GPS, phone charging
facility, ability to track driving pattern etc. Also it is a gearless and vibration-free motorcycle. Except the battery which we have imported, the entire motorcycle is manufactured in Pune.
Do you think India’s aim to be an all electric vehicle country by 2030 via different schemes would help?
They would certainly be helpful as government intends to reduce carbon emissions and dependence on petrol and other fuel imports. In terms of technology these schemes are a great push towards electric vehicles’ growth. The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme offers subsidy of up to Rs 29,000 on
motorcycles though it should be more. Also there should be more focus on setting up charging stations and other infrastructure in place though we can set-up charging plug at the customers’ place.
(Article first appeared in Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine, May 2016 edition)