That’s what you will ask when driving the Ultra Velociti electric bike

Sachin Shinde, who runs a shop next to Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail looks bewildered. I’ve just ridden up on theUltra Velociti, pulled out a cable and asked if I could get a quick top-up charge and he’s earnestly trying to give me directions to the closest car battery shop. He’s telling me it’s not possible to charge the scooter’s battery from his 220-volt plug point. I don’t blame him. Everyone I ask has the same reaction. The truth is, you can charge this battery only from a 220-volt plug-point.

This electric scooter’s biggest disadvantage in Mumbai is its far-from-electrifying 40km range on a full charge. In a city where the average commute to work and back often exceeds this distance, you need to figure out where you can give it a top-up charge. A tall order when you live and work in high-rises.

Unlike the Yo! Tuff electric moped, the Velociti’s battery can’t be detached and carried up to your home for charging. This means that you either have to take this compact scooter up to your apartment (it will fit into most elevators), or steal electricity from your society.

It costs Rs 39,441 (on-road, Navi Mumbai), cheaper than anything else on the market. The question is, how easy is it to live with the Ultra Velociti? And, is it really cheap to run?

Minimal maintenance

But first, a bit of tech. The Velociti uses a 24-amp battery connected to a brushless motor fitted in the rear wheel hub. Because it’s a brushless motor, it needs minimal maintenance. And it is more practical than other electric scooters because it has acceptable performance. This performance comes from the 1000-watt (peak output) brushless electric DC motor. Because of its performance, there is a compromise. And that is the working range, which is just about 40 kilometres. The battery technology is what limits the scooter’s range. Ultra Motors is now working on lithium-ion batteries to improve this. This will up costs though. But, back to this Velociti.

Let’s start with the positives. Electric motors produce max torque from the word go, and so, when you twist the ‘throttle’, the peppiness of this little scooter takes you by surprise. There’s very little noise, there’s no vibration, and when you cruise, it’s the closest you can get to feeling the way a paraglider does. Performance is more than adequate to keep up with city traffic, but you do tend to use the horn a lot to warn other road users of your ghost-like presence next to them. It’ll get to its 40kph top speed quite easily too. The Velociti comes with a disc brake, overkill you might say, but it works well and brings this 88kg scooter to a halt instantly.

However, add a pillion and things become considerably less exciting. The extra weight forces you to use more twist in your wrist and this eats up battery charge. On steep roads, you have to keep a steady eye on the battery level gauge because it moves into the red zone quite rapidly.

There are other niggles too. Like the centre stand, which is really tough to use. A full charge takes four to six hours, but you can get an 80 per cent charge in just two hours. Ultra Motors claims that the Velociti uses just one unit of electricity for a full charge. The battery lasts approximately two years. A new battery costs Rs 7,000. Which still isn’t all that expensive in terms of overall running costs.

Buy a Velocity depends on your usage and needs. You have to plan ahead and fix on charging points before you attempt longer distances. It also makes sense in smaller, non-hilly towns, where distances are shorter. You don’t pollute (until the battery needs replacement) and you make no noise either. Much cheaper to run yes, but not as practical.

OUSEPH CHACKO

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