Motoring

TVS iQube: Back to the future

The scooter marks TVS’ proper foray into the Indian electric two-wheeler space

India’s electric two-wheeler space is heating up, and how! The one in question here is called the iQube, and almost refreshingly, it doesn’t come from a brand that was just formed a few months ago to sell us rebranded Chinese products. The iQube scooter marks TVS’ proper foray into the Indian electric two-wheeler space. Yes, TVS beginning its shift to e-mobility is a big deal, but we were more curious to see if the iQube itself makes as much of an impact.

Ever since the iQube was unveiled, it’s been drawing in polarising comments about the styling. To best describe it, it looks like it’s been designed to be a futuristic product, but one that’s been designed close to a decade ago; and that’s not far from the truth, really. TVS did showcase it in concept form back in 2012. Now while that may sound negative, it isn’t. The narrow, horizontal headlight and tail-light look unique and almost RoboCop-like. The rest of the design is extremely simple, and it almost feels like TVS has purposely opted to go this route, as conventional designs attract buyers from a wider age demographic.

While we don’t have a problem with the design, there were a few small areas where the quality levels were inconsistent, but this could be because the scooters we were riding were initial test bikes. We’ll reserve final judgement for when we get to spend some time with the production models.

On the move, the scooter will leave you quite impressed, especially when it comes to acceleration. The hub-mounted motor is made by Bosch and has a peak power output of 4.4kW. This is a fair amount higher than that of the Chetak’s 4.08kW motor, but the iQube’s throttle response feels instant and is not as softly delivered as the Bajaj when you first open the accelerator. However, it’s more along the lines of immediate, rather than jerky, and while I suspect it might take some getting used to, I don’t think this will be a problem.

What is really nice is that acceleration in both modes (Economy and Power) is the same. The only difference between the two is the limit on the top speed. In Economy, you can go up to 45kph, and this is also where TVS is claiming that you will get a range of 75km. Top speed, meanwhile, will go up to a speedo-indicated 80kph in Power mode, but the range is said to go down to 55km here. We also liked how the performance doesn’t go down drastically with a drop in charge. I managed to hit a speedo-indicated 70kph even with just 16km of range remaining, according to the TFT display.

Hub-mounted motors are usually considered inferior to frame-mounted units, but the iQube seems to have no problem. I managed to climb a 10-degree incline with a pillion and on low charge at about 35kph, which isn’t bad. The battery is non-removable, but TVS has cleverly split it into three different packs, with one of them positioned under the footboard. This brings some of the weight-bias towards the front, and the company also says the twin rear shock absorbers have been tuned to help the iQube feel more natural.

And feel natural, it does. We had the opportunity to carry a good amount of speed through the corners at the company’s test track and the scooter didn’t feel nervous or twitchy at all. The grippy TVS tyres on the 12-inch wheel at both ends also helped improve stability. Lastly, the 220m front disc and 130mm drum brake were quite effective, and got the 118kg (slightly higher than the Ntorq 125) scooter to a standstill quite quickly.

Moving on to one of the biggest highlights of this scooter — the TFT instrumentation. It gets bluetooth connectivity and the screen graphics are legible, even under direct sunlight. The dedicated iQube app, along with the bluetooth function, shows incoming call alerts, SMS notifications and turn-by-turn navigation on the screen. What can also be seen via this screen is the scooter’s park assist function, which actually lets you creep forward or backward.

Every iQube also comes with a home charger that’s included in the price. It takes about five hours to charge the battery and there’s no fast-charging option. The charger, battery packs, and the battery management system have been built completely in-house, except for the cells in the battery packs that have been sourced from LG in Korea.

At ₹1.15 lakh (on road, Bengaluru), the TVS iQube is a little cheaper than the top-spec Bajaj Chetak, and significantly more affordable than the new Ather 450X, although you have to factor in the annual subscription cost that TVS will introduce sometime in the future. This subscription cost too is expected to be much lesser than what Ather is asking for, and we’re told it might be somewhere around ₹900 per year. At present, the scooter is only available in Bengaluru and TVS plans to introduce it across other cities in a phased manner.

That’s the iQube for you. In short, it’s a simple, quirky-looking city runabout. The limited range is the only big drawback, and that’s something we’ll have to live with till battery technologies mature. If you can’t wait that long, and only want to buy a product from a well-established Indian manufacturer, then this scooter is now the second option available to you.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 9:03:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/tvs-iqube-back-to-the-future/article31153427.ece

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