Motoring

Ultraviolette F77 electric bike review: A work in progress

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We get to experience India’s first sporty electric motorcycle at MMR

Ultraviolette Automotive is a Bengaluru-based start-up that has been working on an electric bike since 2015. TVS Motors now owns a 25% stake in the company and the F77 is the first product they’ve rolled out. We had the chance to briefly ride it at the Madras Motor Race Track and here’s what India’s first sporty electric motorcycle feels like.

Built on a bespoke trellis frame chassis, the F77 runs a frame-mounted electric motor that claims 33.5hp and a seemingly nuts 90Nm of torque. Experience has now led me to understand that just because an EV’s torque number matches that of a far more powerful petrol-engined machine, it doesn’t mean it will be anywhere close to as fast. The power figure, however, tells the bigger story, and this one is still very healthy — right up there with the TVS Apache RR 310.

Ultraviolette F77 electric bike review: A work in progress

The air-cooled motor powers the rear wheel via chain drive and there is no clutch or changing gears to bother with — just twist and go. Unfortunately, we had very little time to actually ride, but it was clear that the initial acceleration rush is where the fun’s at. Ultraviolette claims a 7.5sec time for 0-100kph, and the initial acceleration surge certainly feels like it could be capable of that. The strong pull begins to taper past 80kph, but it still gets up to about 115-120kph without a struggle. It has a claimed top speed of 147kph, but I suspect this will take some distance to achieve. I got to ride just one fast lap, and the bike managed a top speed of 134kph, which puts the Ultraviolette’s performance more in line with 200-250cc machines, rather than the 300cc competition the spec sheet puts it against.

Ultraviolette F77 electric bike review: A work in progress

The good news is that the throttle response is very smooth and feels natural, which makes the F77 friendly to ride. As for sound, there’s an interesting and clearly audible whine from the motor and reduction ratio gears, but the chain drive is also quite loud.

Out on the track, the Ultraviolette’s frame proves to be formidably sharp, thanks to the relatively short wheelbase and aggressive 23.5-degree steering rake angle, almost identical numbers to the KTM RC 390. In fact, you need to be measured with your movements because the F77 responds as fast, if not faster than the KTM, and it will be interesting to see how this fares in the real world with mid-corner bumps and potholes.

With an impressively low kerb weight of 158kg, this bike loves attacking corners. The rear suspension felt a little too soft close to the limit, and that’s where the expensive Metzeler M7 RR tyres earned their keep. The F77 feels a tiny bit on edge at the limit, but Ultraviolette tells us they are still working on fine-tuning the suspension. Things may stand to improve, but for now it’s clear that this is a fun, sharp and responsive machine and the same goes for the 320mm front disc brake set-up.

Ultraviolette F77 electric bike review: A work in progress

As it turns out, the bikes we rode were not as production-ready as we had thought. The 43mm USD fork will become a 41mm unit, but the company says it will feel very similar. Most of the features were yet to be enabled as well. The TFT display was a mock-up with a smartphone running underneath, and the switchgear was not the final spec as well; this meant we couldn’t control any of the electronic features of the bike. These included switching between the three riding modes (the bikes we were given were set to offer near-peak performance) and we couldn’t try the adjustable re-gen braking system either. We will also have to wait a little longer before we get to try the many connected features that will work via in-built 4G SIM and a special mobile app.

One cool feature we did get to experience was the motorised battery compartment, which glides open to allow you to access the battery packs. Ultraviolette has cleverly split the battery into three individual packs, each weighing 8.6kg. This allows you to remove one or two easily if you need to charge them externally. The packs work in parallel and the company recommends running all three, or at least two at all times.

Ultraviolette F77 electric bike review: A work in progress

Charging takes five hours with a standard charger and 1.5 hours with an optional fast charger. There is also going to be an optional portable ‘powerbank’ that can be carried in a backpack. Ultraviolette claims ground-breaking energy density levels from its in-house battery pack design and that allows a claimed real-world range of 130-150km, despite the relatively modest total battery capacity of 4.2kWh. This will, of course, need to be put to test.

The F77 will be priced between ₹3-3.25 lakh (on-road) when it goes on sale late next year. It will first be sold only in Bengaluru, with other cities to follow. At this price, you certainly aren’t getting a similar price-to-performance ratio as a petrol-powered machine. What the Ultraviolette promises is a performance that will be appreciated more in the urban jungle than out on the track. It’s also going to be a complete tech fest and you might want to visit the company’s website to go through all the digital and connected features it has to offer. And of course, there’s the way it looks.

Ultraviolette F77 electric bike review: A work in progress

This is one freaky, sporty-looking bike, and there’s nothing else like it out there. The proportions are unusual, with a mass-heavy, fully-faired side section. This is offset by an individual naked-bike-style headlamp, with suspension shrouds that create a muscular look. It’s not a conventionally pretty design, but it has heaps of presence. Quality also seems to be a priority, and there are many small details like the footpeg holders, superbike-like aluminium swingarm and neatly-designed wheels that suggest this will be a premium machine.

I wish we’d ridden these bikes when they were fully ready for customers, but for now, Ultraviolette still has a fair amount of polishing and fine-tuning to carry out. The good news is that the company has been clear that deliveries will start only in October 2020, so that gives them plenty of time to get the job done well. For now, we have got to wait to ride the final production machines, but I have got a feeling it’s going to be worthwhile.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 4:19:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/ultraviolette-f77-a-work-in-progress/article30160118.ece

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