Starmotoring, April 25, 2010 I By HONG BOON HOW
“No engine, no fuel tank, no exhaust. What kind of bike is this?”
Like it or not, here in Malaysia the kapcai remains the most accessible form of personal mobility for the masses. Never mind the occasional fumes or the noise, or the fact that it's the preferred transport of a certain group of undernourished hellraisers called Mat Rempit. Kapcais are cheap to buy, cheap to run and get you where you're going, quickly enough. But if things go the way that local company Eclimo Sdn Bhd intends, there could be a green spin to all that.
The company is planning to introduce electric two-wheelers that could fit in quite nicely into the daily kapcai routine.
Two scooter and one motorcycle model under its Electric Lithium Mobility or ecLiMo brand are set to roll out in a few months. While electric motorcycles are usually perceived as something for recreational purposes, the company contends that its silent and clean products are suitable for mainstream usage, possessing the speed and range of their petrol equivalents. The ecLiMo electric two-wheelers promise the performance of a 125cc bike, have a top speed of 110kph and are said to have a range of 100km on a single charge - enough to get most riders to work and back with power to spare. The frame of the scooter is developed by a well-known Japanese motorcycle company but in place of the usual petrol engine and petrol tank are the electric motor and rechargeable lithium batteries. The electric motor is the "in-wheel type" - contained within the enlarged hub of the rear wheel.
"The electric motor has been designed to run in rain and even partially submerged in water," said Eclimo commercial affairs director KB Woo.
"Our electric two-wheelers easily outperform the electric scooter launched last week by an established Japanese manufacturer which promises only a range of 30km and a top speed of 30kph," he said.
“The electric motor has been designed to run in rain and even partially submerged in water”
The batteries, meanwhile, are still light enough to be hand-carried into the house, apartment or office for charging using normal wall sockets.
Woo said the batteries are of low voltage at aroung 60V.
Charging takes three hours and under the current electric tariff, it will cost the owners 87 sen to travel 100km on electric power. A comparable petrol-powered motorcycle will consume some RM6 worth of fuel to go the same distance. And riding the electric two-wheeler will be even easier, says Woo.
"Just twist the throttle and off you go. As it does not have a transmission system, you won't have to worry about selecting the right gears," he said.
To further conserve energy, the rear motor will have a regenerative braking feature which recovers heat energy from braking to help recharge the batteries. The ecLiMo two-wheelers will come with a feature in the instrument panel to alert the rider if he is getting an incoming call from his mobile phone.
The two-wheelers will be assembled in Shah Alam with the electric motors and lithium batteries produced in Penang and Kulim respectively.
"The factory has the capacity to assemble 40,000 units in the first year," he said.
Woo said the company have received queries from security firms, despatch and couries services, and fast food companies with home delivery services.
The company also plans to launch its electric motorcycle model for Japan by July. "The Japanese have world famous brands and it's a big challenge for us to break into the market. It will be an honour if the Japanese consumers accept ecLiMo motorcycles," Woo said.
He said that as the bike does not have an engine, an exhaust system, transmissions or fuel tanks, there are almost nothing to be serviced.
"Compared with electric bikes, petrol-powered motorcycles are costlier to maintain as there are air filters and spark plugs to replace and lubrication oil to top up," he said.
However, ecLiMo bikes will still need to be returned to appointed maintenance centres for routine checking. Each bike will cost around RM6,000. To kick off sales, the first 10,000 units is being offered at around RM3,000 each. Woo said the cost of producing the rechargeable batteries is high but it would drop with volume production.
"The company will not be selling the batteries but leasing them to the bike owners."
Woo's company plans to set up a chain of e-Battery Exchange outlets across the country where "flat" batteries could be swapped with fully-charged ones for a fee.
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