At a time when two-wheeler manufacturers are actively working on electric vehicles (EV) for the Indian market, Siddhartha Lal, MD, Eicher Motors Limited (EML), said Royal Enfield will commercially roll out an electric motorcycle only in four to five years.
He also said that though Royal Enfield has started some development work on EVs, the final product would be "something spectacular and different."
At an investor meet, Lal said, “We have been working for 3-4 years on our EV programme. A lot of work has gone into understanding consumer preferences, technology, how it fits into people’s lives, how to take advantage of electric motorcycles, etc.
"We are not going to do lazy things like take a Classic, stick in a battery pack, and hope for the best. It will not be a cut-paste job. We will see how electric technology can be harnessed in the best way possible.”
Shedding some light on the EV journey so far, Lal added, “Some of the work is in early stages of development, some at the concept stage. We have multiple concepts EVs in different stages of development. They have a long way to go. We will also keep an eye on how regulations are evolving.”
When an analyst inquired about the company’s hesitancy in taking up electric drivetrain projects, Lal replied that he sees electric motorcycles largely enter the market at lower levels (100-125 cc), and then go up.
``There is an issue of battery size, cost, weight. If you have a big bike, you need to have big batteries, which is very heavy and very expensive. It is not a tenable value proposition today,” he added.
Lal is a third-generation automobile entrepreneur who took over the reins at Eicher Motors in 2000, when he was just 26 years old. Within a decade, he transformed the business, resurrecting the struggling Royal Enfield motorcycle brand, and establishing it as a market leader in the domestic middle-weight category.
From selling just 29,475 bikes in 2005, the company's sales' zoomed to over 800,000 bikes in FY18. Royal Enfield is the oldest surviving motorcycle manufacturer in the world and commands more than 85 percent of the market share in middleweight (250-plus cc) segment.
“Even in the 125-plus cc market in India, we are one out of three motorcycles sold. That was not the case some years back. We sold one of 10 motorcycles in that category.
"The opportunity is in the (overall) motorcycle market, where we have 5-6 percent market share. There is a lot of headroom to grow because we believe that consumers will evolve and the premiumization trend will continue,” said Lal, while adding that the recently-launched 350 cc Hunter (priced at Rs. 1.49 lakh) will attract first-time riders as well as those upgrading from the commuter segment.
Lal is looking to grow the RE brand in overseas markets such as North America, the UK, Europe, the UAE, Asia Pacific, and Latin America.
“We started going to international markets some years back. The market in some midsize countries is equal to or perhaps greater than the market in India.
"We built the Indian market. If RE hadn’t been there, the market in midsize bikes may have been only 50,000 today instead of a million, because nobody cared about this market."Lal said he would be looking to grow the international market. "We are confident of not just grabbing a share of that market, but actually growing it,’’ he added.