Will the government's resolve to go electric silence the famous thump of Royal Enfield bikes?
It is easier to identify a Royal Enfield from a pack. Its signature thumping sound makes a statement even if the bike is not in sight. The envy of many, scores of riders swear by this stand-out feature making the Royal Enfield an exclusive possession.
But what if the thump were to be taken out of the Royal Enfield bike? What if the bike made sounds that were only as high as those produced by a refrigerator? What if the familiar vibrations on the handlebar are replaced with butter-smooth sail?
All of the above can become a reality if Royal Enfield were to switch to electric motors instead of staying put with gasoline powertrains. And considering the firm resolve of the government to go all-electric by 2030, a battery-powered Royal Enfield Classic may not be ruled out.
“The signature thump is created by the exhaust. Engines of previous generation Royal Enfield bikes were made of cast iron which created a very loud exhaust note, then came aluminium engines that reduced the thump drastically. Electrics will completely wipe out the thump unless the company installs a fake audio unit,” said an engineer from a leading Mumbai-based automobile company.
Though the Eicher Motors-owned brand recently upgraded itself with the unveiling of two production-ready 650cc bikes — Interceptor and Continental GT — that are ready to hit European markets in April, the company said it is mindful of the sweeping changes in the two-wheeler industry with regards to electrification.
Siddhartha Lal, managing director and CEO, Eicher Motors said: "We understand that the technology and business model (of electric bikes) is important. We are not going to be the first in the market with electric motorcycles. But we are starting our work a bit. We are working on different ideas and concepts. But again we are thinking of 5-10 year time frame we are not thinking about next few quarters. Right now, it’s in the investment phase.”
While access to electric solutions will not be a problem for Royal Enfield, thanks to its all-weather Swedish partner Volvo, what will perhaps make the difference for the iconic brand is the changes to the very attributes which helps it stand out from the crowd.
A mail sent to Eicher Motors seeking response to such future challenges with regard to electrification remained unanswered at the time of publishing this article.
“Electrification will lead a level-playing ground as all companies will start from zero. There will be no 100 year-old legacy powering any brand any more,” said an executive with a Delhi-based car company.
Meanwhile, Royal Enfield’s competition is also gearing up. Bajaj Auto, for instance, has promised to launch an electric motorcycle before 2020. At least a couple of startups are nearly ready with their battery-powered motorcycles that could do 0-100 km/hr dash in under 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 170km/hr.
“In the next 5-8 years we can look at it when battery prices come down. We are working extremely closely with Volvo. It has a large number of installed population of EV around the world. We have an electric bus which has been running around, we have been on a learning curve. We are running proof of concept, understanding the technology, it’s still a way off, the technology is super expensive,” added Lal.