Featuring: Tushaar Bajaj, Co-founder Virtus Motors.
There goes a saying by J F Kennedy “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen”. Holds true for the founders of Virtus Motors and makers of Alpha E Bike, Tushaar Bajaj and Vivek Shettigar, who found themselves to be moto enthusiast from an early age. This led them to pursue MSc. in Automotive & Motorsport Engineering from Brunel University, London. They had collaborated on a formula student car and an effective suspension as part of their college projects and found success together. Following this, they harbored dreams and a passion of designing commutes of the future and stared Virtus Motors to address the aspect of mass transportation. Tushaar adds, “Job or no job, I was sure of getting involved in motor sport or automotive design.”
There is a massive uproar for moving towards sustainable & clean energy, and environment protection throughout the globe. This is a major factor for adopting electric-powered designs, apart from the very fact that electric motors are 90 – 92% efficient as compared to 20% efficiency with gasoline. The resultant dynamic speed, reduced vibrations and increased overall safety it provides the commuter makes it the easy and right choice. Moreover, electric prices are stable compared to oil and the infrastructure to set up a charging station is much easier. It can be set up anywhere, from a mall to a university.
“Tesla and Energica are leading the way by producing cars and bikes, respectively, which are faster than their gasoline counterparts, and a lot of moto enthusiasts understand that the sounds and vibrations only accounts for a thrilling show.”
We started ideating on our designs while we were in London. Researching on battery chemistry to battery management systems (BMS), we started testing all the variables to rapid charge solutions to make it easy for the consumers. Our first concept was an electric car design. But the massive pocket funds it required ensured we came back to India and worked on the concept and researched on Alpha in order to get a handy product out in the market, and ride on the momentum from it to work on the next set of designs.
“We did not want to wait for funds to propel our four- wheel project, nor juggle with freelance work alongside it and extend the timeline by a mile. Alpha was the most viable choice for us.”
We conducted a focused research and collected survey samples from both, cyclists and non cyclists. This was to understand the nuances for the design and incorporate them into an enriched riding experience. The major feedback was on the discomfort from the saddle seat and lack of basic safety features like: lights, horn, indicators and effective braking. We had to put in a lot of effort on getting the lightweight yet stiff, aluminum frame built from scratch. It underwent a lot of test and iterations based on Finite Element Analysis (FEA). We also had to work on the battery combinations to get to a quick charge. Our research on the concept began in early 2016. We worked on the prototype in mid-2017 and built it in early 2018, followed by countless hours of testing and iterations to achieve the final design.
“Alpha is the culmination of all the years we have invested in learning and researching the subject. During testing we realised that Alpha is a head turner for sure. But what surprised us was the fact that people from all walks of life would enquire on the finer details of the E Bike during testing. This is where we learned that awareness towards electric powered vehicles is on the rise and somehow we do not give enough credit to it.”
Hyderabad was the perfect place for us to build the project, considering the infrastructure and support it provides, besides keeping the cost of production relatively low.
While we were researching, building and testing the prototype. Our key focus was to plough the ground for full scale production and strike the right partnerships, from sourcing specific parts to fabricating custom frames and ensuring global shipment.
We have received an overwhelming response and raised upwards of 600+ registrations through our pre-launch campaign at Indiegogo. We will start delivering and shipping the E bikes from early October 2018. We are expecting to deliver 300 units per month by the end of 2018.
“It is truly a Make In Telangana project. We have received an award and tons of appreciation for Alpha at 40 under 40 by New Times of India form Honorable Minister for IT, MAUD, Textiles and NRI Affairs, Telangana, MR. K.T Rama Rao”
Alpha is the new-age commute for the urban landscape, especially in the metros. Where people can take an easy and enjoyable ride to their workplace, as they tend to live in close proximity to it. Parents can ferry their children to school or use it for daily chores. It is perfect for teenagers to commute and can basically can do it all. It can reach the regulated speed of 25 kmph, with a range of 60 – 80 kilometers depending on the battery pack, with a charge time of under an hour. Having said that, we will be able to reduce the charge time by half from early 2019. Battery life is upto 60,000 kilometers, post which it can be easily replaced. And the peddle assist ensures a comfortable and enjoyable riding experience.
We will be working on a mass transit vehicle from mid-2019. To be honest, we haven’t had the time to absorb all of it in. We are simply happy and excited so far… Keeping our fingers crossed.
Alpha E Bike seems to be the next big thing in revolutionising transport. It’s high time we all went electric, with Alpha!
Article by: Ranjit Singh