The EV startup aims to build the world’s largest and densest battery swapping platform and offer a swapping facility within one kilometre distance for its customers.
When it comes to purchasing an electric scooter, there are many factors that tend to deter the consumers. The most important among them is range anxiety, i.e., the fear that the battery may run out of charge before one reaches the destination, or a charging point.
Then there is the practical concern of a lack of charging infrastructure. And finally, it is the price factor - electric scooters come at a huge premium over their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts.
Earlier this month, Bengaluru-based electric vehicle (EV) startup Bounce Mobility launched Bounce Infinity, an electric scooter with the intention of resolving all these issues. It comes with a swappable battery, or a battery-as-a-service option. This means that every time the battery is low on charge, the rider can go to the nearest swapping platform and exchange (swap) it for a fully charged battery.
Since the battery is out of the equation, the price of the scooter has also drastically reduced. In fact, it costs less than the fuel (petrol) scooters. It is priced at Rs 45,099 (ex-showroom Delhi). The battery accounts for almost 40 per cent of the vehicle cost.
So, the rider only has to pay per swap, or opt for the subscription. With this, the riders pays only Rs 35 per swap, which translates to about 65 paise per kilometre. The rider not only saves on the time spent on charging, but also does not have to worry about the battery maintenance and replacement costs.
One can also purchase the scooter, with its (removable) battery and charger, for Rs 68,999 (ex-showroom Delhi).
Bounce wants to build the world’s largest and densest battery swapping platform and offer its customers a swapping facility within a kilometre. The network will serve both its retail customers and rental business.
The startup has already established around 250 swapping stations in Bengaluru and Vijayawada for its scooter rental services. In Bengaluru, with the current density, one can find a swapping station every 2-3 kms. By March, when Bounce will begin the delivery of the scooters, at least eight major cities in India will have 400-500 swapping stations each.
Since the scooters are compact in size and need around 10 sq ft space, they can be set up anywhere - from mom-and-pop stores to fuel stations, residential and office complexes. Bounce has also partnered with companies, like NoBroker, so that the Residential Welfare Associations (RWAs) associated with the platform have a swapping station.
Launched in 2014 by Vivekananda Hallekere, Varun Agni and Anil Giri Raju, Bounce is a popular scooter rental service in Bengaluru and Vijayawada. As of January 2020, it had a fleet of 25,000 scooters across the two cities.
According to a Forbes article, the startup raised $105 million (around Rs 748 crore) led by Accel and B Capital Group the same month. Its existing investors - Chiratae Ventures, Falcon Edge, Maverick Ventures, Omidyar Network India, Qualcomm Ventures and Sequoia Capital India - also participated in raising capital.
In 2018, Bounce began experimenting with some EVs in its fleet. When COVID made its operations uneconomical, it decided to turn all its fleet electric. But like every consumer, the startup also faced the same fundamental problems surrounding electric scooters.
“Unfortunately, we couldn't find a suitable option, both in and outside India. We imported all the bikes that were available and tried it. But there was just no vehicle that suited the Indian use case,” says Raju, co-founder and COO, Bounce.
So, the startup started building its own electric scooters and decided to address all the challenges right from the design level. And now, it has a fleet of 4,000 electric scooters with swappable batteries.
“This capability that we have built with the swapping network, can be leveraged to anybody else, and not just Bounce, thereby making the adoption of EVs easier,” Raju adds.
Bounce has also launched its first advertising campaign, featuring Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan. Just like the product, the ad's key focus is on the battery solution. Unlike other electric scooter ads it doesn't harp on the features much. Raju says they wanted a celebrity who is known across the country, as it is a pan-India launch. “Then people can associate with the brand and have a good recall.”
The scooters will be available across the country through both online and offline channels. Bounce will also have distributors across multiple cities. Currently, the consumers can book the scooters online through Bounce's website. The deliveries will begin March 2022 onwards.
Bounce is expecting a good response from Tier-II and III cities. But it is expecting the highest demand from the top cities in scooter sales - Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chennai. It will soon be setting up experience centres in major cities and, by January, it will be starting test rides as well.
It will also have a distributor network for maintenance. It will be a hybrid system, where people can take their vehicle to the service centre, or have an on-call service, where a technician comes to their doorstep.
It has set up a plant at Bhiwadi, Rajasthan, with a capacity of manufacturing 1.8 lakh units per year. As business grows, the capacity can be scaled to ramp up the numbers to about five lakh units. It also plans to set up a second plant in South India later. Bounce is confident that the plant’s full capacity will be utilised in the first year itself.
“We are looking at manufacturing at least around five lakh scooters in the first year,” mentions Anil.
In the last fiscal, India sold about 15.12 million two-wheelers. Of this, the share of EVs was only one per cent. However, reports suggest that this is expected to rise to 74 per cent by 2040. Overall, India is currently said to have around 20 million two-wheelers on the roads.
With rising fuel prices, EVs have become an attractive alternative. Many EV makers launched their products for the early adopters. Leading ride-hailing app Ola, under its mobility segment of Ola Electric, launched its first electric scooter in August and deliveries began this month.
Other EV players, like Ather Energy and Simple Energy, have also entered the market this year, along with Bounce. Meanwhile, auto giant Hero Electric claims to have sold the maximum number of electric two-wheelers (65,000) in the country. It commands almost 36 per cent market share in the Indian EV segment.
Raju says that Bounce is not limiting its competition to the EV market alone, but is targeting the entire two-wheeler market.
“Since we have solved all the fundamental problems associated with electric scooters, we believe the 20 million two-wheelers is a market for us. Our scooters are cheaper than the fuel ones, with better specifications. So, we are competing with them also,” mentions Raju.
Bounce is targeting the first-time riders for the new launch. “Every year, many people qualify to ride a scooter as they reach 18 years of age. A lot of these youngsters will come in. The decision makers will be their parents. So, that segment will definitely contribute the highest,” he adds.
The company also wants to bring fuel scooter owners into its fold through its subsidiary Zuink, which will convert these scooters to EVs.
“Many people with ICE scooters want to transition to EVs due to the low operation costs. We have come up with a retrofit kit that can convert them (scooters to EVs). They can use the same battery swapping network that we are setting up. Retrofitting will help us convert a lot of people to EVs,” he informs.
While EVs also have an environmental benefit, he says that the majority of people make the switch to an EV due to its price benefits. “Price really matters. People transitioning to an EV, keeping the environment in mind, is a very small percentage.”
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