Opinion: Will electrification see scooters take over from bikes?

    Electric vehicles are the future, but as scooters, they make more sense. Does that render bikes obsolete?

    Published on Sep 17, 2022 07:00:00 AM


    Opinion: Will electrification see scooters take over from bikes?

    The Royal Enfield Hunter 350 press ride marked 11 years since my last visit to Bangkok, and just as before, the roads are great and the traffic respects the rules. 

    The fun part of Bangkok’s streets are that the cars are very well behaved, they rarely cut lanes and they never stick dangerously close to each other. In the midst of this calm, the two wheelers dart their way through just like you see back at home in a quest to get right up to the lights and it’s a system that works beautifully. The drivers don’t seem to mind and once the lights go green, the two wheelers launch off the line with the sort of aggression that suggests the citizens of Thailand pay far less for fuel than we do. 

    In 2011, I remember Bangkok’s traffic looking very different to our own because the streets were full of step-throughs – a two-wheeler format that never caught on in India. This year, I noticed a big change – many of those step-throughs have been replaced by 125-150cc maxi-style scooters like the Honda PCX and Yamaha’s Nmax and Aerox 155. This is a trend that I think will pick up in India as well.

    Scooters have accounted for over 30 percent of overall two-wheeler sales here for many years now, but that number is only going to rise. First, we’re finally starting to get more premium 125cc plus offerings like the Aprilia SXR and Yamaha Aerox, but I believe the bigger push will come from EVs. 

    A few months ago, I was part of an informal round table chat with the leader of one of India’s most respected EV start-ups and he made a statement that had nearly every journalist in the room gasp with disbelief. Essentially, he revealed that he thinks scooters will kill the motorcycle market in the coming years. While most of my colleagues found the idea preposterous, I don’t think it’s that far out of the realm of possibilities. With the current state of available technology and cost associated with batteries, EVs make far more sense as scooters than motorcycles. 

    Moreover, we don’t know what sort of policy changes lie in store and if the last few years are anything to go by, stability isn’t something to be counted on. The one thing you can count on is that the push to electrification will continue and I don’t think it will be many years before the costs associated with running an ICE vehicle (not just fuel wise, but also taxation) will become quite punishing.

    EVs are going to change people’s usage habits and most will come to realise that a range of about 100km is very realistic for life within the city. Of course, scooters aren’t going to wipe motorcycles off the map, because the need for rugged, long-range rural vehicles will always exist, as will the desire for enthusiast motorcycles. But I do think there will be a sizeable change in the commuter market over the next few years and scooters will take a much bigger share of the pie. 

    Just like I saw in Bangkok then, it may not be too long before the majority of Indian commuters will line up at the traffic lights on premium scooters. And just like in Bangkok, I suppose we’ll see them launch off the line with plenty of enthusiasm – after all, electric vehicles are far cheaper to run than petrol!


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