Royal Enfield boss reveals future plans for electric bikes
Bike boss is taking a very different approach to new tech
Pictures recently emerged online of what appeared to be a Royal Enfield with an electric motor, followed by company president Rudratej Singh saying that electric projects are in the pipeline. So we spoke to the Royal Enfield boss Siddhartha Lal about what the future holds for electric vehicles and urban mobility.
“It’s inevitable and the tide certainly seems to be shifting,” says Lal. “But it’s not a given yet. What we don’t want to be are the front-runners for that technology. There are many companies doing that already and spending a lot of money doing so, but they’re finding the bikes tough to sell. That’s not what we want to do. “We already have people who understand this area and we are working on ideas. We’re understanding the market but we want to approach it with a very clean sheet of paper. It’s very simple and easy to do what the car guys are doing, which is to
‘We want to approach it with a very clean sheet of paper’
SIDDHARTHA LAL, ROYAL ENFIELD CEO
take their current process for a car, because that’s where all their tooling and investment is, and just stick an electric powertrain in there. But we don’t think that will go anywhere. To harness the power of electric mobility, it doesn’t have to be in the same way we make petrol vehicles. “Once we’ve looked at all the ideas then we’ll come up with something. There will always be the option of taking one of our bikes and sticking an electric motor in it, which is possible because I’ve ridden them, but we want to look at it differently. We’re looking years away though, not at tomorrow.” The Indian market saw 17.59 million new bikes sold in 2016-17, which is astounding by comparison to the UK’s 105,467 units for January-December 2017. Four out of five bikes over 180cc sold in India are Royal Enfields, and production now exceeds 750,000 units each year, which is more than ten times Triumph’s annual production figure. And there are no signs of that growth slowing. In fact, Lal is targeting aggressive growth through the new 650 models (see more on page 12), with a target of 900,000 bikes built in 2018. The million won’t be far off.
If any manufacturer has the capacity to deliver the scale needed to make electric bikes affordable for mass production, it’s Enfield. But with such a strong domestic market that’s utterly reliant on petrol, Lal is happy to sit back and let others nurture the market before he commits to developing their own take on electric mobility which will take huge finance and a massive commitment.
‘Sid’ Lal has transformed the fortunes of Enfield