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’


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

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