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Sunday, August 2, 2015

auto cycles - Moped and .... the new Bolt M-1

If your Insurance wisdom recalls that there existed in the Motor Tariff, provision for rating Auto cycles or Mechanically pedal cycles – then it reveals that you are  old  !    In the erstwhile All India Motor Tariff, such vehicles were charged amere Rs.30 + 0.40% of IEV for Own Damage. The definition for Auto cycles was‘any motor cycle with an engine capacity exceeding 35 cc but not exceeding 75 ccwith a constant gear ratio and having pedals for self-propulsion’.

Moving away from Insurance and rating, the first of the mopeds to hit Indian roads were as early as in 1955. Decades later TVS jumped into the fray andbecame the market leader with its TVS 50s, XL and other variants. Mopeds weremainly bought by the lower middle class, also proved to be a utility vehicle inrural areas. Kinetic Motors with Luna, Luna Super, Luna TFR andMopeds India’s brand of Suvega were ruling the roost.

By dictionary meaning : Auto-cycle (noun) is :  a bicycle powered or assisted by a small engine.  The word moped was coined by Swedish journalist Harald Nielsen in 1952, as a portmanteau of motor and pedal. It is however often claimed to be derived from "motor-velocipede. Part electric bicycle, part motorcycle and part moped, the Bolt M-1 is a capable, two-wheeled machine engineered for urban commuting. The fully electric bike wears light motorcycle styling and can put out up to 5,500 watts for speeds up to 40 mph (64 km/h). It can also be dialled back to 1,000 watts and ridden like an e-bike.

Bolt Motorbikes founder and CEO Dr. Nathan Jauvtis began commuting on a moped around the time he first moved to San Francisco. He found the moped to be the perfect vehicle for getting around the city – more speed and practical range than a bicycle but cheaper than a car. Jauvtis formed Bolt with co-founder Zach Levenberg, a moped enthusiast with world-record moped riding and Lit Motors engineering experience under his belt. The two designed their own version of the moped, turning to battery power and putting their own styling to it to create the M-1.While the M-1's design is most similar to a moped, the company has been careful to keep specifications within California's legal definition of a electric (motorized) bicycle, thereby eliminating the need for a motorcycle license. The company also keeps the design simple and bicycle-like in hopes of appealing to bike riders looking for a light, electric form of urban commuting – in other words, folks that might be intimidated by more powerful electric motorcycles like those that Jauvtis helped develop at Zero Motorcycles. "If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a Bolt," the company promises.

Those looking for that type of easy-riding city commuting will likely set the M-1 on "economy" mode and never hit the switch again. It limits motor output to 1,000 watts, optimizing range for up to 50 miles (82 km) of riding on motor power alone. Speed is limited to 20 mph (32 km/h). No pedalling is required, but for those that want to stretch their legs, the M-1's pedals are just dangling there in waiting.

The M-1 also features a computerized control system with passcode protection, USB phone charger, and Bluetooth-connected mobile application. Its 1.7-kWh lithium ion phosphate battery pack has a quick release for easier charging and fast-charges to 90 percent in 1.5 hours. Bolt recommends using the home charger for 5-hour "maintenance" charging to increase battery longevity. The bike weighs 140 lb (63.5 kg).Bolt says that it already sold out its first M-1 production run and is currently taking preorders for batch #2 on its website. The M-1 lists in at US$5,495, [a high 3.51 lakhs by Indian rupees !]

Another article in Claims Journal reports that thousand of Mopeds, Scooters are being registered under new Indiana Law.  It is stated that vast majority mopeds and scooters, have been registered with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles since a new law went into effect in January that placed more stringent requirements on riders of two-wheel vehicles.Until now, no one knew how many of these units were actually on Indiana roads. Lawmakers put in place the new requirements so police can better enforce safety laws while also tracking accidents and injuries. More than 17,000 two wheel vehicles were registered with the BMV through the end of June, The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reported.

Under the new law, anyone operating a moped has to be at least 15 years old and it has to be registered with the BMV. The driver also has to receive an endorsement – but not a full license – by taking a 25-question test focusing mostly on signs and signals.The law does not require insurance, though riders younger than 18 must wear a helmet. Passengers are also prohibited and the maximum legal speed is 35 mph.

Few months back, there was this interesting article in Business Standard stating – ‘low-cost  does not always mean low sales. The humble moped, an almost forgotten, gearless two-wheeler, is now not only clocking enviable monthly sales but readily beating much stronger motorcycle brands of established entities.TVS Motor, the Chennai-based two-wheeler and three-wheeler maker and the only one out of an earlier four that still makes mopeds, is reaping rich dividends.  According to this report that appeared in Sept. 14, monthly sales of the  70cc two-wheeler have averaged slightly over 61,500 units this year, much higher than popular entry-level motorcycles such as Bajaj’s Discover100 (35,000 units), the Honda Dream series (37,000 units) and equally accepted scooters such as the Hero Maestro (38,000 units) or Honda Dio (14,000 units).

At under Rs 30,000, the TVS Heavy Duty Super XL is the cheapest petrol powered two-wheeler in the country.  Hero’s HF Dawn and the TVS Scooty are two of the closest rivals to the moped.TVS is also busy developing high-end performance-oriented motorcycles, in cooperation with German bike giant BMW, slated for launch late next year. Yet, the Venu Srinivasan-led company has simultaneously expanded its moped sales. Current sales are more than double compared to seven years earlier.  The success of TVS’ mopeds is such that its moped sales are higher than those of all its scooters or motorcycles. So ‘nammaooruvandi TVS XL’ is on the lips again.

Velaiilla Pattathari (Unemployed Graduate), popularly referred to as VIP,  starring Dhanush, Amala Paul did well in 2014. The music was by Anirudh.  The film focussed on a graduate who is unemployed for four years, and how he gets a job, whilst successfully overcoming various obstacles before and after finding employment. The hero loves his rickety moped which  is presented throughout the movie.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

29th July 2015.

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