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Hero Ultra Velociti: Gone but not forgotten
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Hero Ultra Velociti: Gone but not forgotten

Electric scooters aren’t a new thing, and here’s one of the few surviving examples from the first wave, over a decade ago 

Sirish Chandran

If the government is so keen on electric bikes why are the duties so high on batteries,” hollers Burjor Patel when I ask him about this e-scooter he bought for his daughter 12 years ago. That was the first wave of e-scooters, when a whole bunch of them mushroomed overnight and all over the place, and Hero Ultra sounded the most reliable to Burjor who wanted to try out the then-new technology. Small matter that the joint venture broke up very quickly and Ultra Motors’ own innings didn’t last very long either, leading to the irony or ironies — none of the electricals work on this electric scooter. “It has nothing to do with the wiring,” clarifies Burjor. “The company went bust so soon that no parts are available for it and the switchgear gave up the ghost a long, long time ago.”

I expect Burjor to curse the ownership experience but, surprisingly, he doesn’t regret not buying his daughter a Scooty. And that’s because the running costs are, “Next to nothing.” Whether he charges it or doesn’t his home electricity bill barely changes. And there’s no servicing cost either, except for afore-mentioned switches which aren’t available in any case. What is expensive is replacing the battery — costs him 11,000 bucks and has to be done every three years. “The government puts a 28 per cent tax on batteries because they are imported, but nobody makes batteries in India so what is the option? If the government is serious about adopting electric scooters they have to sort this out,” says Burjor who buys the battery from a hardware store in Pune that gives him a six month warranty on it.

Range? 50km when the battery is fresh and that reduces rapidly as the battery degrades.

Performance? The Velociti was one of the quicker e-scooters back then, the battery in this one is a year old right now, and it is… dreadfully slow. All that instant torque of an electric motor is nowhere to be found. There isn’t the space or the capacity to lug two adults of my size. And it tops off at 30 or 35kmph which is plain hazardous on our roads. As for the suspension, it is practically non-existent and I dare not lean this thing over.

As for the environmental cost, better not to ask! This is a lead acid battery (not lithium-ion) and he has to replace it every three years. So much for being eco-friendly. Why aren’t the greenies throwing a hissy-fit over this?

So why doesn’t Burjor throw this away? That’s actually the problem — he will have to throw it away. The last time he checked, he was offered… 500 bucks for it. That’s his price for being an early adopter.