The current crop of electric two-wheelers sold in the country clearly fall short of expectations. None of them with the exception of Ather 450 have managed to come close to delivering the experience of a regular two-wheeler. But then, the 450 is a already an extremely niche product that comes with an expensive sticker and the body of a scooter. It is as functional as a Nissan Leaf but not cool enough as a Tesla Model S, for example. But now, a Bengaluru based startup, lead by Narayan Subramaniam and Niraj Rajmohan is here to make a dent in the universe. And their weapon of choice is a motorcycle that seems to be sharp enough to draw blood not only in terms of the specs but the design too. Ladies and gentleman, behold the Ultraviolette F77; a Made in India (proudly) motorcycle that is ambitious enough to take on the Americans (read Zero Motorcycles). And if you aren’t already bowled over by the looks, read further on to find out what the fuss around the F77 is all about.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
Work began on the F77 back in 2016 and it is astonishing to see what the team has managed to cook up within such a short timeframe. A small tête-à-tête with Akshay Kamthe, Senior Designer at the launch event suggested that the F77 is a new product from the ground up. Obviously, the cells are imported but the modular battery pack is completely designed in India. And Ultraviolette claims that it is one of the most dense battery packs currently available on earth. Each module (1.5kWh x 3) weighs about 8kg and can be charged individually using intelligently designed pods. You can also purchase individual modules for additional range. The 4.5kWh battery (4.2kWh available to use) offers a range of 130-150km in real world conditions, claims the company. And that’s without compromising on the performance, unlike other mainstream electric two-wheelers on sale in the country. The claimed figure of 0-100kmph is quite impressive too at 7sec, making it almost as quick the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. The top speed is rated at 147kmph which is on par with the BMW G 310 R. The weight too is similar to the G 310 R at 158kg. The current weight distribution is 49:51 (front:rear) but the team is still evaluating the architecture and things are expected to change slightly on the final production model. Ultraviolette hasn’t skimmed on the components either and the F77 comes with top shelf equipment. The brakes are sourced are Bybre for example and can also be found on the KTM 390 Duke. The rear monoshock too is picked from KTM’s inventory but is expected to be changed on the production model.
Like all other electric vehicles, the F77 too gets a lot of connectivity features. It comes with a built-in LTE SIM card that allows for several modules including communication between the batteries and Ultraviolette’s servers for easy traceability and replacement of batteries, making it completely future proof.
I was already impressed by the design at the launch that was held indoors in a fancy hotel in Bengaluru. But seeing the F77 on the track really blew me away. The design is awe inspiring and the F77 seems to have been teleported straight from City 17 found in Half-Life video game. The design team deserves a pat on the back for what they have achieved in terms of form without losing on the functional bits. Think of the F77 as a cross between the Tron Motorcycle and KTM 1290 Super Duke. It may not seem slick in the pictures but in the flesh, it is simply mind blowing.
We barely spent about 12 minutes at the Madras Motor Race Track near Chennai astride the Ultraviolette F77 but initial impressions seem to be really promising. The ergos are almost spot on for someone with my physique (almost 6ft tall, heavy built) although I would have liked wider bars and somewhat extra space for my bottom. We could not test the unhinged Insane mode owing to battery restrictions (yet to be sealed) and had to make do with the Sport mode.
Unlike other electric two-wheelers I have tested so far, the F77 come with a chain drive. It is somewhat noisy but the delivery seems very familiar. The progress is quick till 60kmph after which it becomes slightly lazy but that does not mean its slow. Not at all. I could hit 130kmph on the main straight before slowing down for C2 but there was a lot more grunt left in the motor. Initial impressions are that of a very tractable motor, especially at low speeds which would make it extremely potent in urban conditions. Aided by its agility we believe the F77 would turn out to be a hoot to slice through traffic.
Yes, the agility is very-KTM like (again) owing to exactly the same wheelbase and rake angle (23.5deg) as the RC 390. The front-end is super duper sharp but the rear is extremely soft. The end result was a very wobbly ride through corners at MMRT, especially with my body weight to lug around. The engineers said that the monoshock is to be blamed. But fret not, it is expected to be replaced with a bespoke shock before the F77 goes into production.
The braking too is extremely sharp and impressive with the F77 coming to a halt without any dramas. ABS was not active on the test bikes as Continental is yet to calibrate the system for the F77, claimed the Ultraviolette team.
Dent in the universe?
Mind you, the F77s that we rode are pre-production models and thus they were plagued with a lot of teething issues. The bike conked off on several occasions during the ride while the instrument cluster too was not running up to standard. The switchgear was yet to be sourced and thus the bikes were plonked with a carryover from other ICE powered bike. We couldn’t test even half of the features as Ultraviolette had promised at the launch owing to the issue. But mind you, these issues are expected to be taken care of before the deliveries begin in October 2020.
Considering that the bike’s been in the making only for three years, the result is quite commendable. The bookings are open though and the operations are expected to begin in Ultraviolette’s homeground - Bengaluru. The range starts at Rs 3 lakh and goes on up to Rs 3.25 lakh, on-road. Ultraviolette is also offering optional accessories including Brembo monoblocs, adjustable Brembo levers and Pirelli Supercorsas. They clearly have the 200 to 300cc motorcycles in the crosshairs and the F77 is at par when it comes to performance. The range is still a question mark but with the choice of optional battery module and portable fast chargers, it’ll be taken care of they promise. And if the claims are to be believed, we have something that is sure to make electric motorcycles desirable. In layman’s terms, the Ultraviolette F77 is clearly a game-changer.