With their new smart-enabled scooters and sleek vehicle designs, Japanese company Terra Motors delivers Jetson’s-level transit tech that’s as elegant as it is efficient. And as high fuel costs and environmental concerns plague Asia’s drivers, Terra’s making clean energy the smart choice––and the cool one.
“We need…beautiful design to change people’s perception toward e-bikes in Asian market,” writes Tetsuya Ohashi, public relations manager for Terra Motors in an email to Red Herring. “When it comes to electric vehicle in Asia, a lot of people imagine Chinese e-bike. It is cheap but low quality, power, bad design etc…then it didn’t change people’s lifestyle from gasoline vehicle to electric vehicle in Asia so far.”
For Asian drivers, a lifestyle change may be in order. According to Ohashi, 17,000 people per year die of air pollution-related diseases in Vietnam. And besides environmental issues, gas-powered vehicles also fuel dependence on petrol––which can cost upwards of $6 a gallon in Japan.
Concentrating on Asian markets, Terra plans to sell 100,000 of their new A4000i models, unveiled last week, by the end of 2015. The e-scooter, equipped with smartphone capabilities, lets drivers dock their iPhones in the bike’s dash where it can track speed, battery life and other data via wireless connection. Priced at $4,500, the A4000i saves drivers cash on gas; and with battery life listed at 50,000 km (about 31,000 miles), Terra promises it’ll outlast alternatives on the market by a longshot.
“Our originality is battery. Its lifetime is about 5 times longer than others,” Ohashi writes. “So customers don’t need to care about battery exchanging so much.”
Multiple aspects of city life make e-bikes and scooters an appealing alternative to cars and other gas-guzzling vehicles in Asia. They’re perfect for short-range trips (the A4000i gets around 31 miles per charged battery); they cut down transit-produced air pollution; and they’re priced right for the middle class urbanite.
“Depends on how long and how often you ride in a year,” Ohashi writes. “But we could say the cost of e-scooter usage is approximately 1/10 cheaper [than] gasoline motorcycle.”
Today, eighty percent of global sales for gas-powered motorcycles come from Asia. While droves of drivers have already turned to EV to save money on fuel, there are those who became disenchanted with cheap models that broke down when e-bikes first flooded the market.
“Though Chinese electric scooters have competitiveness in the prices, the quality is poor and maintenance network is not organized,” Ohashi writes. “That`s why the sales of Chinese electric scooters shrunk rapidly in South-Asian market.”
With so many riding bikes, tuk-tuk trikes and scooters, Terra saw an opportunity to create and sell vehicles drivers could trust not to die on them. Their company promise to stay on-call for after-sales support also set them apart. And with specific consideration for Asia’s transportation challenges, Terra is now poised to become the name in two-and-three-wheel EV.
They’re also gunning for credibility, as Terra looks to establish a reputation equal to other giants in the energy market. “[We] aim for the same positions in the electric two-wheelers industry as Tesla Motors in the electric automotive industry,” Ohashi writes.
While the company claims it’s number one in providing electric scooters in Japan, it’s also taking steps to ensure its preeminence in Southeast Asian markets.
Currently, 3.5 million gas-powered trikes and motorcycles crowd roads in the Philippines. To trim that number, the Asian Development Bank loaned the government $300 million to mobilize 100,000 e-trikes by 2016. And while the jury’s still out whether Terra’s got the job, the company’s presence in the Philippines and their futuristic tuk-tuk design can’t hurt.
“Bidding will be concluded after two month. There are ten candidate, and three will be chosen for the project,” writes Ohashi. “We are optimistic about the bidding, as we are the only manufacturer of electric vehicle within candidates.”
Years ago, firms jumped the gun in making electric transport cheap. What EV used to lack in after-sales service (including access to parts and support), Terra will provide, ensuring e-bikes and trikes get talked about for the right reasons. Now, Terra vehicles hope to give EV a good name and may end up paving the way for future electric transit in Asia.