Usually, concept vehicles are for the eyes only. However, 12 years ago I had the opportunity to ride the TVS Qube, an interesting hybrid scooter concept by TVS Motor Company. That memory got refreshed when I rode the OEM’s full-electric iQube scooter launched on January 25 this year.
The iQube marks the beginning of TVS’ electric mobility journey. Positioned as an urban family scooter, the electric vehicle (EV) tries to ride the middle path between practicality and performance. Elements like full LED lights, connected technology offering multiple features, and a swift noise-free acceleration give the iQube the EV character, while a wide seat with decent storage space underneath and ample leg space lend it the practicality of a ‘family scooter’.
The iQube doesn’t have that edge-of-the-seat performance, but it’s not boring either. Top speed is capped at 78kph. That’s a tad more than the scooter’s maximum riding range of 75 kilometres on a single charge in 'economy' mode, where the maximum speed is 45kph. Switch to ‘power’ mode, even on the fly, and the ride turns more interesting albeit range drops to 55km. We found the ride experience good because even in economy mode there was no drop in performance because the initial acceleration curve is similar in both riding modes. The difference is mainly in the top speed for both.
The engineering team chose this option even though there can be an argument in favour of a significantly higher riding range for the iQube with a lower performance level in the ‘economy’ mode. “At 30kph, we can also claim a big number (of riding range) but we are not into that game of claiming big numbers because nobody can ride constantly just at 30kph. The city traffic will not allow you to and it is also boring,” Vinay Harne, president – NPD, TVS Motor, tells Autocar Professional.
Partly localised, more scope
The iQube is run by a BLDC (Brushless DC) hub-mounted traction motor with a peak power output of 4.4 kW. The motor is supplied by Bosch while the battery cells come from LG. The battery and the BMS (battery management system) are designed and made in-house at the Hosur plant. There are three battery packs of 8kg each with aluminium extrusion casing in the iQube, distributed between the floorboard and the bay below the seat. The iQube’s underseat bay size is 18 litres compared to 21 litres in the Jupiter. Warranty for the battery pack, the most expensive part of an EV, stands at 50,000km or three years, whichever is earlier. Based on the data derived from its experience of making and selling scooters, TVS Motor says the average annual riding of the volume scooter segment stands at around 10,000 kilometres. And going by the average riding cycle, the company claims that a fully charged battery will be good for at least two days of riding in the iQube, before it asks for a recharge.
The iQube comes along with a compact charging box, which will be installed by TVS at the customer's preferred charging location. It’s RFID-enabled for security and safety. While a 0-80 percent charge takes around five hours, the remaining 20 percent takes another three hours.
An EV can offer more than just zero tailpipe emission and a silent ride/drive experience. It can offer some smart-tech features too. That’s what TVS Motor does with the iQube. Along with taking the connected instrument cluster story, which started with the NTorq two years ago, the iQube offers close to 60 different connected features in its TFT cluster and a smartphone application. Key among them are battery charge status, geo-fencing, turn-by-turn navigation, live vehicle tracking. There's also a ‘Q-Park assist’ feature that assists the rider in reversing out of a parking spot, or get into one at a capped speed of 2kph. Depending on the riding conditions, the regenerative braking kicks in, if the battery SOC is below 90 percent. Six microcontrollers in the iQube work at a speed of up to one-thousandth of a second, and there are 33 sensors in the scooter.
Overall, the iQube is an EV that stands apart in the scooter market for more than just the powertrain. In fact, it is an indicator of what, perhaps, the future of the scooter market could be. It’s also the start of a new chapter for TVS Motor. Though the iQube project started nearly four years ago, the root of the iQube lies in the Qube hybrid concept.
The journey ahead
In the near future, there will be multiple products in the e-mobility space from TVS. They would include hybrids too, and one of them may debut soon. It has already conducted tests with its hybrid concept earlier, which also contributed to the development of the iQube. “Hybrid is even now very meaningful if you want to get 25, 30 percent economy improvement, and future CO2 regulations will be an important topic to see,” says Harne.
For now, the iQube is a product with which TVS is looking more at seeding the EV market and gaining an understanding rather than volumes. Given the current charging ecosystem and the cost levels of producing an EV (iQube retails for Rs 115,000), hoping for big volumes is not realistic either. Bangalore is where TVS Motor starts its EV journey from and eventually it will look at a larger India presence with a portfolio of EVs. With the entry of large OEMs like TVS Motor and Bajaj Auto, the electric two-wheeler industry in India may lead to more consumers warming up to the idea, which in turn could provide a new charge to the Indian electric two-wheeler industry, including the supply chain.