Designed and made in Nepal
Ashim Pandey, 30, used to be fascinated with motorcycles while growing up in Kathmandu. He wondered why Nepal could not make its own two-wheelers. Then, after working on his master's degree from Netherland's Delft University of Technology and working at the automobile company Donkervoort, he did not just narrow his vision to designing an electric motorcycle, but also assembling it in Nepal.
He returned to Nepal in 2017, and set up Yatri Motorcyles and ‘Project Zero’ – for zero carbon emitted by a battery-powered bike. The prototype bike was launched last week by its seven-member team in Kathmandu.
"In Holland, I learnt how to manufacture cars," recalls Pandey. “Here we design the parts, and order them from our manufacturing partners in North America, China, India and other European countries.”
Pandey designed the chassis of the motorcycle, which looks boxier than gasoline bikes, but has a futuristic silhouette. Mechanical engineer Ashesh Shrestha planned the bike’s tests, and system engineer Sulabh Shrestha designed the embedded software. Computer Science graduate Sarthak Sharma is an application developer, and electronic engineer Krishna Shrestha designed the overall architecture. Batsal Pandey heads business development.
Industrial designer Kanisha Suwal designed the motorcycle, based on a Café Racer bike, and came up with a model that looks like a racing bike. "It is trendy, but also convenient and versatile design for users," says Suwal.
Yatri motorcycles is using lighter materials like carbon fibre for the mainframe than petroleum bikes to offset the weight of the lithium batteries. They also make the bike stronger and lighter, but alas, also little more expensive.
The battery array can be fully charged in about two hours, and will then run for 230 km, which will cost only Rs70 worth of electricity. A similar petrol bike would cost Rs700 in fuel to cover that distance.
Pandey hopes that the world-class design and finish of the machines will help remove the negative image customers have of Nepali products. Safety is another primary concern, and the machines will be tested according to Final Element Analysis before they hit the market, and are expected to last ten years.
"We have kept safety, sensitivity, and possible accidents in mind while designing the motorcycle, and want the bikes to be as reliable as possible, riders will not have to compromise on anything," says Pandey.
In 2018, Yatri motorcycles conducted a survey in Nepal's major cities about transportation problems. Most had ticked 'pollution', 'traffic jams' and ‘cost of fuel’ as major concerns. That convinced Pandey that the future for two-wheelers was electric. Replacing even a fraction of the 800,000 motorcyles in Kathmandu would reduce carbon monoxide and other pollutants from the air, as well as lessen the import of petrol.
However, it is not all easy going in Nepal, Pandey says. There are obstacles every step of the way. For example, although electric vehicles in Nepal are only taxed up to 10%, the components that Yatri imports for its bikes are categorised as spare parts and taxed at 30%. There is also minimal government support and incentives.
However, it is when the going gets tough that the tough get going, and Pandey and his team want to set up an assembly line ans ramp up the production volume as soon as the prototype proves itself in tests on Nepal’s roads.