Chinese green vehicle technology is in the spotlight at the moment with China’s EV sales seeing a significant boost in 2015, but the interest in the Evoke Electric Motorcycle has everything to do with style and almost nothing to do with green tech.
“Nobody comes into it looking at the environmental aspect” is how Nathan Siy, founder and CEO of Evoke Electric Motorcycles, a Beijing-based developer and manufacturer of next-generation electric motorcycles, responds to whether or not the environmental angle is attracting customers. “It’s stylish, it’s status and it’s cool, and when we finalize our smart stuff, it’s going to be smart connected.”
By teaming up with Link Motion, a developer of in-car infotainment systems, Evoke Motorcycles is putting the finishing touches on what Siy is calling the world’s first smart electric motorcycle.
So what makes this new e-motorcycle “smart”? A dash-mounted 10-inch display inspired by Tesla Motors’ touchscreen interface will include navigation details and critical information about the motorcycle, including range calculations.
Features include a crash notification system that will send an automatic SMS if the motorcycle senses that the rider has gone down violently and a social function that will allow users to find other Evoke riders in their area with the switch of a button.
“From a business angle, we want to be able to target new riders. We’re going to be able to do that by spinning it into a gadget,” says Siy, whose background in electronics and history of guiding electric bike tours around Beijing make him an expert on his product.
Evoke was founded by Siy in Beijing in 2014 when what was originally simply a passion for building and riding e-motorcycles turned into a business. All the investment in the company comes solely from its development team — a mix of foreigners with long experience working in China and local Chinese.
Currently, Evoke’s customers are about 50% foreign nationals living around China, a market Siy says they are best suited to target with his current team’s makeup, but he says bringing the right local Chinese knowhow and investment into the business to scale their market for Asia is the next goal.
China leads the world in e-motorcycle and e-scooter sales with Navigant Research estimating that 9.4 million of the 12 million e-scooters sold in 2013 were sold in China, positioning Evoke in a strong growth market.
Sebastian Chrobok, Director of Market Development at Evoke, says they are in discussion with e-commerce giant JD.com to sell Evoke products on JD’s platform. Others expressing interest in the product, according to Chrobok, include a variety of players in Europe and the US and even former NBA star Stephon Marbury, who now lives in Beijing and plays in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Working with JD.com has the potential to go beyond sales. The potential of a partnership with JD can be seen in the massive success of Chinese e-scooter brand Niu N1 that recently held a crowdfunding campaign via JD’s crowdfunding platform. Chrobok says they will look to start in sales with JD, but might look to crowdfunding at a later date.
The Niu N1 probably represents Evoke’s most high-profile competitor in China. Offered at a significantly lower price point, Niu’s e-scooter is a far more affordable option, but has a more limited speed and range. Unlike Evoke it is not a motorcycle and is not marketed as the same lifestyle status symbol that Evoke products are.
Foreign players entering the e-motorcycle market outside of China include Yamaha, BMW and Harley Davidson. These manufacturers are developing very high powered e-motorcycles – something that translates into a much higher price point. Evoke is trying to hit a middle ground of affordability and power, something Siy hopes will make their product the more accessible option to new or first-time motorcyclists.
“We understand motorcycling is not for everybody, but it can be for more people,” says Siy. “People want something cool, and they want something fashionable that they can ride.”
The smart technology addition to Evoke’s product line should serve to attract more of the tech-savvy urbanite market who may not already be a part of traditional motorcycle culture, and Siy is hoping what he calls a receptiveness to new technology in China will makes this country the ideal market to build the business.
The Evoke “Urban-S” Electric Motorcycle can do zero to 100km per hour in six seconds with a top speed of 130km per hour and the Lithium-Cobalt battery has a 170km range and a four-hour charge time. Charging stations are not required. The motorcycle can simply be plugged into a power socket.
Each E-motorcycle is handmade by the team at Evoke in Beijing with orders taking sixty days from date of order to delivery. The rollout for Evoke’s new smart-capable electric motorcycle is April 2016. Models start at around RMB 39,000.
(All photos are provided Evoke Electric Motorcycles. Copy rights reserved.)