Atypical EV start-up: Tork Motors

Unlike other EV startups, Tork Motors is not relying on exaggerated claims and excessive hype to start their business.

Economy of Attention

Brand-new, unproven electric vehicle start-ups often make bold claims about their production capacities, even reaching millions of people on social media. This has practically become the norm. Simple Energy, situated in Bengaluru, is discussing the establishment of two production plants: one capable of producing one million units, and the other of producing one million units and twelve million units, respectively. As of right now, Simple has not shipped any scooters.

Similarly, Ola Electric’s massive numbers and well-promised plans have already made a lot of headlines. However, as of February 2, 2022, a mere six months following its debut, there were only 1,397 Ola scooters registered nationwide. Except for Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Lakshadweep, which are not yet on Vahan 4, this information is taken from the Parivahan government portal. In spite of this, the founder of the business has already started to tease new investors with an electric car teaser on Twitter.

Here’s where Tork Motors shines, keeping its focus on a flawless product launch and exuding a refreshing sense of humility. There are no promises of market disruption or stratospheric production capacities from the company’s founder, Kapil Shelke. At its current location in Bhosari, Pune, the company operates a pilot line that can currently handle 500 units per month.

By April, as promised, Tork hopes to have a new production line in Chakan operational and ready for deliveries to start. The plant’s monthly capacity of 4,000 units is still high, but much more reasonable for a recently established start-up.

Tork’s Difficult History

It’s possible that this prudent strategy is an example of “once bitten, twice shy,” as many people will recall Tork’s 2016 debut of the T6X motorcycle. This machine had a realistic set of specifications, a price tag, and it looked remarkably production ready. Bookings were open, and deliveries were scheduled to start in April 2017, according to our 2016 report. But Tork was silent for what felt like an eternity.

“We were naive with the T6X,” Shelke acknowledges. The T6X concept originated with the release of a prototype. In order to determine how many people would be interested, I wanted to present something that appeared realistic and get feedback from customers. However, the message that was sent out stated, “This is what we have created, and we wish to sell it.” Production was planned, but it had a 24- to 36-month lead time.

This would have been unacceptable for any other business, but Tork’s track record of racing at the Isle of Man TT in 2009 gave it a legitimacy that most other startups can only aspire to. It was obvious that this was a group of driven, exceptionally skilled engineers rather than just a business looking to profit from the impending e-mobility trend. There were hints of hope, such as Ratan Tata’s intention to invest in the company in 2019, but then the pandemic struck.

COVID-19 had a significant impact on all manufacturers, but especially on startups. Funding is a major obstacle for any new business, and Tork was obviously having trouble with it. However, six years after the initial delivery date that was promised, Tork appears ready to fulfill its commitments, especially with the support of Bharat Forge, the company’s 49 percent owner.

Present-Day Tork

Visually and even down to the chassis, the new Kratos and Kratos R differ greatly from the T6X. Additionally, they guarantee increased battery capacity and power/torque. Although the Kratos electric motorcycle’s performance and range aren’t particularly impressive, you can read more about it here. In summary, this bike produces very respectable results.

As per Shelke, the Kratos is expected to possess superior quality and dependability in comparison to its competitors with Chinese origins. The bike was created entirely in India by ardent motorcycle enthusiasts who are acutely aware of the difficulties presented by our natural surroundings.

The BMS, motor controller, and axial-flux motor on the Kratos are all internally developed. The only foreign-sourced components are the usual offenders, such as chips, connectors, and battery cells (from South Korea), which are currently lacking a manufacturing base in India.

Despite facing numerous setbacks with its motorcycle project, Tork managed to secure a bright spot when it started supplying motors to Indian manufacturers of three-wheeler EVs. Although Shelke would not identify them, he did state that Tork currently supplies three OEMs and is in discussions with two more.

Sales and charging network for Tork Motors

In comparison to the Rs 1.25 lakh that was quoted in 2016, the Tork Kratos’ pricing is likewise comparable (if not lower in some states) thanks to FAME II and state-level subsidies.

Conventional dealerships will be the sales channel, with Pune serving as the launchpad. The goal is to reach seven cities by the end of the year, starting with Bengaluru after demand in Pune is satisfied. In addition, Tork intends to establish a network of about fifty chargers at riding locations close to Pune. The company promises a service-at-home facility as one way to differentiate itself in the service sector.

Perhaps even more difficult than creating the product itself is scaling up and successfully launching a new one, and Tork still has a lot of work ahead of it. However, the business is currently adopting a cautious, unwavering strategy that was last observed with Ather Energy a few years ago. Although it’s a long game, in the startup world where gaining customers’ trust is crucial, this is probably the smartest one.

Watch for our reviews as we intend to ride the Tork Kratos by the middle of February.

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