The Kinetic Green eLuna is the EV successor to the original Kinetic Luna
The Kinetic Green eLuna is the EV successor to the original Kinetic LunaKinetic Green

“The eLuna is India’s only EV designed for Bharat.” We talk to Sulajja Firodia Motwani about the new eLuna and the future of the newly-rebranded Kinetic Green

The Luna is back, but it’s an EV! Sulajja Firodia Motwani talks about the eLuna and its place in the growing EV market

The original Luna is one of the all-time greats of Indian automotive history. Now, it’s coming back in a new electric avatar. Furthermore, what was once Kinetic is now Kinetic Green. We talk to Ms Sulajja Firodia Motwani about the new Kinetic Green eLuna, and how it hopes to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps.

Sulajja Firodia Motwani: We are very excited. This conversation that we're having today is really a precursor. It’s a very exciting, exclusive piece talking about the Kin eLuna by Kinetic Green. In February, we are launching our eLuna nationally, and this will give you some information about the product and the strategy. The idea is to start telling people that this product is coming and generate some excitement and curiosity. So really, it's a pre-launch conversation. Why are we excited about eLuna? I’ll tell you a little bit about the product and then about the strategy and where it fits into the EV space. As a product, we are very proud to say that it is fully made in India, and it's completely designed in-house at Kinetic Green, engineered at Kinetic Green, and fully developed with all the local supply bases in the country. 

In fact, a large part of the critical aggregates are also designed and manufactured within our group itself. Kinetic engineering is making the chassis, which is the main styling element of the vehicle, and also the transmission. It's a chain drive, something a mechanic anywhere in the country can easily repair. Even the gearbox is made at Kinetic Engineering. At Kinetic Communications, which is the electronics expert of the group, we have made the controller, the converter, as well as the DC-DC digital cluster. So, all the electronics are made at Kinetic Communications. They are also our supply partners for our three-wheelers, scooter electronics, and one of the leading companies in this space.

Kinetic Communications has its own SMT factory, so they're also printing the PCBs. The entire controller is designed and manufactured at Kinetic Communications. The motor is made at Kinetic Electric Motor Company, which is one of the leading traction motor companies. So, the whole powertrain is designed and integrated at Kinetic Group. The battery we are currently buying locally, but it's being bought outside the group. It's bought from Cygni, and they are our main partners for the battery. But the battery is built to our SOR in terms of the cell selection, BMS selection, the specifications, and the design. So a large part of the technology within the eLuna is controlled in addition to the design. 

I'll tell you a little bit about how the product is made. It's not a product, it's a platform that we've designed. It's a very modular kind of a concept, something where we feel that we can build not one but multiple variants on this platform. You can think about it as an electric MUV. If you see cars now, there is a lot of excitement about people moving from sedans to SUVs and MUVs and we think that electric eLuna is the first MUV that is coming up. The vehicle is designed for both personal and commercial use and we will have variants which will have both applications. The personal use vehicles will have diecast wheels, a complete long seat, very cute styling and maybe a smaller battery for about 80 km range. It will serve well as a small town commuter. 

The commercial based product which we are currently launching has a spoked wheel. So again, very easy and usable in rural markets. It will also have a second seat which is removable and becomes a platform. You could call it a ‘chalta-firta dukaan.’ It could become a pani puri stall, a momo stall, a platform for delivery for vegetables, eggs, whatever. In fact, it can fit eight big basket crates, so it’s very well designed for the gig economy. There’s a lot of space at the back, on the sides, in the front, and in the footboard. In the future, we will also come up with a 3kWh battery which will have a 150km range.

Karan Ramgopal: And right now it is what? 

SFM: The 2 kWh battery has a 110km range. The 3kWh battery is 150km and it’s all in the same battery box. It is designed to be modular, so we can fit these form factors in the same battery box. The battery will also be swappable/detachable or you will be able to charge it on the vehicle itself. It’s a multi-variant strategy. We are also thinking about an export variant which will have a higher performance in terms of top speed, etc. The current eLuna is in the high speed category. It is already approved by ARAI and under FAME. It has a top speed of 50kmph, which we think is very good for this category and well optimised for the application. We are also working on a larger motor which will have a top speed of 65kmph. It is a mid-mount motor, not a hub motor. It’s very easy for repairing, changing the tires, punctures, etc. A few other things I will tell you is that it is (I think) India's only EV which is designed for Bharat. When I say Bharat, I mean both geographically and demographically. If you think about India, 85% of India is living outside Tier I and metro cities. They are in Tier II, Tier III cities and villages. 

Current EVs predominantly have hub motors, low ground clearance, and they are mostly scooter formats with a lot of plastic. They’re not so well designed for the kind of road conditions in smaller towns and rural areas. Whereas the eLuna has a large 16-inch wheel, it has a high ground clearance, it has a mid-mount motor, and it has a dual steel chassis, so it is very strong and sturdy and uses less plastic. It has durability and is long-lasting, which is one of the core factors of the eLuna. It's a very well designed vehicle for all geographies, all kinds of roads in the country. All the aggregates are IP67. Motor, controller, converter, cluster, battery, all are IP67-rated. They’re waterproof, dustproof, vibration proof, and a lot of room for air cooling is provided. In terms of temperature conditions, it is suitable for various Indian conditions.

We think that for this form factor, which is made for utility as well as personal commuting, 16-inch wheels work. I think there is a good amount of availability of spares considering that the XL is available everywhere in the country. And we have used a similar wheel size for the Luna in the past. I think it works for this category, providing the utility as well as the ground clearance that the vehicle needs. Some of the other features I can tell you about, though it is an affordable vehicle, it has a lot of safety features. It has a side stand sensor and a digital cluster. It has, of course, a combi brake system because it's under FAME. And then of course, all the grab rails, saree guard, auto lock, etc. 

KR: The brakes, are these disc brakes or drum brakes?

SFM: These are drum brakes because the top speed is 50kmph but it's a combi brake as per the same VR standard. It has strong braking and a telescopic hydraulic front suspension so it's very comfortable to ride as well. You must come and ride the vehicle. I know you're all auto buffs so you’ll love the ride. It’s very good suspension and good braking even if you're carrying a lot of material, and good ergonomics. We put in a lot of tech in this little product including another digital metre and all of these things, so that it looks smart, it has safety, it has comfort, it has well-optimised speed, and good utility. I think the modular under seat battery is a very unique and thoughtful thing. There's also a little glove box under the seat where there is space to carry things, which is not available in motorcycles typically. You can keep a tiffin or documents or whatever, so it's a combination of a lot of functionality and smartness. There is a unique double steel chassis which is exposed, so you can think of a KTM bike and how they have an exposed painted chassis. It's very smart from that point of view as well.

I was telling you that eLuna is designed for Bharat geographically but also demographically. If you think about all the high-speed EVs, keep aside the Chinese-assembled ones, they are typically close to one lakh and above. If you have to buy an ICE vehicle, you'll spend about Rs 3,000 on EMI and again another Rs 3,000 on fuel assuming one litre a day, so the total ownership cost of an ICE vehicle is close to Rs 6,000. If you look at India demographically, it has a 140 crore population. In this population, about 75 crores which is half the country is part of what we are calling the aspirers of India who are people earning between Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh a year. Above Rs 5 lakh would be middle class, and above Rs 30 lakhs would be rich, and below Rs 1.5 lakh would be the destitutes. 

So this Rs 1.5 to Rs 5 lakh chunk of India has, let’s say, a median income of Rs 20-25,000. After paying for roti, kapda, makaan, the necessities and everything, they have about Rs 2-3,000 for transport. These are your carpenter, pujari, thela wala, watchman, driver, office peon, the masses of India who are now trying to come up and participate in India’s Amrit Kaal. So they have Rs 2-3,000 thousand for transport. Because of the cost of the ICE vehicle, which is Rs 3,000 for EMI and Rs 3,000 for fuel, the TCO of Rs 6,000 they can't afford. Most of these people are typically using a bus or a cycle or a shared rickshaw. If you think about eLuna as an option for these people, the EMI will be around Rs 2,500, and there's no fuel cost because it's electric. That's the big idea of Luna, that it is a vehicle made for these aspirers of India who are first-time adopters. What the Luna did in the 70s was that it was a lot of people's first vehicle and gave them personal mobility. The eLuna has the same mass potential. We are looking at this vehicle being the first vehicle for all these people who are coming up, with an ability to use it for personal commuting as well as for their livelihood. No other ICE vehicle can do it. 

The eLuna is made for all those people of India who are trying to come up in life, trying to earn more, reach work faster, have a vehicle for work, livelihood, as well as for their family so I think that’s where it’s really going to come in. What the Luna did when it came was that it became a very popular first vehicle, with ‘Chal Meri Luna’ becoming an almost legendary line. I think eLuna has the same potential to be the first vehicle for these large aspirers. We'll bring back the brand memories, we'll build on that strength, and ensure that the vehicles are available, accessible, and affordable to everybody around the country.

KR: What price range are you looking at launching this at?

SFM: The price is something we're going to announce at the launch very soon, but I'll tell you that the eLuna will come at different price points so it will have a very affordable price point with a BATS (battery-at-the-service) option. At every kind of battery size, the price will be different. I think we'll be able to appeal to people as per their requirement and budget and I can only tell you that when the eLuna will come in the BATS format, that means without the battery, it will be India's most affordable two-wheeler. And, battery as a fuel will be much more affordable than petrol as a fuel. We are keeping in mind that economy is something that's important, and we want to fit within the budget bracket of those aspirers who are really the people that we are trying to bring mobility to.

KR: At launch, is this going to be only a commercial scooter and that will be followed up with the private scooter later, or will it be available as both from the start?

SFM: What we've already homologated under ARAI and FAME is the first version which is the two-seat livelihood format. The one with the full seat and the diecast wheels will follow very shortly, just within the next couple of months. It’s already going for homologation now.

KR: So basically, the commercial one first. 

SFM: Yeah, It's what we call the MUV –  the multi-utility commercial-cum-personal vehicle. It does have a full seat, the second seat you can remove if you want to.

KR: Coming back to the specs, you said the gearbox is also made in-house. By gearbox, do you mean it's a single-speed or does this have a proper transmission with multiple gears?

SFM: No, there's a reduction gear which gives torque using a smaller motor but there are no manual gears to be changed with the two-speed gearbox.

KR: In terms of electronics, are you going to give this riding modes or do you want to keep it as simple but utilitarian as possible?

SFM: The vehicle has three riding modes and the DTE is customised to each mode so the customer can see at each mode of riding what is the DT that they have. A large part of our customers will be economy-conscious so we want to educate them on how to maximise the range from the vehicle. So it's three modes – economy riding, city riding, and sport. There are five beautiful colours and the main styling element is the chassis. All are metallic colours – there's red, blue, black, golden, and green.

KR: And these same colours carry forward for the commercial variant as well or will that have different styling?

SFM: These are the colours we are introducing with the first variant and we'll have to think a little bit deeper about what we keep or what we add. What happens as you expand your variants you reduce the colours on each variant, because you can't have four variants and you know five colours each. That becomes impossible from the inventory point of view but we'll come in with the five and then probably keep each variant in three colours depending on what the customers like. Currently, we're coming with five metallic colours. The vehicle will come with a five-year warranty.

KR: This warranty is time bound or is it kilometre bound as well? 

SFM: Three years is standard and I think as per FAME, the minimum is 60,000km just from my memory. I'm not exactly sure, but the five-year warranty will be 90,000km.

KR: You have pretty much answered this question but still I'm gonna ask you, why the eLuna? Kinetic has had quite a few revolutionary products like the one that was made in partnership with Honda, like the 4S. One part of the puzzle where I do understand where you're talking about is the aspirational quality and the larger part of the democracy getting the Luna. But from the lifestyle point of view, why not consider something like electrifying the Kinetic or maybe even the Blaze?

SFM: So an e-scooter of course is in our product range and we are also going to be working on the scooter range. We have developed two platforms for these scooters within Kinetic Green. One is a 10-inch scooter platform and one is a 12-inch scooter platform and we are going to be bringing multiple products and variants on that. However, I think eLuna is something that we prioritise because we think it's very unique and we have the first mover advantage. Certainly, we have the Luna brand name strength. I think it is also a product whose time has come because e-mobility is now going from big cities into small towns. Because of its uniqueness and first mover advantage, we thought that this was a great segment to occupy. Kinetic knows frugal engineering very well, and we hope that we will be unbeatable at this game. In scooters, there will be much more competition and many more moving parts but eLuna is something which is, in my view, very distinguished and very unique.

KR: Are you saying there is a possibility to see a revival of other Kinetic nametags that have been iconic? 

SFM: I can't say definitively. I don't want to be speculative there. We did bring two scooters earlier, the Zing and Zoom, which were old names but it was just a coincidence. Now, we have a new brand called Zulu which we’ve just introduced. We are thinking of doing something like a Z series which is more your, let’s say, the 10-inch scooter based, sub one lakh scooters and an F series which will be the performance range. But we are still evolving the branding. 

KR: Are you at any given point of time looking at foraying into motorcycles as well? 

SFM: No, not really. I think the eLuna actually is a good entry point. In some ways, it's an e-bike because of the segments it serves. But it's a unique format. So no, no plans to be in the traditional motorcycle space. I think in electric, the form factors will start blending. I think there'll be a lot of change. So far, India has been very typical. There's a scooter and there's a motorcycle. But I think in cars, now the form factors are blending and there are so many ways of looking at a car whether it is a sedan, a sport coupe, then there's the SUV, the MUV, and all of these. So it's interesting to see what the motorcycle form factor is and which way it will evolve.

The Kinetic Green eLuna will aim to capitalise on the original Luna's name
The Kinetic Green eLuna will aim to capitalise on the original Luna's nameKinetic Green

I want to tell you that the old Luna, the original Luna campaign was done by O&M and Piyush Pandey – this was his first mega campaign. In fact, to date, ‘Chal Meri Luna’ is the first campaign in his showreel. I'm happy to say that their team is back on board. Their other agency is called 82.5 and they are our brand custodians, and they are developing the entire campaign for eLuna. I can assure you, it will bring back a lot of nostalgia with a lot of newness in it. So our campaign is planned which will roll out from February.

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