You all know it’s a fashion to talk about EVs these days. And it’s also a fact that despite so much hype, new technologies, increased interest among buyers, etc, the manufacturers continue to come up with mediocre products just to please the governments around the world, except some serious players like Tesla. But again, Tesla ruins it with unnecessary bells and whistles plus more-than-required reliance on computer and video-game like experience, with no buttons or switches even for simplest of things and forcing you to do everything on the humongous screen. Well, some people do like such things, but not everybody. And most of it is just plain unnecessary complications!
Anyway, this post is about one of the innovative and daring start-ups in the recent past in the auto industry, not just in India but in the whole world – Strom Motors – headquartered in Mumbai, India.
Who is Strom Motors
Strom Motors is an Indian automobile startup founded by Pratik Gupta (CEO), Jean-Luc Abaziou (strategy advisor), and Dr Gilmer Blankenship (technical advisor) in 2016 (parent company is E14 Technologies Pvt Ltd, founded in 2011/12). It is backed by Indian Angel Network (IAN) and is based in Mumbai, India.
Strom R3 is their first electric vehicle to be launched in Indian market. It’s a 3 wheeler in reverse-trike configuration, i.e, 2 wheels at the front and 1 at the back!
It’s a funky looking 2 seater (they will also offer a bench type seating for 3 seats in future) with a car-like experience.
Now, the first thing to ensure as a buyer is NOT to consider it a car, although the company refers to it as one. At the most, you need to consider it as an alternative to your 2-wheeler with added features like driving comfort, AC, balance, protection from sun and rain, etc. Why? Because it can seat only 2!
Why Strom R3 Will be Another e2o
I am not going to discuss much about the features, etc, here as this is more of an opinion from a common Indian buyer’s point-of-view rather than a technical or “Youtube expert” kind of review. And this will inevitably cover some of the features as well.
Fundamental Concept Issue
Like all of the existing manufacturers, Strom, too, believes that we don’t need bigger cars because “studies” suggest that average occupancy is 1.6! OK!
Not just because, say, average occupied area in a house is 4 sq feet, it doesn’t mean one has to live in a 4sq ft house always?! Especially in a country like India, where most of us can’t afford multiple vehicles (my 2nd car to drop kids to school, my 3rd car to bring groceries, my 4th car for my pet), and don’t have enough parking space, this logic doesn’t make sense no matter how many “studies” suggest it. Most of us can own only 1 car to serve all the purposes.
So, although your data and the actual issue is true, please don’t market your car with that statement – “average occupancy is 1.6”.
Just say “This is a small car which is a perfect alternative to 2-wheelers for city use”
Although 2 – 3 years ago, they had claimed that this would be priced around 3 lakhs, by the time they are ready to launch, it’s gone well over 4 lakhs.
Again, an average Indian city dweller would think – “If I can add 2-3 lakhs, I can buy a 5-seater, good petrol car”.
Environment and all is fine, but we also need to think about long-term durability, usability, resale value, etc.
3 lakhs would have been a sweet spot now when most of the good 2-wheelers cost about 1 lakh
Let us discount for a second the above issue of cost. Even if one is ready to purchase it at 4-5 lakhs, they have offered a GENEROUS warranty of FIFTEEEEEN THOUSAND kms or 1 YEAR “whichever is earlier”. They also claim, in the same breathe, that their battery has an expected lifespan of 100,000 kms! And they also claim that all of their parts, including battery, are top-notch and sourced from good suppliers.
Then why are you scared to offer a PROPER warranty, considering that you are a new brand, with a super new type of vehicle, and an EV, in a price-sensitive market?
The warranty should have been at least 3 years and 30k kms for the full vehicle. OR AT LEAST for the battery! If you don’t have confidence in your own product, then why should we trust you and pay you 4+ lakh rupees? Even crap Chinese phones these days offer 2 years warranty!
Their design hasn’t changed a bit from the unveiling day! There have been thousands of comments about the design, but I guess they just don’t want to listen. You may ignore everything else as it is a new type of vehicle, but the front bumper portion looks really crappy.
For some reason, the so-called sunroof cannot be closed. Not sure how they thought it’s a great idea. And if it’s plain glass, then tolerating the intense afternoon sun in this vehicle is going to be a challenge. You say there is AC? Still, not a great idea. And not to mention the annoying feeling as you may not be able to see properly due to the glare, if any. But yes, this can be fixed with simple jugaads, so it’s not a big issue.
There are these functional issues. A lot of us may like it, and maybe I don’t because I am old-school, but I don’t know what’s the need to make everything touch-based these days. Even simple things are being complicated. What’s the harm in having a button, a switch or things like that for important stuff just in case the touchscreen or software fails?
Strom has mentioned that even the AC will be operated by touchscreen or voice command. And I am sure there will be almost everything linked to the touchscreens (3 of them!!!). “Smart” doesn’t mean everything has to be connected to software, please. Sometimes even ‘simple’ can be ‘smart’ and ‘cool’. Well, can’t crib about that too much as that’s what people love these days. An ‘app’ for everything under the sun.
There has been absolutely no communication by these guys throughout the last 3 years of development even though there are/were many enthusiasts passionately following them and wanting to know about Strom R-3. That’s fine, as it’s important to invest time in developing the product than talking about it. But, you should communicate and clarify things that have changed now from what you advertised earlier. For example, it was mentioned that they had tied up with what3words for navigation. But now it has changed to Google Maps and there is no communication as to why this change happened, the thought behind it, etc. Communications like this will just keep the followers interested and informed, but if you don’t, they will gradually lose interest in your product.
For products like this to kick off, you need to build a community of enthusiasts. Because at the end of the day, only those people are going to buy this – EV enthusiasts, green mobility freaks, etc.
The colours revealed a few months ago were great, especially the blue and red here. Within a couple of months, new pictures emerge with funny looking blue and red – they look weird. Please check their website as I am not sure if we are allowed to use screenshots.
After all this, anybody interested in the product, and who have been following the company for 3+ years will lose interest, and will think this is yet another EV in the Indian market who don’t really want to achieve anything in the long-term, not going to be serious about their own product, and not going to provide good after-sales service.
e2o of 2020
When I look at all this and compare with the Mahindra e2o, I feel Strom R3 is going to be the e2o of 2020. And if some company like Mahindra buy it off as they did to Reva, then it’s definitely doomed.
One silver lining with this product is that they seem to be aware of the fact that it’s not going to take off great with individual buyers, so they already have a strategy to market it to 2 different segments – individual buyers and ride sharing services. I think they should push this more for last-mile usage and park it in airports, metro stations, etc, first to develop curiosity and interest in the individual buyers.
Before they market it to a wider market of individual buyers, they should make sure that their low-range models are available (120 km and 160 km) and price it as low as possible so that the individual buyers who are on the fence get to experience the vehicle.
Suggestions for wide adoption of Strom R3
Since there is still time for the launch, it would be great if they could make these changes
- Give a meaningful warranty that doesn’t sound like a joke – at least 2 years for other parts and 3 years and 30,000 km for the battery would be well balanced
- Keep the price as low as possible and not more than Rs. 4.5 lakh (incl GST) for the 200km variant
- Good service plans without allowing dealers to loot us
- If possible, offer a lease plan (not a crappy and expensive lease plan like Ather) charging per km of ride plus a fixed monthly fee. This will encourage even those to buy this vehicle who don’t travel frequently or long distance. They will be happy to pay a 1 lakh deposit, and pay a monthly charge based on the distance travelled!
- Don’t create confusing and weird ‘subscriptions’ like Ather. Less the recurring cost, the better. Otherwise, the selling point of ‘EVs cost less in the long run’ will lose its meaning if we have to pay the same amount for the so-called ‘updates’, ‘navigation’, ‘fast charging’ (put up in the basement of a mall or inside a cafeteria compound!!) etc subscriptions as would pay for petrol!
- Make it clear when will the features marked as ‘future’ be available (automatic vehicle following system, etc)
If you would like to learn more about the company and the product, check out this detailed QnA done by PluginIndia.