2019 has seen a lot of electric vehicle launches so far but even now there are apprehensions about their usability. We spend a few days with the Ampere Zeal to find out if it can replace a conventional scooter.
Over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about India going electric. In 2017, transport minister Nitin Gadkari shocked the automobile industry by announcing a 100% shift to electric vehicles by 2030. This did come as a surprise, especially given that countries like France and UK hope to phase out internal combustion engines by 2040. The government eventually realised the overambitious target, and revised the number to 30 percent. In fact, the government has proposed a complete shift of two-wheelers below 150cc to electric by 2025. Will India achieve this target is a question only time will answer but there’s no denying that the vision of an electric future is clearer now than it has ever been.
It has been raining electric vehicles so far this year and fortunately a lot of the products are well within reach. We have with us today, the Ampere Zeal. We are going to live with it for the next few days to bring you the answers of some key questions.
- How does it look?
The Zeal gets a muscular design with a large front-end that houses a V-shaped headlight that is reminiscent of the old Honda Dio. The front apron extending along the sides and the neatly carved out mud-guard add to the bulky appeal. The seat is long and comfortable for two on board and the large grab rail makes it easy to grip. There’s ample of space on the footboard too. The Zeal also has a small front glove box for storing knick-knacks – unlike some other scooters, this one doesn’t intrude into the leg space. The taillamp is large and is accompanied by wrap around turn indicators. Overall, Ampere has taken a very conservative approach to the Zeal’s design and it doesn’t quite look fresh.
The scooter doesn’t rank very high in the quality department either. Body panels don’t seem very sturdily built and may not endure the test of time very well. Switchgear could have been of better quality too. Although there is a full digital display for the instrument cluster, it only shows limited information like speed, battery capacity and some tell-tale lights.
- What powers the Zeal?
The Ampere Zeal is powered by a 60V/30Ah battery that sends power to a 1200W BLDC motor hub. This hub comprises of coils in the centre and magnets on the rotor outside. The battery sends a current to the coils essentially making it an electromagnet and allowing change of poles. This pulls the magnets on the rotor outside into a continuous rotation, propelling the scooter forward. Now that you know how the BLDC motor works, let’s focus on how the motor feels to ride.
With the motor hub directly attached to the rear wheel, power delivery is instant. There’s torque right from the word go and it remains linear even as you gain speed. The scooter is quick to gain speeds too, 30-35km/h comes before you even know it. In fact, the absence of ‘engine’ noise makes it seem even quicker. The scooter comes with two riding modes – Low and High. In the L mode the top-speed is limited to 42km/h and switching to H will increase it to a maximum of 55km/h.
In traffic though, it feels a bit cumbersome to ride. Even a gentle tap on the brake lever cuts out the power, and when you get back on the throttle, it’s just too eager to pull ahead. This nature can get a bit irritating, especially when you are riding on a busy stretch of road.
- What about the range?
Ampere claims that the Zeal can go up to 70-75km in a single full charge. Considering that it is an urban commuter, range anxiety shouldn’t be much of a concern – especially if you intend to use it to run local errands. The digital instrumentation only shows the charge in the form of bars – much like a regular fuel gauge. I would have felt a lot more at ease if it displayed charge in percentage and distance to empty as well. Once drained out, the Zeal takes about 5-6 hours to be fully charged – which I think is reasonable. There are two ways to plug the charger in – you can plug it slot below the seat or simply detach the battery to charge it in office or at home.
- How does it ride?
Hop onto the scooter and you will be surprised by how light it feels. Tipping the scale at about 78kg, the Zeal is nearly 30kg lighter than most 110cc scooters on sale today. The weight advantage simply doesn’t go unnoticed when you are riding it. Flicking it in and out of traffic is an absolute breeze. The Zeal even manages to tackle the undulations or minor cracks on the road reasonably well, but over larger potholes it tends to feel a bit nervous.
With drum brakes at both ends, braking performance of the Zeal is acceptable at best. There is bite from the lever but it only comes when you grab the lever hard. Speaking of which, the brake lever is not rounded off well and tends to cause a bit of discomfort.
- What’s the final word?
The Ampere Zeal does gain an obvious advantage in terms of maintenance and running costs. Unlike other scooters, this one doesn’t any routine maintenance with the exception of brakes. The Lithium-ion battery doesn’t quite need any service for its 5-year/50,000km life. And to be fair, considering its urban usability, range anxiety is insubstantial too.
The biggest cause of concern, however, is its price. For a scooter that costs north of Rs 65,000 (ex-showroom) the Zeal doesn’t quite leave as big an impression. it doesn’t offer great quality and neither does it have new-age tech that will lure customers into it. The brand’s inexperience in making two-wheelers does not go unnoticed. That being said, Ampere is surely working in right direction by catching the electric wave early, but it will surely need to work hard to get recognised and appreciated.
Motor: 1,200W Brushless DC Motor
Battery: 1.8kwH / 30Ah
Charging Time: 0-100% 5-6 hours
Price: Rs 67,899 (Ex-showroom, Mumbai)