Electronic motorbike takes its place in electric travel

Different shades of Etron electric motorbikes lined up. Photograph: Supplied.

Different shades of Etron electric motorbikes lined up. Photograph: Supplied.

Published Dec 20, 2022


Durban – Businessmen who are eager to make their mark in the world of electronic travel, while promoting safety and security, say they are confident that their one-of-a-kind multifaceted motorbike is just the tool to achieving that.

This comes after the partners of Etron Electric (Pty) Ltd made a donation of five Etron electric motorbikes to the eThekwini Metro Police last week during the launch of a satellite police station at the Durban Exhibition Centre.

According to one of the partners, Samuel Francis, 46, this was done as a way of playing their part in the promotion of a safer city.

“We knew the challenges that the city was having and the cost attached to them being more visible from a police perspective, and we also thought it would be a great way to showcase our product and how well suited the application is for patrolling the promenade and central business district (CBD),” Francis said.

“Durban is a beautiful place and everyone has their own idea of what they want to do and how they should do it, whether it is having fun or making money. So, from time to time, we need to ensure that people are kept in check and just by having visibility of policemen on a bike patrolling the area deters people from doing things that they should not.

“We thought if we start there, slowly we will be able to change where eThekwini was headed because right now we are on a downward spiral because of crime and a lack of budgeting to fight crime,” he said.

Partners Francis from Chatsworth in Durban, Nicholas Hall, 53, and Christopher Corns, 60, who both hail from the UK, are the brains behind the electric bike.

The technical team and the partners hold a combined industry experience of more than 100 years in the automotive and aviation industries and have set up manufacturing and retail operations for BMW, Toyota, Audi and Ford, both locally and internationally.

The team conceptualised and began investigating an electronic vehicle (EV) concept and a possible collaboration with a Chinese manufacturing partner. An electric motorbike concept and design was then commissioned.

In 2018, two samples of the motorbike were airfreighted to South Africa, marking the establishment of Etron Electric (Pty) Ltd, a local entity.

The overall bike performance and reliability were tried and tested.

After an almost two-year-period of receiving full certification and homologation through the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRSC) approval system, the Etron electric motorbike received full certification.

Constant communication with the manufacturer and stringent quality check processes ultimately led to the release of the demo production bike, Version 2.0, in South Africa.

Testing on the version 2.0 bike established that while performance was consistent, it may not meet the local requirements in South Africa, which forced the team to upgrade the motor in time for the local launch in December 2019, giving them positive feedback and improved quality.

With an initial book order of 165 bikes, the launch of the new bike was short-lived as the manufacturer closed the factory until further notice, in early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This forced the team to put their orders on hold and use the period to fine-tune and enhance the engineering, and to create version 3 of the new bike.

“We have made significant inroads into various international markets including, but not limited to, Mauritius, the UAE, Greece, Canada, the UK, Ghana, Botswana, Singapore and India. Our local distribution network has also been established, with the first store being established in Parkhurst,” said Francis.

Between R2.5 million and R3.5m start-up capital was invested in the business, and they self-funded the initial research and development extending from 2016 to 2021. The second and third round of funding was achieved through Profit Share Partnership, which was deployed into extensive development of the range, as well as the funding of the current stock on hand.

The company produces at least 1 000 units per month which were sold at R97 500. The target market for the bikes is anyone looking for a cheap and sustainable mobility platform.

Among other features, the motorbikes are unique in their ability to offer media space for branding or advertising, can be charged into a three-pin wall socket at any location and illuminate at night.

While the country undergoes an energy crisis with constant fluctuations in load shedding, Francis said he was confident that the electricity challenge could be overcome.

“Load shedding is posing a bit of a challenge. However, we are chatting to solar companies that are putting together a standalone solution for us to charge the bikes inexpensively.

“It will be a mobile solar station that you can use anywhere, so that will assist during load shedding periods,” said Francis.