ETRAN GROUP, a start-up company, hopes to raise initial funding of Bt300 million to launch an electric-motorbike service in Bangkok in the third quarter of this year.
Chief executive officer Soranun Choochut held a news conference to reveal his business plan and his prototype “Etran Prom”, made with a 3D printer, which he dubbed “the world’s first innovative electric scooter for public use”.
“Someone asked me why nobody did this before. I think perhaps the US does not have motorcycle-taxi queues like us,” he said.
Etran aims to raise Bt300 million from a pre-Series A round during the next few months to kick off its e-transport solution in September, aiming to rent out 10,000 Etran Proms during the initial phase to motorcycle-taxi drivers who would like to switch to the electric scooters.
“We will rent [them] out at half of their usual fuel costs. Drivers will thus gain additional income of Bt36,000 a year” compared with using a traditional petrol-powered motorbike, he said.
Drivers of Etran Proms will be provided with a smart card that they can use to start the vehicle, swap batteries, receive maintenance, and pay the rental fee, which will start from Bt3,500 a month.
The company aims to expand its service to cover the whole Bangkok area next year and to “go global” in 2019.
Charle Charoenphan, accelerator head at Digital Ventures, a subsidiary of Siam Commercial Bank, said accelerators would normally not provide support to hardware start-ups, since their projects would take time to complete.
Nevertheless, he said: “Tesla has proved to the world that the future is electric vehicles.”
Digital Ventures has provided a Bt300,000 financial grant to Etran.
The company has signed an agreement with Summit Auto Parts to assemble the Etran Prom, which is designed to have a space between driver and passenger to reduce discomfort.
Motors and batteries will be imported from China. Equipped |with a 5,000-watt motor, the Etran Prom is claimed to have a range of 70 kilometres and a maximum speed of 80km/h.
With a Bt10-billion investment earmarked for the next five years, the company will have to build battery-swapping stations and service and maintenance centres to service its fleet, beginning with routes |along Bangkok’s mass-transit |systems.
Battery swaps will take|just one minute, compared with| the five minutes it takes to refuel a petrol motorbike, he said.
“We would like the public sector to open their hearts and listen to start-ups. While there is a lot of |support for fintechs, there is also the transport sector.
“Should we only wait for foreigners to come in[to start the electric-vehicle industry?]” Soranun asked.