December 27th, 2019 by Jo Borrás
My passion for all things tuk-tuk knows almost no bounds, as longtime readers of CleanTechnica’s one-time sister site Enrg.io (nee Gas2) might remember. That love was tempered somewhat by the fact that the high-MPG Piaggio Ape “tuk-tuks” were, for their size, high-polluting vehicles. Even the alt-fuel version, which rolled out with 8 CNG-fueled horsepower in 2018, had a — let’s go with “troubling” — carbon footprint. That’s all changed now, because Piaggio has finally released an electric Ape motorickshaw. (!)
Piaggio Launches Electric Ape
It’s officially being called the Piaggio Ape (that’s “app-eh,” not “ape”) E-City, and will feature a long flat battery mounted low in the chassis. That design will help the three-wheeler to maximize interior cargo volume while also aiding in dynamic handling. That’s because the heavy battery will help naturally lower the E-City’s center of gravity.
For all that talk about the battery’s design, however, there is one thing that isn’t mentioned: range. And that’s because THE killer app for the new electric Ape isn’t actually part of the bike itself. It’s service stations. Specifically, battery swap service stations.
Battery swapping technology is a relatively old idea in the EV universe, with companies like the now-defunct Project Better Place offering automated battery hot-swapping service in both Israel and France for a while before being out-Darwin’ed by longer-range EVs like the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S just a few short years after its launch … or maybe not! Tesla recently announced that it may be getting back into the battery-swap game itself — so this concept may have some legs, after all.
Here’s another idea that may have some legs: making the EV one of the cheaper versions of the Ape available!
That’s right, kids. The electric version of the Piaggio Ape — the most desirable version, in many ways! — is one of the least expensive, coming in at the equivalent of $2800. When you consider the fact that the 435cc single-cylinder Ape Plus diesel costs about $3500, it makes the E-City look even better. That’s my take, anyway. What about you? Check out the official Piaggio press release below, and let us know what you think in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Piaggio Group, the iconic Ape turns electric: presentation today in New Delhi of the Ape E-city with battery-swap technology for the Indian market
Milan — In New Delhi today, the Piaggio Group (PIA.MI) presented the new Ape E-City, the full-electric version of its iconic three-wheeler, which marks the Group’s entry on to the Indian electric commercial vehicle market. The brand that has been revolutionizing light commercial mobility for 70 years, Ape is making yet another advance in line with developments in individual and commercial mobility needs, offering innovative solutions that respect the environment.
Using battery-swap technology, which allows a flat battery to be replaced with a charged battery in just a few minutes at automated service stations, the Ape E-City is an effective response to the growing demand for commercial mobility solutions, especially for inter-city travel in India, and to the rising interest in alternative energy sources.
The Ape E-City is produced in the Piaggio Group’s Baramati facility, in the state of Maharashtra, and is available on the Indian market at a price in line with that of the gas-fuelled model.
Among those attending the presentation in New Delhi this morning were Diego Graffi, CEO of Piaggio PVPL (the Piaggio Group’s Indian subsidiary), India’s Road Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari, Italy’s Ambassador to India, Vincenzo De Luca, and Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog, the think tank set up by the Indian Government to promote sustainable development in the country.
For some months, the Indian Government has been implementing a policy to support electric mobility, especially for 2- and 3-wheel vehicles, through the roll-out of the FAME program (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles). FAME promotes the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles with incentives including a reduction from 12% to 5% in the Goods and Services Tax, a VAT equivalent, on these vehicles.
India’s electric vehicle market is worth approximately 71 million dollars (source: P&S Intelligence P.L.) but is expected to exceed 700 million dollars in 2025.
Over the years, the Ape has also fuelled the growth in the developing countries of a micro business network based on mobile shops (mainly selling street food, a trend that is also growing fast in Europe), or small hauliers using the Ape Cargo. The Ape Calessino for passenger transport is widely used for taxi services to link suburbs with city centers, filling needs not covered by local public transport services.
At 30 September 2019 the Piaggio Group reported sales in India of 142,500 commercial vehicles, with a 5.6% increase in revenues. The PVPL subsidiary had an overall share of 23.8% of the Indian three-wheeler market and confirmed its leadership in the Cargo segment with a share of 42.9%.