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India's Weak Power Grid Poses Challenges for EV Sales

Massive blackout across India in 2012 caused Ampere's ebikes sales to drop from 600 a month to 60.

Published: 07-Jan-2013

COIMBATORE, India — In early 2012, after years of experimentation, an Indian start-up called Ampere developed an electric motorcycle that people would actually buy.

It wasn’t a sleek, shiny bike for the urban hipster — the company had tried that and failed. It was the Angel, a heavy, clunky converted Chinese bicycle that goes only 15 miles an hour but can carry extremely heavy loads. The customers were farmers and small tradesmen in the southern countryside who liked the fact that the bike could take a beating, cost only $386 and could be fueled for virtually nothing since farmers here get their electricity at no cost.

Then, in May, an acute power shortage took hold in Ampere’s home state, Tamil Nadu. The supply of rationed electricity in most of the state dropped from 13 or 14 hours a day to 8. Almost immediately, said the company’s co-founder, Pachyappa Bala, the company’s monthly sales dropped from 600 bikes to 60.

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