GenZe: The No-Hassle Urban Pickup on Two-Wheels

By Bill Moore

Mahindra GenZe started with a clean sheet of paper and asked university students from Stanford to Boston U. what they wanted in the way of no-hassle urban transportation and what resulted was an all-electric 'pickup truck' on two-wheels.

There's little question, scooters are a very popular form of transportation in Europe and Asia. They are nimble, cheap to operate, and above all, affordable. Their success in North America, however, have been modest at best and in the case of recently shuttered Vectrix, a huge disappointment, which may have prompted the suicide of the parent company's owner, a Hong Kong business magnate.

Various electric scooter entrepreneurs have waded into this swamp over the years. None have enjoyed much financial success, which raises the question, is America really ready for another motor scooter; albeit, this one backed by one of India's largest industrial conglomerates: Mahindra & Mahindra, a $17 billion a year company?

According to Vishwesh Palekar, Mahindra GenZe's [] president and CEO, America is ready and they have the machine to prove it: the GenZe, a 30 mph, 30 mile range two-wheeler they designed from the ground up to meet the needs of Generation X for an affordable, 'non-hassle' alternative to the car. Priced at an introductory $2,995, its design is based on feedback from university student interviews.

He may, in fact, be onto something. There is a discernible shift taking place across America among18-35 year olds, also referred to as 'Millennials' and Gen Y, in what they value and what they can afford. Freedom is no longer defined by car ownership, but by mobile devices and the social networks they create. Urban settings are far more appealing than distant suburbia, which virtually mandates automobile ownership. It's becoming apparent that this generation sees more value in two-wheels than four. A $3K electric scooter designed for 25 mph city streets just may be the ride they're looking for. That's what Palekar and his team of engineers and marketers are hoping for the GenZe, which he describes as the two-wheeled equivalent of a pickup truck, able to carry backpacks of books or bags of grocery, while also allowing the rider connectivity to their smartphone apps through its iPad-like touch screen, which also provides digital speed, distance, and battery state-of-charge information.

Mahindra GenZe straddles the worlds of Silicon Valley and Detroit with presences in both. Engineering design and manufacturing are in Ann Arbor, while marketing, sales and, initially, service support are in Fremont, California, which coincidentally is the location where Tesla manufactures the Model S. The first store has now opened in Palo Alto, just down the block from the Apple store. The company has begun taking $250 refundable deposits with deliveries slated to begin in November.

Palekar explains in the 35-minute interview with EV World's Bill Moore, that sales will initially be limited to the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon. Besides their showrooms, the company will be deploying temporary 'pop-up' stores on college campuses offering free demonstration rides of the GenZe, each with the ability to immediately take customer orders.

One of the concerns a college student might have with an electric scooter is where they charge the battery. Weighing about 20 lbs. - or approximately the weight of a bowling ball - it is removable from the scooter, allowing it to be carried into the student's dorm or fraternity house to be recharged from a common 110V outlet. Palekar notes that a 20-minute recharge at a Starbucks can return around 6 miles of added range. Full charge takes about 4 hours.

License requirements will vary from state-to-state. California, Palekar explains, requires an 'M' endorse on their driver's license, presumably the M2, at the very least [].

Note to audio listeners, the interview was original conducted via Skype, however, issues with the quality of the connection required that we convert it to MP3 audio. You may still note some quality issues. We've done our best to minimize them. You also can download the MP3 file, a new feature we added recently.

Times Article Viewed: 10603
Originally published: 25 Jun 2014


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