Startup Charged Asia Revs Consumer Interest in Its Electric Motorbikes with Subscription Model

Electric motorcycle manufacturer Charged Asia is charging forward, saying it is the first Singapore brand to get its vehicles on Indonesia’s roads, leading the race against at least three local firms.

The startup has ambitious plans to sell 10 million electric motorcycles (e-motos) in South-east Asia in the next decade, including a launch in Singapore by the end of 2023.

Since it was founded in March 2022, Charged Asia has managed to get about 1,500 of its vehicles on Jakarta roads, its co-founder Joel Chang said.

The e-motos can be charged at users’ homes through portable devices that connect to regular electrical sockets.

The majority of the e-bikes are used by delivery riders and ojols — riders who are in the online motorcycle taxi business.

Speaking recently to The Straits Times in his company’s manufacturing plant in Cikupa, an industrial area about 90 minutes away from central Jakarta, Chang said the first bikes hit the roads at the start of 2023.

Despite being the newest Singapore firm to enter the Indonesian electric vehicle (EV) market, Charged Asia had a speedy start, as it did not build its products from the ground up.

Instead, it partners with trusted and renowned suppliers.

For instance, it works with Chinese battery company CATL and Australian firm Vmoto to co-develop the bikes.

“In terms of timing, we need to move fast. The solutions to problems we have are right in front of us.

“That’s why we chose to work with reputable people and technology, with a good track record, in order to move fast,” said Chang.

The problems he was referring to include climate change and pollution, which motivated him to get into the EV business in Indonesia.

Earlier in August, Jakarta topped the list of the most polluted cities in the world, having consistently ranked among the top 10 since May, according to data by Swiss air quality technology company IQAir.

Charged Asia is Chang’s third foray into the field after spending more than a decade working for a German car manufacturer, including stints in China.

He previously worked in two other Singapore startups building e-motos in Indonesia: Scorpio Electric from 2017 to 2019, and Ion Mobility from 2019 to 2021.

Spending so many years in Indonesia appears to have paid off for him, as he told ST about an “innovative” solution — a subscription model — that he and his team came up with to overcome the perception that e-motos are costly, and rev up greater consumer interest in the firm’s products.

The company makes three models — the cheapest costs 24 million rupiah (about ¥230,000) and has a 2.7 kilowatt-hour battery, translating to a range of about 125 kilometers.

But instead of charging a lump sum, Charged Asia offers an option to subscribe to a rental system, at 1.2 million rupiah per month.

In contrast, Indonesia’s most popular regular motorcycle, the Honda Beat, is sold at around 18 million rupiah.

Chang said the subscription model is the cornerstone of Charged Asia’s success, with more than 90% of its bikes on the road in Indonesia now being distributed through this method.

“The good news is this: After they try and they like it, the subscription allows them to enter the EV world — now they want to buy, as they feel more motivation to adopt. So what we’re seeing is we’re converting many subscribers to owners now,” he said.

Understanding what Indonesians would appreciate is important for doing business in the archipelago, stressed Chang.

He was speaking to ST in the midst of ongoing National Day celebrations that he and his management organized for the more than 100 staff members, which goes “a long way” to boost morale. Indonesia celebrated its independence day on Aug. 17.

The company, which has offices in Jakarta, Cikupa and Bali, has even named its three e-bike models with locals in mind.

The basic model, Maleo, is named after a large bird found in the Sulawesi region; the Rimau urban commuting bike gets its name from the endangered Sumatran tiger; and the Anoa cargo bike for logistics is inspired by the buffalo that has been hunted so much that fewer than 5,000 remain in Sulawesi.

Apart from launching its models in Singapore later in 2023, Chang said he wants to go full throttle in the region and expand in Indonesia and Vietnam, where a smaller number of Charged Asia’s bikes are already on the roads.

Deliveries to the Philippines and Thailand are also on the cards for 2024.

The region’s motorcycle market has been recovering since COVID-19 hit in 2020.

The industry in 2019 logged more than 15 million sales, representing nearly 25% of the global market, according to market intelligence company Motorcycles Data.

In the first half of 2023, some 7.5 million motorcycles were sold in Southeast Asia.

The same firm reported that the global market for e-motos could grow from $15.7 billion in 2020 to $30.5 billion in 2030.

Chang said the 10 million e-bikes the company aims to sell over the next decade will come from extending Charged Asia’s product range as well as how it can tap solar energy to power the bikes. It already has a 16,000-square-meter solar-powered factory in Cikupa, part of global efforts to help save the environment.

“Mobility is a key tenet to human freedom, but why does moving for a better life have to come at the cost of our health, and our natural habitat? EVs can play a large part of the solution, and we will keep on working on it,” Chang said.