Ultraviolette F77: First Ride Review
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Is the Ultraviolette F77 the electric motorcycle that enthusiasts in India have been waiting for?
2019 can be labelled the year of electric vehicles. Almost every month there’s one new brand entering the fray even though the segment is still in its early days, at least in India. And despite an array of new products making their debut, the general consensus for electric two-wheelers hasn’t changed much. They are still looked upon as “cheap and slow” modes of transport.
While Ather Energy has tried to break that cliche and has been somewhat supported by Revolt Motors, it seems like a Bengaluru-based startup might finally be able to break this mold. Enter Ultraviolette with its premium electric motorcycle - F77. Unlike other electric two-wheelers in India, Ultraviolette is positioning themselves as a premium brand, and with the F77 it promises to bring performance and premiumness to electric vehicles in our country. And the brand couldn’t have chosen a better venue than the MMRT race track to showcase the potential of the F77. So can the new bike “shock” us with its performance?
- Futuristic styling.
- The most powerful electric bike to go on sale in India.
- Premium hardware for brakes and suspension.
- Removable batteries.
- Compact dimension might not appeal to all.
- High retail price.
- Performance doesn’t live up to its pricing.
- Launch planned for only one city.
- The F77 is among the most striking electric motorcycles in India.
- Premium hardware like Bybre brakes and separate function fork.
- IMU will allow riders to access various parameters like top speed, lean angle and more.
Before we delve into styling, I will confess that the Ultraviolette F77 looked awkward to me when I saw the images from the launch event. However, my opinion changed the moment I saw the bike in the pits. In person, the F77 is a very striking motorcycle and something that will attract loads of attention. Its styling is also unique as it has a full-faired bodywork but the split seats and low-set handlebars make it look like a naked. So it’s a rather strange combination of a naked and a full-faired bike, and yet they somehow come together rather well.
The F77 has been blessed with sculpted lines which makes it look very modern. The KTM Duke influence can also be seen in the LED headlight, raked out rear section and even the ‘tank.” Another interesting detail on the bike are the fork covers, which the brand claims improves aerodynamics but we feel it gives the electric bike an aggressive stance. The party trick of the F77 is the hydraulically operated battery compartment that swivels out and puts out of a show of its own. Other interesting visual elements include the beautiful multi-spoke alloy wheels, anodised finish on the subframe, the edgy swingarm and the small vent on the fairing.
Ultraviolette claims that the production-spec bike will get a TFT screen but the bike we rode was running a fixed screen while its switchgear was borrowed from the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V. As terms of fit and finish goes all the panel gaps are tight and consistent. The only aspect of the F77 is its dimensions: it’s a very small and compact bike. While this aspect is good for shorter riders, even average sized bikers might look unproportionate. And with my heft (over 100kg) and height (5ft 10inch), I definitely looked out of place.
Clip-on handlebars, slightly high and rear-set footpegs means the riding posture is committed and sporty. According to the brand the rider triangle leans toward the sporty side as the F77 is a performance bike. While the riding posture is aggressive, it isn’t as sporty as the pictures might suggest.
While the Ultraviolette F77 is a compact motorcycle, there’s enough space and even the tank offers decent space for the rider to lock his thigh. The seat padding on the bike we rode was very firm but company officials confirmed that they are working on a softer seat cushion for the production bike. Given its compact size and 800mm seat height, even shorter riders won’t find themselves nervous on the new bike.
Technology & Features
Being an electric motorcycle, the Ultraviolette F77 has been loaded with tech. It features three riding modes - Eco, Sport and Insane (similar to Tesla’s Ludicrous mode). There’s also a built-in GPS chip for real-time location information, 9-axis IMU (it also gets a magnetometer) for monitoring the bike's orientation and a built-in sim card for smartphone connectivity and navigation. Also, you can track your bike via an app, use geofencing, check ride history, run diagnostics and even set up custom riding modes!
If that wasn’t enough, it also gets safety features such as shock and impact sensors for crash detection and will send out an SOS to an emergency contact as well.
The riding part, and I was nervous to be honest. It was the first time I was riding an electric bike and that too on a race track, so a lot of anxious thoughts ran through my mind as I exited the pits. However, all that changed as I exited the fourth corner and rolled the throttle open. The F77 gathered momentum pretty quick (we rode it in Sport mode) and even throttle modulation felt very natural. I had heard and read that electric bikes behave abnormally when you roll off the throttle, but the F77 felt natural and very similar to a conventional internal combustion motor-powered bike.
While engine braking isn’t similar to a petrol powered bike, it didn’t feel very unnatural. And the fact that I was able to adapt to the F77 in a matter of minutes is really appreciable and impressive. My only complaint at low speed is the excessive chain noise that robs the bike of the “silent experience”, but at higher speeds you have a typical whine associated with EVs.
The air-cooled 25kW AC motor is rated at 33.5PS and 90Nm of torque! Ultraviolette claims that the F77 can accelerate from 0-60kmph in 2.9sec and the 100kmph mark is achieved in 7.5sec. In terms of performance, it’s similar to the Bajaj Dominar 400. But therein lies the problem for it. As you can see from the numbers and what I experienced on the track, the F77 feels peppy and quick upto 60kmph. Post this mark, it struggles and the fact that it took 4.5sec to add another 40kmph is a clear indication of the same.
Also, it struggles to gather speed above 100kmph and for a bike that is supposed to retail in excess of Rs 3 lakh, it’s disappointing. In reality, the performance of the F77 is equivalent to that of a TVS Apache RTR 200 4V rather than the Apache RR 310. For urban usage, the Ultraviolette F77’s performance is sufficient but one expects more from a performance electric motorcycle and we hope company engineers are able to extract the true potential of the claimed 33PS.
Range & Charging Details
As mentioned before, the F77 features three removable lithium-ion battery packs with a total capacity of 4.2kWh. Each battery weighs 8.5kg and the F77 can even run on a single battery pack, but the performance will be equivalent to a 150cc motorcycle and range will be around 50km. The combined claimed range for the F77 is 150km on a single charge. Ultraviolette also provides a CCS Type-2 Charge Port to support both AC and DC charging from public infrastructure.
The F77 comes with a built-in 1kw AC charger which plugs into your household three-point power socket. The claimed full charge time is 5 hours. A 3kW DC fast charger will be offered as an option and the brand claims full charge can be achieved in just 1.5 hours. It needs a 15 amp socket and would cost an additional Rs 20,000. And the final option is a “Home Charging Pod” which can hold upto three battery packs. You can simply remove the battery packs from the motorcycle and charge them at home on the pods. To further reduce range anxiety, Ultraviolette will also be selling the battery packs separately.
Ride & Handling
The KTM connect isn’t restricted to just the styling as the suspension hardware, wheelbase, rake angle and even the braking equipment is identical to the KTM 390 Duke. This is no coincidence as Ultraviolette engineers feel that the KTM is the benchmark of the segment and hence the identical underpinnings. The only major differences are the steel trellis frame with an aluminium bulkhead and a much shorter swingarm because of the space taken by the electric motor.
Despite the above, I wasn’t too sure about the F77’s handling but my aphrensions were cleared the moment I tipped the bike into a corner. It entered corners with such swiftness that it really surprised me. This can be credited to the lighter alloy wheel (1kg lighter than the 390 Duke’s unit) and the wide handlebars. In fact, the steering is even quicker than the 390 Duke’s and that’s quite a statement. Even around the flowing corners of MMRT it felt stable and very communicative, thereby increasing my confidence with every passing corner.
A critical aspect enhancing its handling dynamics is its low kerb weight of just 158kg (KTM 390 Duke is 149kg dry and TVS Apache RR 310 is 169.5kg). Another surprise was for me was the F77’s tight turning radius, which will be a boon while riding in the city.
While I didn’t find this as a problem, lighter riders felt switching from one corner to another slightly slow. This could be because of the F77’s 49:51 weight distribution. And by switching the weight bias, it’s likely that the bike will do its transitions in a smoother manner. Also, this will also make the front slightly heavy and this might improve confidence in less experienced riders as the fast steering can catch them a bit unaware.
The brakes on the Ultraviolette F77 were the same Bybre units as seen on the KTM 390 Duke and they offered good bite and feel through the levers. While ABS was disengaged on our test bike, the production unit will come with dual-channel ABS (developed by Continental) as standard and the rider will have the option to completely disable it or disengage rear ABS. The F77 that we tested were rolling on Metzeler Sportec M7 radials and it’s the benchmark of the segment so there’s nothing to complaint on this end.
The Ultraviolette F77 is currently available in only a single variant. However, the company has a specific name for each colour - shadow (grey), laser (red) and lightning (silver). But company officials also had a bike on display with Brembo master cylinders and Pirelli Supercorsa tyres. This might be offered as part of a performance pack in the future.
As a petrolhead, I had my apprehensions about an electric motorcycle and the Ultraviolette F77 did surprise me a lot. Purely from a product standpoint, it’s a very good effort and I am glad that Ultraviolette aimed to focus on the performance aspect rather than build an EV for point A to B commutes. It has the right dynamics to be fun around a corner and the futuristic styling will certainly be its USP. But there are issues, the biggest of which is its price (approx retail price will be Rs 3 to 3.25 lakh) and that’s a lot of money. A buyer who is willing to spend such an amount of money is looking for value for performance and this is where the F77 falters. While it has the basics covered, it doesn’t deliver the hard blow expected from a performance electric bike to make bikers stand up and take notice.
Having said that, I really hope that Ultraviolette engineers are able to find a solution for this. They do have time as deliveries (bookings are open only in Bengaluru) of the electric bike will commence in October 2020. As for me? I am impressed by the F77, but for now, I shall stick with the “petrolhead” tag.