All Charged Up

This Former Civil Servant Launched Singapore’s First Electric Motorcycle

James Chan went from being a civil servant without a bike licence to unveiling Singapore’s first electric motorcycle that’s about to hit the Indonesian market – and it scarcely surprises him.

This Former Civil Servant Launched Singapore’s First Electric Motorcycle
Ion Mobility's James Chan

When James Chan co-founded EV bike company Ion Mobility, he barely had any knowledge of electric vehicles. In fact, he didn’t even have a bike licence.

But that’s just the way Chan has been doing things all his life – he believes that prior expertise is not a prerequisite for doing anything.

“I’ve been able to do my fair share of domain switching throughout my career because of a combination of factors – an engineering degree, nerdiness and a never-say-die attitude,” he muses.

“I realise that, in life, you can be good at something if you spend enough time at it.”

His resume certainly reflects this. Following his first job as a civil servant at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, Chan assumed the role of venture capitalist and angel investor. Then he became an entrepreneur and dabbled in robotics and fintech.

In late 2018, after selling his shares in his fintech business WeCash, Chan yearned for one last hurrah before contemplating an early retirement. It didn’t take long before he found his next calling. When the Indonesian government announced that it would introduce a swathe of policies to encourage the electrification of its massive motorbike fleet, Chan pounced on the opportunity.

In Oct 2019, Singapore-headquartered Ion Mobility was born. Slightly less than two years later, the company made history by unveiling Singapore’s first electric motorcycle, the ION Mobius, which is slated to be available for sale in Indonesia later this year.

Positioned as a maxi-scooter, the ION Mobius has a top speed of 110kph and goes from 0 to 50kph in just 3.4 seconds. This EV bike also addresses a key consumer concern that many other companies could not – range.

“We’ve designed and assembled our own battery pack and battery management system to give the Mobius a maximum single-charge commute range of 150 to 200km, depending on whether you’ve got an additional swappable battery pack configured,” says Chan.

 “It takes a mere hour using a standard wall socket to recharge from 20 percent to 80 percent, giving consumers at least 100km in usable range. We’re also working on an in-house proprietary quick-charging technology attuned to EV motorbikes to speed up charging even further.”

Chan is quietly confident that the ION Mobius has everything it needs to become a winner in the maxi-scooter category and convince consumers to ditch their highly polluting Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) bikes. Studies have found that regular bikes emit16 times more hydrocarbons than passenger cars. Besides having vehicle specifications that are on par with existing ICE bikes, the ION Mobius also offers greater value for money, notes Chan.

“We’re taking a sledgehammer to smash the existing definition of value. For a price similar to (what you’d pay for) ICE bikes, customers are also getting a high-quality LCD dashboard and computer system that gathers and processes data related to the vehicle, riding style and journey to help them improve their future rides,” he says.

Chan doesn’t expect the ION Mobius to become an instant hit in Indonesia, a vast market with some 112 million motorcycles, especially when his company is still a minor player and yet to build market credibility. Still, they are already designing new models that would turn heads.

“Charlie Munger, a billionaire investor and then-vice president of Berkshire Hathaway, once told Elon Musk that Tesla would fail. Musk said that he agreed with all those reasons and told Munger that Tesla would probably die, but it was worth trying anyway,” says Chan.

“Well, look at Tesla now.”

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