Fueling Indonesia’s EV revolution: the Electrum story
Published on July 10, 2023
On a recent episode of Indonesia Digital Deconstructed by AC Ventures, Leighton Cosseboom hosted a discussion on Indonesia’s imminent transition to electric mobility, particularly in the context of EV two-wheelers.
As the second largest motorbike market in the world after India, and with strong government support, the space presents a robust opportunity for EV entrepreneurs and investors alike.
The session was joined by Pandu Sjahrir, Founding Partner at ACV, and Jack Yang, the new Managing Director of local EV motorbike startup Electrum, with an impressive background in the mobility industry from Mobike and Uber.
The discussion unpacked Indonesia’s booming two-wheeler market, projected to soon reach a value of US$10 billion, and the government’s goal of putting 6 million new EV bikes on the road in 2025. Here are a few key takeaways from the episode.
Fueling Indonesia’s EV revolution: the Electrum story
The transcript below has been condensed and edited for focus and clarity.
Leighton: Could you tell us about the genesis of Electrum and why the company is crucial for Indonesia at this moment?
Pandu: The inception of Electrum came at a challenging time, during the Covid-19 pandemic. I, along with Andre, the then-CEO of GoTo, was grappling with the societal changes taking place around us. Everyone was on lockdown, yet we faced persistent air quality issues that remained unaddressed. We were deeply inspired by how China revolutionized its transport sector, transitioning from conventional vehicles to electric vehicles. We thought, why not implement the same strategy with Gojek and its 2.6 million drivers? This is how Electrum came into existence.
Andre introduced me to Jack, whom I had previously met in China. Together, we were able to manifest this business idea into reality. Despite being only a year old, Electrum has experienced an exciting journey so far, and we are eager to see its potential unfold.
Leighton: Jack, could you elaborate on your background at Mobike, and subsequently at Uber, and how these experiences have prepared you for your role at Electrum?
Jack: At Mobike, my responsibilities encompassed managing the development of our bike IoT system, and operational platform, and facilitating the rollout of our products to nearly a hundred cities across 10 countries, including Italy, Australia, and Singapore. We were handling about 30 million trips per day and managed a fleet size of 15 million bikes.
After Mobike was acquired by Meituan, many from the original team went on to launch intriguing startups, particularly in the realm of electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers, sharing economy, and IoT platforms. Before Mobike, I served as a product manager at Uber, spearheading product development and international growth. This is where I initially crossed paths with Pandu and the founders of Gojek.
The vision that Pandu communicated resonated with me and I knew I could contribute with my product expertise, startup experience, and strategic insights from my past stints in mobility startups. Additionally, my connections in China have significantly aided in accelerating our product development and technological innovation at Electrum.
Leighton: Could you shed some light on Electrum’s edge over other two-wheeled EV players in the market from a technical perspective?
Pandu: Sure, our primary focus lies in creating a holistic ecosystem. What sets us apart is our meticulous product testing process. We have invested time and resources into exploring the best-fit technologies for our electric motorcycles – be it battery swap or charging tech. Our test drivers are Gojek drivers, who are the most intensive users, and hence, the best critics of our product. So far, we’ve accumulated close to 6 million kilometers of data and feedback, which has been invaluable for improving our product.
Jack: Building on Pandu’s point, we’ve gained substantial insights from our pilot project with Gojek over the past year. These learnings have allowed us to optimize our product specifications to suit the needs of our primary user group – the Gojek drivers. We’re leveraging state-of-the-art technologies in our products and infrastructure, including battery packing, IoT systems, battery swapping, and EV motorcycles. Our operations are also greatly facilitated by Gojek’s resources, which aid in planning our infrastructure, acquiring target users, and enhancing operational efficiency.
Leighton: Regarding charging technology, there are differing opinions about battery swapping and self-charging. What’s your perspective on this?
Jack: Given the unique constraints of power supply in many Indonesian residential homes, we aim to cater to all user segments. High-frequency users like Gojek drivers will need battery swapping to minimize downtime, while low-frequency or household users might find self-charging more economically viable.
Pandu: Adding to Jack’s point, the most critical aspect here is to increase EV adoption. At present, the penetration is still very low. Our mission is to educate people about the benefits of EVs over conventional vehicles. Our early adopters have reported significantly better user experience, and reduced pollution, both air and noise, which is extremely beneficial, especially for those who rely on these vehicles for their livelihoods.
Leighton: Are there any unconventional views you hold about EVs in Indonesia?
Pandu: EV is a relatively new concept in Indonesia. However, we are in a position where we can learn from both the successes and failures of countries like China and India, which are ahead in the EV game. We can adopt their best practices and avoid their mistakes, saving us the time and resources that would be spent on reinventing the wheel. Our main focus currently is on executing these learnings effectively.
Jack: Electrum’s vision is to build an all-encompassing EV ecosystem. Many EV motorcycle manufacturers are available, but the adoption is hindered by infrastructure challenges. We aim to overcome this obstacle by making significant investments in infrastructure, product design, digital platform design, and partnerships to facilitate the rollout of our infrastructure.
Leighton: How does Electrum plan on achieving mass adoption of EVs in Indonesia?
Jack: The superior experience of riding EVs is still relatively unknown to many consumers in Indonesia. They can’t imagine the smoothness, quietness, and swift acceleration that sets EVs apart from ICE vehicles. The reduced cost of ownership due to cheaper electricity and lower maintenance costs is another significant benefit. We also plan to develop a battery recycling program in the future, which would ensure a vibrant second-hand market for our bikes.
Pandu: I agree with Jack. Our primary focus is on promoting the conversion from ICE vehicles to EVs. The prevalent notion is that EVs are more expensive than ICE vehicles, which is a misconception we’re working to dispel. We believe that once people take the leap, they will realize the superior customer experience offered by EVs.