SKUTE Bali, Niu Mobility, and Indonesia’s journey to EV adoption
Published on July 11, 2023
On a recent episode of Indonesia Digital Deconstructed by AC Ventures, host Leighton Cosseboom continued a series on the archipelago’s impending shift to electric mobility. The session’s guest was Oliver Barker, the entrepreneur behind two important EV operations in Bali, SKUTE and Niu Mobility.
SKUTE is the island’s pioneering electric scooter rental company, while Niu Mobility Bali is an authorized dealer of the China-based EV two-wheeler brand, Niu. In the discussion, Oliver shares his thoughts on how to usher one of the world’s largest two-wheeler markets into a new era of EVs, and how Indonesia can take a significant step toward achieving net zero emissions by 2060. Here are a few key takeaways from the episode.
SKUTE Bali, Niu, and Indonesia’s journey to EV adoption
The transcript below has been condensed and edited for focus and clarity.
Leighton: Let’s get straight into your businesses in Bali’s electric vehicle sector, starting with SKUTE Bali. Can you provide an overview of your mission and operation?
Oliver: Our journey began in 2018 when four green school parents were seeking electric transportation. It wasn’t feasible then, but they started the brand SKUTE. We took over in 2019, starting with the Vr Q1 first-gen vehicle. Now in 2023, we’ve expanded SKUTE’s rental business into a significant EV fleet and also handle distribution and sales of multiple electric brands across Indonesia.
Leighton: What about consumer demand?
Oliver: We’ve seen tremendous growth in interest over the last four years. The G20 Expo being fully EV-driven was inspiring. The government is also supporting incentives, and though adoption takes time, it’s accelerating, particularly with new mandates and subsidies.
Leighton: Could you tell us about your distribution business?
Oliver: Sure, we distribute Niu, a leading low-cost electric bike brand. Our focus was on bringing high-quality, affordable electric bikes to Bali and Indonesia.
Leighton: What about regulations regarding local manufacturing?
Oliver: The subsidy initiative requires 40% local product sourcing, which boosts in-country economic development. Brands like Niu are working on how to transfer knowledge from countries leading in EV development. On the consumer side, the subsidies target low-income households, which helps brands reach a wider market.
Leighton: Who are your main customers in the rental market? Tourists, locals, or both?
Oliver: Mostly expat tourists, about 80%, while 20% are Indonesian. During the pandemic, we saw a spike in Indonesian rentals, which was a positive shift.
Leighton: How do Indonesian consumers perceive the transition to EVs?
Oliver: The primary barriers globally are range anxiety, charging concerns, and price. To tackle these, we need better bikes at lower prices and improved financing options. Our best-selling unit was specifically developed for such markets – high specs, lower price.
Leighton: The typical Indonesian motorbike users, like Gojek and Grab drivers, need affordable, low-maintenance bikes. How do you incorporate knowledge transfer and R&D in your strategy, considering these needs?
Oliver: Yes, we definitely do. We take experiences not only from China but also from our partners in the Netherlands, who have played a significant role in the adoption of EV infrastructure. My background in sustainable finance and energy aids this process. We’re not dictating, but rather collaborating, to learn from past mistakes in these areas.
Leighton: In Indonesia, we see advocates for self-charging bikes and others favoring a battery-swapping infrastructure. What are your thoughts on these two mechanisms considering the current landscape?
Oliver: Both mechanisms have their pros and cons. Battery swapping may initially benefit heavy users like Gojek or Grab drivers. However, with the rapid advancement of battery technology, self-charging could soon become a more affordable and efficient option. The key is to balance cost, longevity, and charging speed.
Leighton: What are your expansion plans?
Oliver: We’re based in Bali but plan to grow across Indonesia and Southeast Asia. We intend to increase the presence of electric bikes on the roads through rental platforms, sales, and distribution to businesses and consumers.
Leighton: What efforts are you making to measure the societal impact of your companies, and could you share some compelling stats?
Oliver: Impact is a core principle for us. Our rental fleet alone has driven nearly 1.5 million kilometers, mitigating approximately 800,000 kg of CO2 emissions. We also focus on education, recycling, and end-of-life cycle management for our bikes, while promoting EV knowledge and awareness.
Leighton: Could you share some details on the market traction and key revenue drivers for SKUTE Bali and Niu Mobility, and how you manage costs?
Oliver: Despite the impact of Covid, we’ve tripled our rental fleet and represent 35% of Indonesia’s total sales just in Bali. Our international team brings expertise and implements efficiency optimization processes, which help reduce operational costs and improve customer satisfaction.
Leighton: What’s the key message you’d like to convey to global institutional investors about SKUTE Bali and Niu Mobility’s objectives in Indonesia?
Oliver: Our main goal is to transition Indonesia’s huge two-wheel market towards electric mobility, aiming for the country’s 2060 net zero target. We’re focused on creating impact while also generating profit, and eyeing Southeast Asia for expansion.