The first Cambodia-made electric motorcycles will soon be cruising around Phnom Penh.
Voltra Motors, a local scooter manufacturer, will officially launch at the beginning of next month, company founder and director Yann Vaudin disclosed.
The company was registered with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) late last year, and the patent for the Voltra brand was approved in 2017.
Mr Vaudin, a renewable energy engineer from France, said they created Voltra Motors to help the local economy and environment.
Mr Vaudin, who came to Cambodia in 2013 and is married to a local, is also the owner of Green e-Bike, the first electric bike rental business in Cambodia. Green e-Bike was started in Siem Reap in 2014.
“Environmental pollution is a problem here. Electric scooters can help minimise it,” he said.
Cambodia’s rapid growth has led to significant environmental pollution, which is most pronounced in the cities. Phnom Penh alone has around 1.7 million motorbikes, significantly contributing to the problem.
“Each year, motorbikes release 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere in Phnom Penh. This is causing a short-term public health problem,” he said.
“To reduce pollution, we need to plant 15 million trees. 10,000 electric motorbikes on the roads would mean 18,000 fewer tonnes of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to planting 88,000 trees.
“Another thing is that this will make Cambodia known not just for rice, clothes, and other products, but also as a country that can produce technology,” he stressed.
Mr Vaudin said they have already produced two prototypes that have been shown around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and other parts of the Kingdom.
“Customers can order from us, and we will make the scooters for them,” he said.
Voltra Motors will import high-quality parts and assemble them at a warehouse and manufacturing site close to Phnom Penh’s airport. Their showroom is located at St. 111, near Orussey market.
Mr Vaudin said they are focusing on quality. “The parts were made according to European standards. Its assembly will be under French supervision,” he stressed.
“Later on, we are planning to manufacture many of the parts locally, especially plastic components,” he said.
Mr Vaudin said the Voltra e-bikes have many advantages compared to the gasoline-powered motorbikes common in Cambodia.
“First, they don’t pollute. They are cheaper than regular motorbikes and easier to drive,” he said.
“They are also much cheaper to operate. No oil, no filters, and no maintenance,” he stressed, noting that driving one kilometre costs 15 riels, seven times less than driving a gasoline motorbike.
Mr Vaudin also pointed out that a Voltra e-bike has a top speed of 40 km/h, promoting safe driving in cities.
“With a full battery, you can drive it for 50 km before you need to recharge it. And you can recharge it anywhere as long as there is a power source for its removable battery. Charging the battery takes about four hours, but you can also just carry an additional battery to be able to cover 100 km in one go,” he pointed out.
“It also runs well on and off the road,” he added.
Other electric bikes are being sold in Cambodia, most of them imported from China.
But according to Mr Vaudin, these are much heavier, more expensive, and use a bulky lead-acid battery that makes recharging inconvenient. “We use lightweight lithium removable batteries that are much more advanced,” he noted.
Mr Vaudin said they have partnered with a United Nations agency, a leading bank, and an NGO to promote their product.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has included Voltra in its 2019 Youth Impact Challenge and is helping it find partners and investors.
Acleda Bank, meanwhile, agreed to an ultra-low 1 percent interest rate per month for those who want to take out a loan to purchase a Voltra e-bike.
Voltra Motors is also discussing a partnership with Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) that would make maintenance and repair of electric scooters a part of the vocational school’s curriculum.
“The import taxes for eco-friendly transport, unfortunately, are too high and don’t make electric vehicles competitive. This will be a small step for Cambodia and a big step for the environment,” he said.
Mr Vaudin said they want to expand their operations in the future. “We want to export our ‘Made in Cambodia’ product to North America, Europe, Australia, and South America,” he concluded.
A Voltra e-bike costs $899 with a 1-year warranty. Voltra Motors opened a pre-order website (www.voltramotors.com) where you can get it at just $799 until October 31.