Published: April 21 , 2016
Source: Quartz India
Much of Kapil Shelke’s childhood was spent tinkering with toy cars, with a penchant for dismantling and then putting them back together.
By the time he got to Pune’s DY Patil College of Engineering in 2005, he had moved on to bigger and more powerful toys—like motorcycles. A couple of years into his degree, he, along with three classmates, decided to take it up a gear: building India’s fastest electric motorcycle.
“We were living, breathing, and eating motorcycles those days,” Shelke said.
A decade later, 29-year-old Shelke’s college project has evolved into what is arguably India’s first electric motorcycle company—Tork Motorcycles.
On April 18, Tork announced that it has raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding. The round was led by Bhavish Agarwal and Ankit Bhati, co-founders of taxi aggregator Ola.
Tork’s first commercial bike, the prototype for which is currently under development, is expected to launch sometime next year. The T6X will have a range of over 100 kilometres on a single charge. And it’ll take less than an hour, according to Shelke, to get the bike’s battery to full charge.
But it hasn’t been an easy ride for Shelke to get here.
By 2009, in their final year at college, the foursome, led by Shelke, had managed to put together a prototype.
They also found themselves a name, Tork Motorcycles, and decided on their first big test: The Isle of Man TT. One of the world’s most prestigious motorcycle races, it was was holding its first zero-carbon racing event that year, the TTXGP.
“This was my chance to make history,” explained Shelke.
With some Rs15 lakh (around $22,640) pooled in from family and friends, the team turned up at the Isle of Man, a small island between Ireland and Great Britain. Pitted against larger and substantially better funded international teams, Tork Motorcycles’s TX01, with a top speed of 156 kilometres per hour (kmph), managed to reach the podium with a third-place finish.
The boys were ecstatic. But back home, no one was bothered.
“We came back, and nobody knew what we’d done,” Shelke remembered. Once word got around, “a lot of people said that this might be luck,” he added. “So I said, ‘Let’s do this again.’”
So, in 2010, still with a four-member, self-funded team, Tork went back to the TTXGP, which had grown to a six-round championship, with races in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands. With a top speed of 214 kmph, their new bike, TX02, won the first round, and eventually finished third in the championship.
A bunch of Indian college students had proven themselves at the world’s premier electric motorcycle racing championship, again.