With $37M seed round, Maka Motors begins EV pilot on Indonesia’s streets

A recent report said that Indonesia’s electric vehicle (EV) market is projected to reach $20 billion by 2029, up from $533 million in 2022. Moreover, as much as half of the overall motorbike market in Southeast Asia could be replaced by electric two-wheelers by 2030, McKinsey associate partner Rahul Gupta said at the G20 summit last year.

Today, an Indonesian electric vehicle maker called Maka Motors said it has raised a $37.6 million seed round, one of Southeast Asia’s biggest seed fundings, to mass produce its two-wheeled EVs, aiming for late 2024. Maka will start deploying its first pilot electric vehicles this month.

The seed money will also enable Maka to continue R&D for its in-house development of EVs, which started last year, as well as to build its factory in West Java, starting later in 2023.

AV Ventures, Korea’s SV Investment and East Ventures co-led the latest capital. Other investors in the round include Northstar Group, Provident, Alfa Crop, Skystar Capital, Peak XV Partners (formerly known as Sequoia India and SEA), Openspace Ventures, Shinhan Venture Investment, Beenext, Kinesys and M Venture Partners (MVP).

Maka Motors CEO Raditya Wibowo and CTO Arief Fadillah, who previously worked at Gojek, founded Maka in 2021 to accelerate electric motorcycle adoption in Indonesia.

“Like many Indonesians, we, founders, have been motorcycle users since a young age and we have also worked extensively with ride-hailing drivers at Gojek since 2015,” Wibowo said in an email interview with TechCrunch. “Indonesia is the world’s third-largest market for powered two-wheeled [vehicles], but EV penetration is still relatively low.”

The startup says existing players in Indonesia, with only a fleet of 43,000 registered electric motorcycles, have not fully met the country’s goal, which aims to produce 600,000 electric vehicles by 2030. Indonesia has more than 127 million motorbikes, most of which work on gasoline.

(L-R) MAKA Motors Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer Arief Fadillah_ MAKA Motors Founder & Chief Executive Officer Raditya Wibowo

“Many current two-wheeled EV products are imported as Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits from China and are designed for the needs of users in China,” the CEO said. “These 2W [two-wheel] vehicles designed in China, though relatively affordable, are not yet able to replace the gasoline motorcycles most Indonesian users use today.”

In Indonesia, 2W vehicles require enough power to overtake cars as riders share the same lane as cars, the average travel distances are longer (than in China), and it is common to carry adult passengers, unlike China. Another pain point is cost, Wibowo said. Most 2W EV products with larger batteries and more motor power are more expensive than a gasoline bike.

Maka’s mission is to build the best electric motorcycle, which can benefit Indonesian users to save money on gas. The two-year-old startup says it wants to offer a blend of driving range, power, usability, and durability at a competitive price compared to current bikes for Indonesian riders.

Ride-hailing company Gojek mapped out to switch every vehicle to electric by 2030, and Grab Indonesia targeted to operate at least 85,000 EVs in Indonesia this year.

“Indonesia’s EV two-wheeler penetration currently sits at 0.2% of the market (relative to internal combustion engine motorbikes), with an opportunity to exceed 10% over the next five years, provided that public and private stakeholders work together to build a conducive local EV sector,” said Michael Soerijadji, founder and managing partner at AC Ventures. “We believe that Maka Motors will be a game-changer in one of the world’s biggest two-wheeler markets. We stand behind the team’s deep knowledge of the local market, gained through comprehensive research and industry experience.”

The company has around 40 staff members on its team. Many of its team have previously worked for gasoline motorcycle manufacturers in Indonesia and global automotive companies in Japan and Germany.

Lime is trailing shared electric motorbikes

Shared micromobility giant Lime is piloting electric motorbikes in Long Beach, California. Lime has been teasing a new form factor to cater to use cases outside of scooters and bikes for a while, so it’s no surprise to see the company test out a vehicle that’s sturdy and comfortable like a bike but easy to ride like a scooter.

The new vehicle, named Citra, also comes a few months after Lime quietly killed off its shared moped programs in New York City and Washington D.C. Lime had started to introduce mopeds to the mix in January 2021 as a vehicle that riders could tap for longer trips, but has settled for the moment on vehicles that are fit for the bike lane, according to a Lime spokesperson.

Lime has 1,000 vehicles on the ground in Long Beach, about half of which will be swapped with Citras, according to Lime. While Lime is definitely launching at scale there, the company has no plans to bring Citra to other locations just yet.

That might be because of the failure of the shared mopeds to take off, or it could be due to the similar nature of the Citra to Lime’s Gen4 e-bike, both of which have a top speed of 20 miles per hour.

The Citra does come with some upgraded features, however. For example, it rides more like a tiny, lightweight moped, and as such has no pedals and only moves forward with a throttle on the handlebars. The new vehicle also has a headlight, taillight, front and rear turn signals, a horn and a sealable rear compartment for storage.

Lime new e-vehicle Citra storage compartment

Lime’s new vehicle, Citra, is built with a rear, sealable storage compartment. Image Credit: Lime

“We’re hoping with the new vehicle to get more women riders, as well,” Russell Murphy, senior director of corporate communications, told TechCrunch. “We want women to see this as something that’s for them in a way that they might not with scooters. There are various components like the fact that it’s seated, it’s a bit lower to the ground, it appears visually a bit safer because you have this more robust vehicle under you, but it’s not as heavy as a moped.”

Providing form factors that suit women isn’t a bad way to increase ridership, especially considering that 79% of women reported not feeling safe using e-scooters, according to recent research from UK non-profit Women in Transport and micromobility company Voi.

Aside from attracting new users, Citra will be an example of how Lime could potentially save money on charging vehicles, the operational bane of every micromobility company’s existence. The Citra will be built with Lime’s new, bigger batteries, which Lime CEO Wayne Ting will discuss on the TC Sessions: Climate stage today.

The batteries, which Lime is also rolling out in Paris and Bordeaux this summer, have twice the capacity of Lime’s current batteries. They contain nearly 1 kWh capacity, up from 0.46 kWh now, which Lime says will lead to more time spent riding between chargers and fewer battery swaps needed from Lime’s operations team.

Lime has been testing its new batteries for the past six months in San Francisco, Antwerp and Le Havre, according to the company.

“We saw from riders who gave end-of-trip ratings that ratings were higher on vehicles that used the new battery,” said Murphy, noting this was especially true for trips that started with battery power under 30% that managed to not die mid-ride.

Vietnamese electric motorbike startup Dat Bike raises $2.6M led by Jungle Ventures

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike on one of the startup's motorbikes

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike

Dat Bike, a Vietnamese startup with ambitions to become the top electric motorbike company in Southeast Asia, has raised $2.6 million in pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures. Made in Vietnam with mostly domestic parts, Dat Bike’s selling point is its ability to compete with gas motorbikes in terms of pricing and performance. Its new funding is the first time Jungle Ventures has invested in the mobility sector and included participation from Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund and iSeed Ventures.

Founder and chief executive officer Son Nguyen began learning how to build bikes from scrap parts while working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. In 2018, he moved back to Vietnam and launched Dat Bike. More than 80% of households in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam own two-wheeled vehicles, but the majority are fueled by gas. Nguyen told TechCrunch that many people want to switch to electric motorbikes, but a major obstacle is performance.

Nguyen said that Dat Bike offers three times the performance (5 kW versus 1.5 kW) and 2 times the range (100 km versus 50 km) of most electric motorbikes in the market, at the same price point. The company’s flagship motorbike, called Weaver, was created to compete against gas motorbikes. It seats two people, which Nguyen noted is an important selling point in Southeast Asian countries, and has a 5000W motor that accelerates from 0 to 50 km per hour in three seconds. The Weaver can be fully charged at a standard electric outlet in about three hours, and reach up to 100 km on one charge (the motorbike’s next iteration will go up to 200 km on one charge).

Dat Bike’s opened its first physical store in Ho Chi Minh City last December. Nguyen said the company “has shipped a few hundred motorbikes so far and still have a backlog of orders.” He added that it saw a 35% month-over-month growth in new orders after the Ho Chi Minh City store opened.

At 39.9 million dong, or about $1,700 USD, Weaver’s pricing is also comparable to the median price of gas motorbikes. Dat Bike partners with banks and financial institutions to offer consumers twelve-month payment plans with no interest.

“These guys are competing with each other to put the emerging middle class of Vietnam on the digital financial market for the first time ever and as a result, we get a very favorable rate,” he said.

While Vietnam’s government hasn’t implemented subsidies for electric motorbikes yet, the Ministry of Transportation has proposed new regulations mandating electric infrastructure at parking lots and bike stations, which Nguyen said will increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Other Vietnamese companies making electric two-wheeled vehicles include VinFast and PEGA.

One of Dat Bike’s advantages is that its bikes are developed in house, with locally-sourced parts. Nguyen said the benefits of manufacturing in Vietnam, instead of sourcing from China and other countries, include streamlined logistics and a more efficient supply chain, since most of Dat Bike’s suppliers are also domestic.

“There are also huge tax advantages for being local, as import tax for bikes is 45% and for bike parts ranging from 15% to 30%,” said Nguyen. “Trade within Southeast Asia is tariff-free though, which means that we have a competitive advantage to expand to the region, compare to foreign imported bikes.”

Dat Bike plans to expand by building its supply chain in Southeast Asia over the next two to three years, with the help of investors like Jungle Ventures.

In a statement, Jungle Ventures founding partner Amit Anand said, “The $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia in particular is ripe for reaping benefits of new developments in electric vehicles and automation. We believe that Dat Bike will lead this charge and create a new benchmark not just in the region but potentially globally for what the next generation of two-wheeler electric vehicles will look and perform like.”