Honda Activa Lovato CNG vs Hero Electric Photon: Comparison Test

21 February 2017, 12:48 PM Ranjan R. Bhat

Introduction

Even though there is no shortage of options, spotting an electric scooter is like spotting a unicorn. Electric scooters available in India have always been soft in focus, as though they were precursors to greater things. But even after a decade, there seems to be no real advancement and they still suffer from the same shortcomings like limited range, performance and painfully long charging time. Now though, all tree-huggers have a new way of expressing their love and concern for nature.

Lovato and Mahangar Gas Limited (MGL) recently launched CNG conversion kits for scooters in Mumbai. Compatible with 18 different scooters, these might prove to be the ideal progression for someone wanting to reduce their carbon footprint or just find an economical mode of mobility. On paper, these kits seem promising on both performance and efficiency fronts, but how does a CNG-powered scooter stack up against an electric scooter? We decided to find out by pitting a CNG-powered Honda Activa 3G against the Hero Electric Photon, the most powerful electric scooter that you can lay your hands on in India.

The concrete jungle

You can spot them every once in a while, the electric scooters, ambling along all by themselves, unperturbed by the hustle and bustle of the traffic around them. Well, this is not because of the calm and nonchalant nature of those who ride them, but more due to the lack of an option. The Hero Electric Photon might be promoted as a ‘high-speed e-bike’, but you can straightway remove notions of it being anything close to an Energica Ego.

discontinued
Honda Activa 3G

Honda Activa 3G

  • Displacement109.2 cc
  • Mileage - ARAI61 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)8 bhp
  • Kerb Weight108 kg
  • ;

Last known Ex‑showroom price

 54,605

Nevertheless, the lack of power is not an issue in traffic clogged cities like Mumbai. Off the mark, the torquey electric motor launches enthusiastically before reaching the electronically governed top speed of 45kmph. In the confines of congested traffic, the Photon was easily able to filter through gaps and the lack of speed was never an issue. On less congested roads, simply staying in the left lane often allowed faster traffic to go around. However, my route home involves a couple of flyovers which took away performance and considerable juice from the battery. The front disc brake feels wooden, but has more than enough stopping power for the kind of speeds the Photon is meant to do.

But once you hop on to the Honda Activa CNG, it is a different ball game altogether. Of course, there is a noticeable drop in performance and refinement compared to the petrol mode, but not enough to deter you from riding one. The drop in performance can also be attributed to the additional 14 kilograms of weight it has to lug around.

The two CNG cylinders with a combined capacity of 1.4kg are mounted behind the apron, and the additional weight also robs the Activa CNG of some of its agility. There is an initial hesitation when you try to turn, before the scooter suddenly drops into the corner. This behaviour can be very unnerving while filtering through traffic, though you get used to it. Nevertheless, riding the Activa CNG didn’t feel like a compromise at all, though the same cannot be said about the Photon.

The highway run

While the difference in their power doesn’t make a big difference in city traffic, it is the highway where the Activa CNG truly shines. There is hardly any difference between the top speeds of the two modes. Though it does take some time to reach there, you can steadily cruise at 80kmph on highways. The same cannot be said about the Photon. As I mentioned before, the Photon is restricted to 45kmph. All kinds of vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses and rickshaws easily outpace the Photon. Overtaking requires a careful mix of patience, planning and gobs of courage, though it is best if you don’t attempt any.

Convenience

While running out of fuel in a conventional scooter doesn’t sound scary, it can take up to eight hours to fully charge the Photon. So despite it being lightweight, pushing the Photon to the nearest fuel pump is not an option. As my house is on the ground floor, charging the scooter wasn’t a problem. However, the authorities in the IT park that I work in straightaway refused to allow me to charge the scooter.

The charging aspect aside, the Hero Photon is as practical as any other scooter. It has more storage space than the Activa CNG, scores high on ride comfort and is lightweight and easy to use. It looks good too - I have taken a liking to the slightly retro styling. The white colour scheme and the loud decals make the Photon stand out from the crowd. It also gets fancy 10-inch alloys which lend it a premium look. And when it comes to emissions, there are none.

The Acitva CNG on the other hand, is as practical and easy to use as the Photon, and then some. Because the scooter retains its 5.3-litre fuel tank, you can keep going even after you run of CNG. So the CNG kit not only makes it more economical to run, but also improves the range of the scooter by around 100km. A part of the space of the underseat storage is taken up by the fuelling system, and the space you would usually have on the footboard is also reduced due to the cylinders. But these are minor compromises that aren’t very difficult to live with. On the emissions front, Lovato claims that running the scooter on CNG will reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 75 per cent and carbon monoxide emissions by 20 per cent.

Which one should you choose?

For its intended purpose of being an easy to use, accessible practical scooter for beginners, the Hero Electric Photon is a great product. It is convenient too, as long as it is used within the confines of its intent. Also with a price of Rs 55,290, the Photon is more affordable than a new Activa CNG, which would set you back by Rs 69,609 (both ex-showroom, Mumbai).

However for someone who is used to riding a conventional scooter, the Photon will seem like a major downgrade. CNG might not be as clean a fuel as electricity, but it definitely is the more sensible choice in the current scenario. The Lovato CNG kit makes a scooter retain the utility of a normal petrol-powered scooter while giving you the option of a more economical and cleaner fuel. So until battery technology catches up, it would be best if you stick to a CNG-powered scooter. And in case you were wondering, yes, you can also get the CNG kit fitted on your existing scooter for Rs 15,000.

Photography by Charles Pennefather

Gallery

Please tell us your city

This allows us to provide relevant content for you.

Please enter your city
Confirm city