Is Japan’s Terra Motors the Tesla of Asia?

Terra Motors’ A4000i

See the original story in Japanese.

Terra Motors is a Tokyo-based startup manufacturing mid-range and high-end electric bikes for Asian markets. The startup held a press briefing yesterday and unveiled a brand new model called the A4000i.

The new model’s big feature is connectivity with iPhones. When you set your handset on the bike’s handlebar, it will keep you updated with real-time metrics during driving, such as fuel efficiency, tracking routes, and power consumption. With this new function, the startup aims to help courier companies become more efficient in their delivery work.

Metric monitoring interface (under development)

Their strategy is to give consumers in Asia a high-end offering, so the new bike only supports iPhone, as opposed to other smartphone devices. Its price will be around 450,000 yen (about $4,500) in Japan, and will be about the same in other Asian countries. This means the bike will not be cheap for consumers in the region, so the startup hopes that their competitive edge can be in branding rather than pricing.

For the company’s mid- to long-term vision, it plans to use data collected from users to develop a new service in partnership with big data solution companies. They’re still preparing a navigation feature as well.

In this space, we’ve already seen a trend in the integration of mobility and data, such as the Google/Waze acquisition and Toyota’s new big data mash-up service.

Terra Motors has developed a prototype for the new model, and plans to start mass production this winter. They expect to sell more than 100,000 bikes by the end of 2015, and they’re currently inviting potential retailers and distributors from around Asia to get in touch.

Terra Motors was founded back in April of 2010, and it received investment worth of 221 million yen (or about $2 million) back in 2011. The investors include Mizuho Capital and several angel investors such as ex-Sony and ex-Google Japan CEOs.

The startup’s CEO Toru Tokushige spoke of his aspiration to be Asia’s answer to Tesla Motors in the region’s electric markets. But he’ll have a big challenge ahead.

Terra Motors’ CEO Toru Tokushige at press briefing on Thursday