Rakesh’s Story – Falco eMotors Inc.

Rakesh Dhawan

Rakesh Dhawan
President & CEO


Why do I do What I do?

Rakesh's Childhood

I was born in the city of Jalandhar, Punjab, India. It is not very far from the bordering Pakistan. My family from my mom's side was refugees in India after being displaced by the terrible partition of India in 1947. My maternal grandfather sustained sixteen bodily injuries with an Axe at 16 and lived to 92. He was a significant influence in my life. He was a man with continuous and persistent action. Seeing him get up at 4 AM and go full blast until 9PM every day was remarkable.


People living in Punjab are called Punjabis (or Panjabis), and their language is called Punjabi. Once upon a time, Punjab encompassed a fair bit of Pakistan. Even today, quite a few people in Pakistan speak Punjabi. Punjabis are known for their bravery and courage and were well-regarded in the British army.


I was the eldest grandchild in my family. That afforded me a significant advantage over other siblings. My childhood was filled with a lot of playfulness and love. Additionally, my grandfather lived in a large joint family. So, doting on me was multiplied several times as the family's eldest grandson.

Suffice it to say that I had the most magical childhood.

My dad came from disadvantaged circumstances. My paternal grandfather was blind, and it was quite difficult to make ends meet when my dad was young. The family’s traditional livelihood came from Goldsmithing and being blind did not help. However, my dad rose out of the difficult circumstances to be the first one to go to college and get into India’s corporate world. That set the stage for I and my brothers to leave Punjab and explore India and the world for opportunities.


When I was 15 years old, my dad moved to the Eastern part of India to a state called Orissa. Orissa is a sharp contrast to Punjab. It is diametrically opposite of everything Punjabis stand for. Orissa had a significant impact on my upbringing. Punjabis are not only known for their bravery but also their exhibitionist qualities. Punjabi weddings are full of glamor. Orissa, on the other hand, stands for utter simplicity.


I think it was sometime in 1982 when we landed in the City of Bhubaneshwar in Orissa. My first memory of the place was seeing people wearing only one piece of cloth, both men and women alike. They seemed extraordinarily religious and lived an elementary life. I was amazed by the sharp contrast in cultures.


My dad made a modest income. Therefore, the environment in Orissa was much more amenable. There was no competition or keeping up with the Joneses. Orissa provided me with an optimum environment for growth.


As we settled in Orissa, I fell in love with the place. I also came to be introduced to the teachings of Swami Vivekanand. Around the same time, I read the book My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi. One day, I came across the hills of Dhaulagiri, where the great Ashoka fought his final war. It was an eerie experience for me. While standing in front of the shanti stupa, I could feel the history. I could feel the war and the subsequent conversion of King Ashoka to Buddhism. Lastly, Orissa had a significant impact on my life.


In the 1980s, India was not the land of opportunity as it is today. I was afraid my father could not afford to send me to college. Someone told me that there were colleges in India with free tuition. However, one must pass an entrance exam to get into these colleges. There were five such colleges at that time, and they were called Indian Institutes of Technology or IITs. I began to work hard to pass the entrance exam for these colleges. I remember consistently working 12 to 18 hours daily for a year and a half studying for these exams. I could not afford to have a tutor. A lot of my friends had tutors and guided studying. 


These exams seemed complicated, and I often felt lost while studying. I felt dumb. Somehow, I persisted. And it worked. I got enough of a rank to enter the Electrical Engineering Department of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, West Bengal. The good part was that it was not very far from Bhubaneswar, where we lived. It seemed it was a big deal to get into these colleges. My dad was ecstatic.

Indian Institute of Technology

There were so many intelligent people in the college that I often felt out of place. Things again worked out, and I had some aptitude for Electrical Engineering. Four years passed fast, and I graduated near the top of my class. Lots of my fellow friends applied to go abroad. I wanted to stay in India and serve the country.


I went to work for Tata Electric Companies. I got to work on developing military-grade motors and drives for the Indian army. I completed most of the learning in the first year. The excitement left me in the second year. As I looked around the company, I saw a lot of long-timers with very little ambition. I began to feel scared that I had made a mistake staying in India. I applied to go abroad.

University of Minnesota

Eventually, I got a research assistantship under Prof. Ned Mohan at the University of Minnesota. Prof. Ned Mohan specialized in Motors, Drives, and Power Electronics. On Sept 10, 1992, I landed in Minneapolis from Mumbai.


The stint at the University of Minnesota was relatively short. I finished my Masters in 9 months. I loved the Midwest and lived between Minnesota and South Dakota for about nine years. I got married in 1995.  

Wavecrest Laboratories

In the fall of 2001, right after 9/11, I moved my family from Minneapolis to Fredericksburg, Virginia. There was Ex-Wife's family in Maryland, so Virginia allowed her to be near her family.


An opportunity arose with Wavecrest Laboratories (WCL) in Dulles to work on electric motors for light electric vehicles and electric cars. I worked there for four years. WCL did not survive. Parts of the electric bike and automotive technologies were sold to Matra in France, Accell Group (Sparta) in the Netherlands, and Magna in Canada. We had a few commercial launches. The Tidalforce electric bike was the most prominent one. WCL was ahead of its time in many respects, and the market was not ready. It failed to gain traction and consequently folded.


WCL had a significant impact on my life. First, I fell in love with electric bikes, and second, I learned a lot about startups.

Electric Motion Systems

After WCL, I founded Electric Motion Systems with a handful of engineers from WCL. Electric Motion Systems worked exclusively with Matra and re-launched Tidalforce electric bike in its new incarnation as E+ electric bike. WCL motor technology was based on a 7-Phase concept. That concept, though brilliant, was expensive to manufacture. E+ was launched with traditional 3-phase technology and we improved the design through cost reduction and better performance. The bike was a moderate success in the US, and we did not get an opportunity to launch in Europe. We were still way ahead of our times in 2008. And then I had a falling out with our sole investor in 2009 and I moved on to form Falco eMotors Inc.

Falco eMotors

At Falco, I spent some time studying various motor technologies and stumbled upon a unique 5-phase motor configuration. This configuration allowed us to have zero cogging which was not the case with E+ and Tidalforce electric bikes. It also allowed us to have more power in a smaller package. Most importantly, it allowed us fantastic range with extraordinary efficiency. I filed for a number of patents and they were granted by USPTO.


Motor development was completed in 2014. We called the motor Hx. It took us a bit of time to perfect the torque sensor and free hub integration. This brought us to the same level as BionX. However, I felt we needed more to have a perfect electric bike experience. Finally, we managed to have an in-built speed sensor in the free hub that completed the experience.


I remain after an extraordinary eBike experience. An experience that can cut through all the age levels and can encourage everyone to be outdoors and on the trails. I have loved being on the trails and it is an extraordinary way to connect with nature. Without biking and trails, what else is there to life. In my view nothing. And every day I yearn for another extraordinary ride on trails. America is beautiful and every opportunity we sit inside, we lose an opportunity to connect with the nature.


My journey continues. There were several interruptions in my journey from 2019. However, nothing really can stop me from moving forward and getting to the ultimate eBike experience. I am obsessed with it and there is a lot more to come in this space and I have a lot more to offer.