Scooting across the electrified distance

Ather 450

In what is seen as sheer ecstatic achievement to the startup hum in India, and a positive launchpad for electric mobility, a young Bengaluru-based EV development firm has darted ahead with a cutting-edge scooter sensation.

And this is no lab experiment or a pretense of possibilities, rather it’s a saga of pursued grit that breaking the complicated electric vehicle market code in the country isn’t rocket science, and is as pure a science there is.

When Ather Energy took off on its plan to build India’s first true electric two-wheeler in 2013, little did anyone expect that the Ather 340 and its more powerful ‘twin’ sibling, the Ather 450, would emerge as the smartest, most revolutionary scooter offering that India has ever seen, and would ever see perhaps in the not so near future.

Challenging background

It must be observed that electric vehicles, especially two-wheelers, are not new to India. A few years ago, there was an influx of all kinds of 2W EVs in the country, with designs ranging from bicycles sporting electric motors and flimsy scooterettes running on power, to any other limited contraption of this kind. 

With a confirmed top speed of no more than 40 kmph in some cases, none of the aforementioned vehicles were scooters in the real sense of the term. To begin with, their very design lacked character, with boxy bits here and there. Also, with a tiny range not exceeding 25 kmph in few cases, these Made in China vehicles were usually meant for errands around one’s home. Such a makeshift push for the spread of EVs in India undoubtedly didn’t take off well with discerning customers, whose very idea about electric mobility was impacted.

So the challenge that a young EV startup such as Ather had to first mitigate was to reconstruct the awareness level among customers, and introduce them to the endless possibilities that an electric vehicle has to offer and can deliver. And after careful planning, understanding and engineering, Ather has unleashed the two e-scooter siblings, which appear sci-fi, but are as real and advanced as the current space age.

Electrifying looks

The Ather 340 and 450 look no different from one another, except for their different motor specs. We get to ride the Ather 450, so this name would be used most often to explain design cues about the company’s products.

The Ather 450 is beaming with looks. There is practically no minute point in the appearance arena which will disappoint anyone. Clearly, the designers have worked hard around crafting the vehicle, and enabling it to derive its looks, which are not only at par with mainstream internal combustion-run scooters in the market, but it would not be wrong to say that Ather’s scooters even outshine the competition by miles.

The Ather 450 is chiselled to perfection, yet has a very smooth presence. The flow of the lines around the scooter leaves no scope for any rough edges. The front sports the beautifully art-worked headlamp placed on the body. There are angular elements across which offer the scooter a cutting-edge physical vibe.

The body is a mix of mostly white, with some black areas, rendering it a clear image. There are hints of green, which minimally carry the manufacturer’s and product’s names. Even at the rear, the sleek quadrilateral tail-lamp is itself a head-turner. The Ather 450 is compact and smart, yet seems strong and robust. Little elements, such as the geometric shaped side-stand add style, while the quality of parts used seem to be among the best, designed in-house with passion and reason.

Ride beyond smooth

Ather Energy’s maiden scooter sensation, the Ather 450, is said to be disruptive and intelligent. It is necessary that it be taken for a spin downtown, and be seen as a successful myth-buster of the thought that ‘electric vehicles are not meant for India’.

The Ather 450 is designed for city riding conditions, and it comes with a top speed of 80 kmph, a range of 75 km and one of the quickest accelerations of 3.9 seconds from 0-40 kmph in the scooter market.

The scooter’s acceleration is top-class, and when on the road, it can actually be experienced. When the signal turns green, and you hit the throttle, the Ather 450 leaves even 180 cc motorcycles behind with gusto. The sound that the scooter emits is devine. In the beginning, there is no reaction as to what the motor is up to, and then it just begins to speed ahead with a sound which is sheer music to one’s ears.

With a pair of 12-inch alloy wheels, and tubeless tyres, the scooter is well-suited for most roads, and is highly maneuverable in all traffic conditions. To improve rider and pillion safety, the scooter boasts of combined braking system and regenerative braking, with dual disc brakes. Also, telescopic forks and a monoshock suspension adds to its ammo of features. Speaking about pillion, the scooter has among the most comfortable and safe rear seating available across most two-wheelers in the market.

The Ather 450 comes with a 3.3 kW BLDC motor that can comfortably ride up 18-degree slopes, making steep parking lots, flyovers, and roads an easy climb. And for the first time in the category, the Ather 450 comes with parking assist, which allows riders to reverse into tight parking locations, making it perhaps the first and only two-wheeler in the country to have such an offering on board. This is not the only intelligent feature that the designers have thought about.

Smart-charged

The Ather 450 has been designed to solve problems limiting current electric two-wheelers, like slow charging speeds, low-powered motors, and short battery lives. It can fast charge to 80% at a rate of 1 km per minute. It is stated that the overall cost incurred per charge, which covers a range of over 75 kmph, is not more than Rs 16, turning this e-scooter into a blessing for the price-conscious consumer. Then there is ample underseat storage, which can occupy more than a full-face helmet.

The key differentiators of the scooter are its other intelligence features, seamless charging and ownership experience.

The Ather 450 has a 7-inch touchscreen dashboard that allows on-board navigation, with options of alternative routes and saved locations. It comes with the Ather app that enables push navigation from the phone to the vehicle dashboard, remote monitoring of the vehicle health, charge monitoring and managing service requirements. Finally, with the over-the-air (OTA) functionality, the vehicle is capable of improving over time with continuous improvement and addition of new features and functionalities. The Ather 450 comes with a home charging Point, that will be installed by the company at either owners’ homes or workplace. Features like surge protection, authenticated power draw, and remote charge monitoring makes Ather’s Point a fast, safe and intelligent charger.

Ather’s Points have been designed and manufactured in India, keeping in mind the needs of the domestic power grid. Safety features ensure that electricity is drawn only when connected to a vehicle and protects vehicles from overcharging with auto power cut off. Electric vehicles will be protected from undervoltage, overvoltage and overcurrent. And with an IP55-rated body, it is safe to use in any weather.

Meanwhile, the company’s solution AtherGrid, which is open to all EVs, has also begun to see installations of the intelligent and connected charging stations across Bengaluru. Ather Energy also has a new dealership and service model. While the ordering, payment, and test ride scheduling is online, the brand has opened its experience centre, AtherSpace, to give customers an in-depth look and experience of the product. The servicing woes are also taken away by seamless doorstep pickup and service that can be scheduled through the Ather app.

Ather is offering a unique no-hassle pricing model. The total cost includes what consumers pay upfront to buy the scooter and a monthly subscription that will take care of most operational expenses. The Ather One plan entitles customers to free public and home charging, periodic maintenance inclusive of consumables, breakdown assistance and unlimited data services for the dashboard at only Rs 700 + GST per month, which is way lower than the sustenance cost of present scooters.

The Ather 450 is priced at Rs. 1,24,750 on road, and the Ather 340  is priced at Rs. 1,09,750 on road. This is inclusive of subsidy at Rs 22,000, GST, road tax, smart card fee, registration card, and insurance.

The Ather 450 no doubt rejuvenates the noble idea behind electric vehicles. The scooter is fun to ride, easy on the wallet, and is a pioneering feat of young, passionate engineering. Also, it has the ability to give mainstream scooters a run for their money, with power beating fuel hands down. 

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Scooting across the electrified distance

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