Never before has an electric scooter launch garnered so much curiosity in India than that of the Ather 340. The product was showcased at various stages of development to the media. However, this Bengaluru-based set up indeed has done wonders and after a good five years of research as well as some funding from Hero MotorCorp, has launched the Ather 340, an electric scooter for Rs 1.09 lakh on-road, Bangalore. Not only this, there is also a more powerful as well as one with higher range, the Ather 450 which is priced at Rs 1.25 lakh, on-road. The scooter can currently be ordered in the white colour you see in the images though other colours are expected to follow soon.
There are questions galore about the product and service. So let me clear them all one by one here. Let’s take the availability as a starter. The Ather 340 and 450 are available for online booking at atherenergy.com. The pre-order booking amount will be Rs 5,000 and should you change your mind before the installation process or the final payment, Ather will refund the entire money and will not ask you any questions whatsoever. Once you give the final payment, technicians will come to your place to install the home charging point. The scooter will be delivered to your place. Ather also has one experience centre in Bengaluru (where else but the elite Indira Nagar) and here prospects can come and also see the making of the scooter through various slide shows.
The second most important question will be about the service. Now, as a complimentary for early bird customers, Ather is bundling in a service package called Ather One. Ather One will offer the customer free services for a year and this free service includes consumables like brake pads, disc oil and the like. This also includes the charge units that the scooter will consume in its daily run. If a customer is charging at his home grid, any other manufacturer set charging grid or through a public outlet, Ather will reimburse the charges to the customer within three months through a wallet system. Ather One if purchased individually will cost you Rs 700/month. Bundling in GST, for a quarterly plan, the price will be Rs 2,596 while the price of the yearly package goes up to Rs 9,912. Ather’s scooters have on-board diagnostic tools as well as a SIM card through which navigation can be enabled. All this is paid for too. Unlike other scooters which can be rendered obsolete once a new version comes out, Ather will send you software updates Over The Air (OTA). This will ensure that there is no difference in the software run by a newer scooter and your old one.
Who is Ather Energy and can I rely on them?
Why is it that people flock to Hero MotoCorp, Honda or General Motors to buy vehicles? Well, the last one was seemingly out of place (pun unintended) but you get the point, don’t you. These manufacturers have made a name for themselves and now their products sell because of the brand name. There is usually the assurance that these won’t shut shop and leave the buyers in a lurch. Ather Energy was founded in 2013 by Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, both of them IIT graduates. While the initial plan was to build electric vehicle batteries and supply them to manufacturers, somewhere down the line, the bug to build an electric scooter bit them. Over the years, after observing the Indian market conditions and how electric vehicles are perceived, these two struck upon the idea of allaying the fears of the buyers. Thus even before the scooters were launched, Ather Energy had the Ather Grid ready at various places in Bengaluru. This was to assuage the people that there are enough charging points for their scooters. These are placed prominently in the places where customers are expected to frequent – malls, coffee shops and restaurants.
The company is here to stay as they have received funding from Hero MotoCorp, Tiger Global and have backing from the founders of Flipkart. I have interacted with a few of the Ather Energy folks and found them to be an enthusiastic bunch who speak their heart and know the deal with electric vehicles.
The vehicle warranty is two years or 30,000km whichever is earlier and the battery pack has an unlimited kilometre/3 year warranty subject to it holding 70 per cent of the charge. For the Ather home charging point which comes as standard with S450, there is a three year warranty that will cover the manufacturing defects excluding regular wear and tear and the cable connector.
How is the scooter and how much will it run on a single charge?
Both the scooters use Lithium-ion batteries. For the lower powered S340, Ather uses a 1.92kWh battery that brings in 4.4kW of power (equivalent to 5.9PS) while the torque, as is the norm with electric vehicles, is rated at 20Nm. 0-40kmph is done in a claimed 5.1s while the top speed is 70kmph. Both the scooters have an Eco as well as Performance mode and the S340 delivers a range of 60km in Eco and 50 in regular mode. According to the Indian Driving Cycle (IDC), the Ather S340 does 86km. On the other hand, the Ather S450 is powered by a 2.4kWh battery pack that is good for 5.4kW of power (7.3PS if you will) and 20.5Nm. The top speed is 80kmph and 0-40kmph takes just 3.9s. The range reads as 75km, 60km and 107km depending on the modes of riding.
If you have plugged the scooter at home, then a 80 per cent charge from zero will take two hours and 40 minutes. A 100 per cent charge will take nearly double of that time. Use Ather’s fast charging grid power and the scooter is good to go within a couple of hours.
The motor as well as battery are IP66 and IP65 water resistant.
Any goodies on offer apart from what you just mentioned
Well, for starters, this one has a reverse gear. No, the scooter doesn’t have a trike system or is Royal Enfield heavy. It weighs just 118kg. This is nearly the same as a few 125cc petrol scooters we have in India. Instead, the reverse gear is limited to 2kmph and can be selected from the touchscreen system offered. Ather says that one can also engage it by keeping the turn indicator held, rear brake clasped and hit the starter button. Ather says that they have observed a lot of customer struggling to get their scooters out of parking lots and hence the need for a reverse gear.
Ather has given disc brakes at both the ends for its scooters. This along with combined braking wherein you pull the rear brake lever and there is assistance from the front lever too, ensures safe stopping times. The underseat storage too can hold a full face helmet – again a first for an Indian scooter. Ather has packed the batteries on the floorboard of the scooter. The battery pack at 19kg helps with the centre of gravity and I believe this will help in the handling of the scooter. There is a monoshock at the rear and telescopic forks in the front. LED head, side indicator and tail lights are the order of the day.
I have saved the best for the last. Ather has added a 7-inch tablet in place of the regular instrument console. This tablet hosts the regular tell tale details like the indicators, battery charge, how much is left, odometer and the like. However, it also has a SIM card which is continuously connected to the internet (Ather pays for it and in return gets valuable data like the ride pattern and fault analysis if any). This has real-time navigation. This is how it works. Download the Ather app and if someone drops in a pin or location on Whatsapp, all you got to do is transfer the pin here and then the tablet takes it over from there. So, there is no need to take out your phone for checking the directions again while riding. The touchscreen tablet is again IP65 water and dust resistant. The touch function gets disabled after 5kmph, as part of the safety brief.
During their presentation, the head honchos of Ather Energy had said that unlike the other electric scooters which were finding it hard to find financiers, the Ather S450 and S340 have the finance option too.
Ather is expanding slowly to Pune and Chennai as well. They need to ensure that the Ather Grids are in place before the scooter goes on sale in these areas. While they aren’t waiting for the infrastructure to come to them, the company is ensuring that it creates the necessary facilities so that its customers would not be at tenterhooks. The asking price may seem steep but the customer doesn’t end up paying for anything, not even the charging process or for service for a year. Deliveries will be done in batches with the first between August-October, the second in October-December and the third in January-March 2019. While it may seem for the well heeled, it is no doubt that the Ather scooter will be a benchmark when we speak of electric vehicles. Artem, please note!