The scooter (not reserved for the Ather 450). Honestly, I am not a big fan of this two-wheeler type. My dad has always ridden a motorcycle and even today tells me that a scooter doesn’t impress him. My brother grew up riding some sweet 2-stroke motorcycles and I haven’t seen him ride a scooter ever! Obviously, I had to follow this tradition and haven’t owned a scooter to date. But I think differently or at least I think I do. Bangalore is my hometown but I’ve been away for almost a decade.
I’m back now to where I belong but the city has changed a lot over the years and the traffic has multiplied five times over. This has created a need to get a scooter. I’m sure it would help with grocery shopping, I can quickly ride to the salon and give my sportsbike and back some rest, but most importantly ride to work through one of the slowest commutes in India today. One doesn’t have to shift gears, the seat is nice and comfy (not just for the rider but pillion too) and there’s space to store your helmet and valuables as well. However, the truth is I still haven’t found a scooter that does all of this and at the same time is quick and fun to ride too.
Which is why I am testing the scooter you see here. This is no ordinary scooter that you see every day, it’s the Ather 450, India’s first and only electric scooter that is actually quicker and as fast as conventional 125cc scooters. It’s the beginning of a new revolution and it’s finally here! I am sure you have read and heard about Ather Energy so we will dive in straight into the ride experience.
I headed to the Ather office in Bangalore that’s situated within town limits. The team quickly briefed me about the scooter and it was the first time that someone from the communications team actually handed the media vehicle by riding it to me inside their workplace, isn’t that cool.
So, here I was all kitted up and ready to take the Ather out to test in the real world. Sitting on it, it feels just like any other scooter but then you look at it and there’s this huge display in front of you, mirrors that look like it’s off a concept bike and you suddenly feel all, very Tron cool. Since it is powered by an electric motor, you actually can’t hear it idle. When you hold either the front or rear brake and press the starter button, a small notification on the screen will turn from motor off to on. Let go off the brakes, twist the throttle and off she goes! 20Nm of instantaneous torque right from the word go and we are already at 20kmph! The floor was slippery and I could feel the wheel spinning faster than expected. It was a very new feeling and I was already liking it, the future isn’t going to be bad after all!
Head out of the Ather office and you will arrive straight into legendary Bangalore traffic! Ideal test pad then, for bumper to bumper riding. Less than 10-minutes into the ride and I was already feeling at home and the 450 was comfortably going past other two-wheelers. All of this with the 450 still being ridden in eco mode. I decided to not turn it off just yet as I commuted through the urban jungle. The Ather 450 is zippy and super agile making it a breeze to squeeze through traffic and the power delivery is linear making it predictable too.
The electric motor isn’t eerily quiet but there is a faint whine from the components and the belt drive. In eco mode, commuting speeds seem to be similar to conventional 110cc scooters. Top end grunt is slightly weak as the motor climbs speeds above 50kmph rather slowly to reduce battery consumption.
I rode to my friend’s place and asked her to ride along pillion with me for a while and it performed as well despite the added weight. All this, in eco mode! The 30-minute ride was comfortable and my friend wasn’t complaining either. The battery level, however, went from a range of 70km to 45km despite the trip reading only 12.6kms.
I planned the route in such a way that I would pass various Ather charging stations, that way I wasn’t going to be stranded in town if the 450 ran out of battery. So after being gentle and trying to be a battery saver, I decided to go all-out with the 450 and finally turned off eco mode. The change in character is very evident and instantly brought a smile to my face. It literally shoots out of traffic and was always quicker than all scooters and a few motorcycles between signals. Speeds rise above 50kmph quickly and the 450 reaches 70kmph effortlessly.
Since we had the 450 for the day, I decided to even performance test the scooter (we are the first auto media to do so) and compare the figures with Ather’s claimed numbers. 0-40kmph according to Ather comes up in 3.9s. We achieved the same in 4.3s, very impressive indeed. The 450 can be even quicker for sure. Ather’s figure is achieved under ideal test conditions and the rider’s weight doesn’t exceed 75 kilos, I weigh almost 90 and tested the scooter in regular roads. While there is no claimed 0-60kmph time, the 450 reached 60kmph from a standstill in 7.2 seconds making it quicker than most 125cc scooters available in India today.
In fact, on an open stretch, the scooter managed to hit 90kmph on the speedo (actual speed being 83kmph). This is a quick and fast scooter for the town and is definitely one of its biggest USPs.
The Ather 450 is a rapid scooter for sure and it’s a lot more enjoyable thanks to a well-tuned aluminium chassis, lower CG and good weight distribution thanks to the battery cells being placed below the floorboard and a centrally placed motor that sits just behind it. I put the 450 through its paces and it came back shining and eager to go around corners. The larger 90/90 12-inch wheels and a stiffer suspension make it a nice handler too but overall grip could have been better.
The ride, too, is great and one can easily glide over most potholes. The suspension offers a great balance between ride and handling. Disc brakes are offered on both ends (220mm front and 190mm rear) and there’s also combined braking. The brakes do a good job but are slightly sharper than needed.
Eventually, the range had dropped to 20kms and that’s when I headed to the Moto Store & Cafe in Bangalore. The cafe is part of the Ather charging grid and is one of the few fast-charging stations. It worked out perfectly for me as the 450 range went up from 20 to 60 in less than an hour while I charged myself with some refreshing iced tea and yummy pizza! With an almost fully charged battery, my last dash was to the Ather office and despite it being a 15km commute through peak evening traffic, it was quick and a lot of fun. The total ride was about 50km. It can safely be said that the Ather 450 mileage with its mix of regular and Eco mode riding will be around 50km.
Verdict of the Ather 450
It’s astonishing that the 450 is actually Ather’s first ever product. It’s like no other scooter available in the market today. We finally get an electric scooter that does everything a conventional scooter does, if not better. Unlike electric cars that we are used to seeing in our country, it isn’t quirky and odd but is actually quite attractive and stylish. I personally love the fact that the Ather has no graphics on the body, instead, there’s a small Ather and 450 sticker that’s very subtle.
There’s a lot of tech too like regenerative braking, touchscreen display with navigation(IP66 rated), app-based vehicle tracking and it can also receive OTA updates. Ather claims that the Ather 450 is constantly learning based on rider pattern and gets updated for an improved experience, super cool indeed! Premium features like LED lighting/indicators and reverse mode (to help you easily get out of parking) are offered standard.
It may be priced at Rs 1.24 lakh (on-road, Bangalore) but you start saving immediately and end up spending lesser on running costs. You can even charge it at home, so it’s like riding out every day with a full tank of gas. That’s not it, early adopters get a free 1-year subscription to Ather One. This means you don’t spend anything after you buy the Ather 450 for a year. The plan essentially gives you unlimited charging at home and anywhere else, data used for navigation, other services and OTA updates and roadside assistance too!
Service and delivery of the Ather 450
Servicing the Ather 450 happens at home and all periodic maintenance, labour costs and wear and tear of parts are taken care of by Ather. I am so impressed with this scooter and the promised experience, that I want one right now! The only downer is that the 450 is available on pre-order and if I book one today, I won’t get one until next year. That’s because the first few lots have already been sold out and deliveries have begun as you read this. The Ather 450 definitely begins a new chapter in the Indian auto industry and it’s looking very promising. So stop dreaming and go get one today!
Things we like in the Ather 450
Design, technology on offer, safety aids and ease of maintenance
Things we don’t like in the Ather 450
Limited availability, slightly higher price, long term reliability is still a question
Trivia: Ather was supposed to have launched the scooter much earlier. However, due to the shortage of funds and the quest to know and test its scooter even better was the reason for the delay. Hero MotoCorp is funding Ather Energy now.
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Images by Halley Prabhakar and Hajira Javed