Electric mobility is no longer a concept set in the distant future. It’s here and now. India has made noteworthy progress in the development of electric vehicles and of equal significance is the Indian audiences’ acceptance of them. Today, an electric scooter or SUV perhaps still begets an elaborate look, but it’s no longer puzzling to see a perfectly proportionate-looking scooter or SUV whizzing past silently. Sure, EVs aren’t quite the norm yet but if the Ather 450X, for one, is anything to go by, it can easily be said that our collective transition to EVs isn’t going to be the challenge we imagined it to be. It can’t be tough to adapt to the coolest urban runabouts we’ve ever had, right?
Of course, you’re familiar with the Ather 450X and that in itself is half the battle won for what is essentially an extremely young, one-model brand. Despite having begun retail operations only three years ago, the bright minds at Ather made all the right noise and got the attention they deserved from the very beginning of its operations in Bengaluru. It helped that the Ather 340 and 450 were unbelievably well-engineered, with their clean design philosophy and jaw-dropping performance, but Ather even turned its non-mobility background into an advantage, by going into details a traditionalistic approach would not have yielded. Think a ‘six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit’, a gigantic touch screen dashboard, a reverse mode (to make parking even easier than it already was) and, of course, Ather Grid, a charging ecosystem that would change how audiences would approach electric mobility.
Nilay Chandra, Director, Marketing and Charging Infrastructure receiving the trophy from Hemant Jain, CFO Reliance General Insurance.
With the kind of future-proof thought Ather showcased right from its inception, that the 450 was going to evolve into something extraordinary was only expected. Firstly, Ather equipped the 450’s newest iteration with even more useful tech, such as an Android-based operating system, Bluetooth, and, among others, a 4G eSIM that fuels the onboard Google Maps navigation feature.
However, it didn’t stop there and made it go substantially quicker. With its power output having gone up to 6kW (up from 5.4kW) and torque even higher, to 26Nm (up from 20.5Nm), the Ather 450X now accelerates from 0-60kph in a staggering 7.36sec, while topping out at around 90kph. Yes, you’re still reading about a scooter that can comfortably accommodate two adults and a whole load of luggage!
With a claim to fame of that stature, it’s no wonder the Ather 450X left our enthusiastic jurors seriously impressed at the 2021 Autocar India Awards jury round held at the Madras Motor Race Track in Sriperumbudur, Chennai. Among a pack of seriously potent motorcycles, the Ather 450X stood out even more than it does amid a sea of conservative scooters, but a thumb of the starter later, it was all forgotten. Boy, this thing is a hoot – even around a fast and intimidating racetrack such as the MMRT! Not only did Rajini Krishnan, one of the jurors, go all-out, pushing the 450X to its limits as he swung it from apex to apex, it even lured the automobile jurors, including a certain ex-Formula 1 driver – Narain Karthikeyan – to have a go. That it’s technologically fantastic as a scooter certainly makes a strong case for the Ather 450X, but what makes it truly inspiring is that it’s made in India, by Indians, a scooter that has enough to make the world take notice.
Rajini Krishnan gives the Ather 450X the special treatment at the jury round at MMRT, Chennai.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Ather 450X bagged the coveted Green Two-Wheeler of the Year award, because it goes beyond being just a solid product and towards the realisation that electric mobility, and our future, is going to be a whole lot of fun!
WHAT THE JURY THOUGHT ABOUT THE ATHER 450X
RISHAAD MODY, Assistant Editor - Bikes
The Ather 450X is expensive for a scooter, but its price is easily justified. The level of quality and attention to detail in every component is unparalleled, be it the fancy-looking touchscreen colour display or smaller things like the side-stand and number plate holder. On top of that, it’s the quickest accelerating scooter that we’ve tested to date – petrol or electric. And the range Ather claims is pretty much what you’ll get at real world speeds.
RISHAB BHASKAR, Senior Correspondent - Bikes
The Ather 450X’s futuristic design, features, performance and sheer fun factor is what makes it so appealing. To add to that is the sense of pride one feels when you know you are astride an electric scooter that’s conceptualised, designed, and built in India.
RAJINI KRISHNAN, Veteran racer
The Ather 450X is very quick and it handles very well. I feel this one should be fun in traffic. It’s very silent – like a silent killer.
Why they dig Ather Energy
Four riders from across the country on why they joined the fold.
Research professional, Kochi
Back in 2017, as an electronics grad, I was keen on developing a proof of concept that could prove electric scooters needn’t be slowpokes. That was when a friend pointed me towards this bright new startup called Ather Energy. I registered my interest on the website and about a year later, I was informed that the S340 was coming out of incubation – unfortunately, only in Bengaluru. The wait was a long one, but in January 2020, the booking for the 450X opened. It took me less than 30 minutes to complete the formalities. Today, I’m a happy 450X owner and I see it as a vision come true, sans the effort I would have had to put behind making one of my own!
Prathamesh Anil Sawant,
Celebrity hairstylist, Mumbai
I was blown away by the features and performance of the 450X. The Park Assist and Music/Call Controls on the dashboard are some of my favourite smart features. I knew I was sold the moment I saw the Series 1 design and absolutely had to get one. I was lucky enough to be one of the first Ather 450X Series 1 owners in Mumbai. Now I’m turning heads in my city as I zip around it.
Systems engineer, Bengaluru
I have been an early follower of Ather. I needed a two-wheeler that would reflect my techie lifestyle, and when I test-rode the 450 for the first time, I knew it was a match made in heaven. I loved the functional dashboard, and the performance of the motor and battery, and its brakes and handling are on another level. I have never experienced this kind of performance and premium build quality in a scooter. I had an opportunity to buy the 450X but I wanted to be a part of the original 450 club, which paved the road to the 2W EV revolution in India. I have clocked 11,000km in 10 months at zero cost, thanks to the Ather One subscription plan. This is one vehicle which makes every ride fun and thrilling without burning any fuel.
Harshil Anand Shah,
Project manager, Ahmedabad
The 450X first caught my attention in a newspaper ad. After some research, I test rode it and decided to buy it the moment I finished the ride. It simply glides on the road, delivers great performance, and is a total head-turner. And of course, a special mention for the brilliant display that throws up relevant information. The 450X ticks nearly every box I can think of – it is performance-packed, pollution-free, and primarily, an intelligent scooter that has upped the joy of riding two-wheelers for me.
How robust are the batteries that go into Ather Energy’s scooters? Well, according to the company, battery health in their scooters is as strong as 90 percent, even after a mileage of 30,000+ km. This data comes from the performance of actual on-road scooters.
‘We are on the cusp of a massive change’
Ather Energy co-founders Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain on their imminent expansion plans, the evolution of the Ather Grid, and the advantages of having India-specific scooters.
Ather Energy is looking to treble capacity at its new Hosur plant to about three lakh units by 2023. What measures will the company take to complement this plan?
The two-wheeler category is witnessing a massive transition to electric vehicles. As a leader in this segment, the demand for Ather Energy’s vehicles will also grow. Our national expansion in 2021 has been on the back of a phenomenal response by customers and retail partners. We will be expanding to 40 markets by the end of the year. The new 1,23,000 sq. ft. facility in Hosur has an annual capacity of 1,10,000 scooters and 1,20,000 battery packs. Our facility can scale up across shifts easily and we have developed the ability to expand capacity rapidly. We have also built a strong local supplier base and nearly 90 percent of the product is being indigenously built and sourced. At this stage, there is a need to build awareness about electric vehicles and the ecosystem around them, therefore, we will continue to invest heavily in educating and engaging consumers.
What is the current and projected footprint of Ather Grid and what are the timelines involved?
The number of Ather Grid points across the country has grown by more than 4X since 2019. Ather has set up 129 public fast-charging points across 18 cities. We are planning to set up another 300 charging stations by the end of 2021. In our accelerated expansion phase, we target to set up 5-6 fast-charging points before delivery across the 40 markets that Ather Energy will be present in by 2021. We will continue to partner with progressive hosts, including cafés, restaurants, tech parks, malls, and gyms, which can offer EV owners easy accessibility, curb range anxiety and ease the adoption of electric vehicles. In addition to that, we also have strategic partnerships with national players such as Cafe Coffee Day, Blue Tokai, and VR Malls, among others.
How does Ather see the next five years?
We are on the cusp of a massive change. The fundamental driver is growing consumer demand. People are beginning to view EVs as an upgrade and as the future of mobility, rather than the traditional perception that EVs save money on fuel. Additionally, the government is also hastening the transition to electric through policies and subsidies. Fiscal incentives to encourage EV purchases has led to an introduction of competitive replacements for the current ICE vehicles at attractive price points. In addition to subsidising EV purchases and essential infrastructure development, the government has taken a keen interest in supporting the domestic design and manufacturing of electric vehicles. With more product offerings and charging infrastructure being available, in the next five years, India will see a steep increase in electric vehicles, and the majority of vehicles sold will be electric.
What were the advantages to Ather with developing its scooter line-up entirely in India?
Building a product entirely in India has allowed us to build a product that is built for India. All Ather Energy, products have been designed from scratch and are customised to Indian conditions and riding sensibilities. Some examples of this are a motor built to perform at peak capacity at high ambient temperatures, a touchscreen dashboard that would survive intense heat, dust storms, and road vibrations, or charging systems that are designed to work in the very volatile Indian electricity grid conditions. Since our products are developed in-house, it gives us great control over design and engineering, which in turn gives us the unique advantage of being able to adopt and leverage technological advancements faster. This allows us to introduce new features and products at a faster pace because of reduced external dependencies.
Has the Indian audience taken Ather by surprise? Who is a core Ather buyer?
Indian consumers have taken Ather by surprise with their speed of adoption and their quick and easy acceptance of EVs and our products. Consumers in urban cities seem to have a natural preference for high-performance and tech-powered electric vehicles. The demographics of the core Ather buyer today are very similar to that of the ICE scooter buyer. Which means that we are seeing customers in the age bracket of 25 to 45, both male as well as female. However, it is on the psychographic characteristics that the Ather buyers of today are different from that of the common scooter category. Our customers are of a progressive mindset and comfortable with technology and appreciate the value that tech adds to their life. Their choices are refined and they have an evolved taste that reflects in their purchases. Lastly, as a virtue of Ather being a credible EV player, our products are also very popular amongst environment enthusiasts.