Buying an electric scooter
Why should you buy an electric scooter? Or for that matter, why should anyone buy an electric scooter? Conventional gasoline scooters are doing far better and are still light years ahead of where electric scooters currently stand, be it practicality, desirability or reliability. Not to mention the limited operating range being the biggest constrain on the electric scooters as well. Ather-Energy along with the 450 promise to deliver things differently though. Distinct enough to rethink on the answer to the above question? Let’s find out.
“When Ather designed the 450, their prime influence was superbikes”
When Ather designed the 450, their prime influence was superbikes. And, the ascendancy is very well reflected. The minimalistic design coupled with sharp panels lend the 450 a striking look. The scooter gets an exposed under seat frame, batwing inspired rear grabrail, sculpted mirrors, superbike like swingarm, exposed belt drive along with huge sprocket, body mounted rear foot pegs and the all LED lighting system design lend the scooter a very futuristic look. Attention given to details is phenomenal. Check out the side stand or front number plate mount for instance.
Features on the Ather 450
The 450 offers endless features list. The scooter gets all LED headlamps, tail lamps, side indicators, fully digital 7 inch TFT touchscreen speedometer console, 12-inch wheels gets disc brakes at both front and rear with CBS (Combined Braking System) and a motor kill switch. It gets a huge underseat storage bin that easily swallows a full face helmet and still has space for some more stuff along with two small cubbyholes on either sides. Suspension duties are handled by telescopic forks at the front and a centrally mounted monoshock unit at the rear with aluminium swingarm.
The scooter gets inbuilt maps on the speedometer console similar to what you see on your smartphones on Goggle maps. The system also pairs with your phone through mobile app so you can receive calls and messages. Infact, the software has been synced so seamlessly, the maps will detect an alternate route if it fetches any faster route or in cases when you take any wrong turn. Not to worry about getting electrocuted in Indian rains as well, the 7-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen display is IP66 rated while the battery is IP67 rated.
The Ather 450 is powered by a BLDC motor, develops 5.4kW (7.2bhp) and 20.5Nm of peak torque. The motor is coupled with a two stage reduction gearbox (7.8:1 ratio) that produces 155Nm torque at wheels which aids the scooter to sprint from 0-40kmph in 3.9 secs and 0-60kmph in 9 seconds flat. For a straight comparo, the Aprilia SR125 managed to hit the 60kmph mark in 9 seconds on our test run. Claimed top speed is 80kmph and I did manage to see that number on the speedo console on an empty road.
Though electric scooters don’t make any noticeable sound, the motor on the 450 is not all quiet. You can feel it working its heart out when you whack open the throttle, but I quite liked the whine. The audio felt similar to the Batpod from the ‘Dark Night Rises’. I would have loved it if the whine was a little louder. The lithium-ion battery is mounted below the floorboard and weighs only 18 kg. It’s very compact and is equivalent to two normal size laptops stacked one above other.
Ride and Handling
The 450 provides with excellent ride and handling characteristics . It took close to four years for Ather to develop this product, and they have left no stone unturned. As told to us, Ather had a vision to define electric scooter mobility in the country, and every effort they took is clearly reflected with the way the scooter rides. The weight distribution is 51 per cent at the front and 49 per cent at the rear which gives the 450 a neutral handling nature.
At 120kg, the kerb weight is a bit on the higher side, but twist the throttle and the weight somehow disappears. The scooter feels very nimble to maneuver in the city traffic. Our test route had a lot of potholes and uneven bumps and the 450 was more than happy to welcome and surpass them without unsettling me on the saddle. The centrally mounted monoshock works wonders for this scooter. The 450 feels a bit light and easy to flick around than any conventional scooter, because of the slightly skinny 90 section rubber, but I am not complaining.
Total quoted range on one full charge is 75km (ARAI range is 107km). Our test run was limited to a 30km ride, hence we were not able to check the complete range of the scooter on full charge. Ather claims that the scooter shows exact range adapting to each rider’s riding style, though it takes around 500 – 1000km for the scooter to get the complete feedback on how the rider rides. Ather will have you believe that the 450 runs at 20paise/km. With petrol prices at Rs 85 per litre (in Maharashtra), a conventional 125cc scooter will cost around Rs 2.1/km (considering an average fuel efficiency of 40kmpl in city riding conditions). And, if we consider a yearly mileage of 10,000km, the 450 will consume Rs 2,000 worth of electricity compared to Rs 21,000 worth of fuel. Ather claims that one battery is good for 50,000km.
It’s not just the affordable running costs that act in the 450’s favour. It’s the charging network that Ather provides with the scooter as well. Ather has completed the setup of its first charging network with 30 charging points called as Ather Grid in Bengaluru, with a maximum travel distance of 4km from any place the consumer lives in the city. All the public domains will have a charging current of 2.5kW which is claimed to charge the scooter up to 80 per cent from scratch within an hour. Personal domains will get 1kW charging current which is good for 2hr 40 min for 0-80 per cent charge. Total charging time on personal domain is 4 hour 18 min. Chennai and Pune will be the next cities to get the charging infrastructure after Bengaluru.
It’s really difficult to find the shortcomings on this scooter. It would have been an excellent proposition if the scooter was offered with a range of at least 100km on a single charge, though the infrastructure does sort things out. Seat height is perfect for average riders like me (5’8 feet) but tall riders might face some concern with the floorboard height. GPS feels a bit slow in response when you are commuting 50kmph+ speeds, it takes time to catch up with you on the screen and sometimes you might just skip a turn on consecutive ones, like I did. Ather says the issue will be fixed before the deliveries commence.
The quintessential stuff
Riders can create their personal profile on mobile app and the scooter saves all the data. The data displays maximum speed, lean angles, braking force, motor condition, battery percentage, personal riding nature, etc. which the company calls as remote diagnostics. All the data is also available in a graphical format so that it’s easier to read as well The 450 is equipped with a park assist system, which allows the rider to maneuver the scooter in tight spaces at 3kmph in forward direction and at 2kmph in the reverse direction.
Sales is a secondary thing. Product positioning and appeal is primary. If you get the first thing right, second is a byproduct. At Rs 1.24 lakh (on-road), the 450 surely asks for a good amount of money over the other 125cc scooters in the market. But, at the price, you do get plethora of features, a customizable personal profile, charging infrastructure and super affordable running cost to back it. Ather is also offering installation of charging point at home, 1 year insurance, 1 year service charges, Ather Grid charging assist and 24×7 roadside assistance without charging any extra money (for the early buyers).
The extra money you pay in the initial stage(while buying), gets balanced in two years (20,000km) with the massive difference in running costs. And, with the top of the line Aprilia and Vespa scooters touching almost a lakh rupees (on-road), the 450 is surely an option worth considering. The question we began above, does get rejigged to ‘why shouldn’t you buy an electric scooter?’