The automotive industry has been steadily moving towards new energy vehicles with high focus on electric vehicles. In India too, government agencies as well as vehicle manufacturers are bracing up to embrace electromobility – their capabilities highlighted at the 2018 Auto Expo. Bengaluru-based start-up Ather Energy was not present at the 2018 Auto Expo, but has been plugging away on electric scooters over the past four years. The company had first showcased the concept of this electric scooter (then called Ather S340) in 2016. Ather Energy has now launched two variants of this scooter – Ather 450 and 340 that are expected to be delivered to customers in a month’s time. Auto Tech Review got an opportunity to experience a quick ride of the Ather 450 electric scooter. We bring you a quick perspective on its features as well as the ride experience.
While almost all electric scooters sold in India have had quirky design elements, Ather’s electric scooters have been designed ground-up keeping the Indian consumer in mind. Although the design elements are non-traditional in nature, it still provides an acceptable exterior. Smart elements like the pillion footrest shows how Ather has opted for a design that not only breaks away from the regular path, but also offers better usability than traditional designs.
The body panels comprise plastic composites, resulting in low weight with sufficient strength. There is an exposed part of the frame towards the front of the seat, which is painted green, and adds to the scooter’s design aesthetics. The scooter’s swingarm is also another element worth mentioning, as it not only serves as an import component that holds the rear together, but also has a neat look in the way it is integrated into the overall design.
The switchgear of the 450 is well put together, and has high quality standards. The scooter has well-designed rear-view mirrors, but the manner in which the mirror and stocks work provides a limited range of adjustments leading to poor rear visibility. The Ather 450 may be suitable for riders with a height of up to about 5 feet 10 inches.
The Ather 450 is powered by a Brushless DC (BLDC) electric motor that offers continuous power of 3.3 kW, which
peaks at 5.4 kW, providing maximum torque of 20.5 Nm. This motor helps the electric scooter reach a top speed of 80 km/h, with 0-40 km/h acceleration in 3.9 s and a gradeability of 18°. Both the motor and controller are water and dust-resistant in accordance with IP66 and IP65 rating, respectively.
Ather’s scooters come with a belt-driven transmission, which is exposed like that of a motorcycle to give it a sporty look. This belt drive also ensures that the noise levels are kept to a minimum, while offering appropriate power transfer to the rear wheel.
Ather Energy has equipped its scooters with lithium-ion batteries that have a usable capacity of 2.4 kWh for the 450 and 1.92 kWh for the 340. The battery has a nominal voltage of 51.1 V, comes with an aluminium alloy case, and offers water and dust resistance as per IP67 rating. The range of the batteries on the Ather 450 and 340 in Eco mode come to 75 km and 60 km respectively, which reduces by about 20 % in normal mode.
Ather Energy had recently announced the launch of its charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EV) in Bengaluru called AtherGrid, which is open to EVs of all manufacturers. With the number of charging stations scheduled to be set up by 2018-end, there will be a charging station within 4 km driving distance from any point in the city.
A highlight of Ather’s electric scooters is the 7-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen. The smart interface was co-developed and manufactured with Sanmina Corporation. The home screen provides information such as speed, available range, odometer reading, trip meter and average speed. It also comes with navigation function offering options for alternative routes and saved locations.
The Ather app enables the dashboard to display push navigations from mobile devices, remote monitoring of vehicle health, charge monitoring and managing service requirements. The vehicle also has over-the-air (OTA) update as well as additional features and functionalities. The dashboard is easy to use, with decent feedback for touch operations of various options. The navigation replicates maps offered in mobile phones and also lets one to zoom in and out for additional ease.
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
Ather developed a new chassis design, which followed the design of the battery pack that lies below the footboard. In addition, the motor has also been placed as low as possible, pushing all the weight to the bottom and improving vehicle dynamics. This low centre of gravity can be felt while riding the scooter, especially when zipping through traffic and having to change direction constantly. The precision-machined hybrid chassis is made up of 80-85 % aluminium, with the rest of it being constructed out of steel. This aluminium construction has helped keep the weight relatively low.
The 450 sits at 160 mm above the ground, offering decent ground clearance that can tackle pot hole-ridden roads with ease. The scooters feature telescopic forks front suspension, along with a symmetrically-mounted progressive monoshock rear suspension. The suspension is not too firm, leading to a ride quality that soaks up all road undulations well. However, this does not affect the level of control offered while riding the scooter enthusiastically due to the low centre of gravity and front to back balance.
The scooter comes with 12-inch alloy wheels shod with 90/90 tubeless tyres, both front and rear. This is mated with disc brakes at both ends. The scooter also features a combined braking system that enables both brakes while the back alone is actuated. The brakes on Ather’s scooters are regenerative in nature.
Ather Energy has launched the Ather 450 and the Ather 340 in India for ` 1.25 lakh and ` 1.10 lakh respectively. While the price seems to be on the higher side for a scooter, there is little doubt that the Ather 450 is a well-equipped scooter. Running and maintenance costs are fairly lower that traditional petrol scooters as well, leading to lower total cost of ownership. The Ather 450 is a well-built product with a high level of fit and finish of all components and internals, which could actually give it a good run against long-standing petrol scooters in the country.
TEXT & PHOTO: Naveen Arul