Ather Energy, a Bengaluru based start-up that currently sells two smart electric scooters in India namely Ather 450 and Ather 340 is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy. The brand has recently announced that it will pass on the FAME-II subsidy benefits to its buyers in the form of a Rs 5,000 price cut on its flagship scooter – the Ather 450. The company has a lot in store for the customers in the years to come not only in terms of new products but also for helping change people’s perception of electric two-wheelers. Ather Energy will have its presence in 30 Indian cities with over 6,000 charging points by the year 2023. Express Drives recently interacted with Tarun Mehta, Co-Founder & CEO, Ather Energy who gave us an insight into the company’s upcoming plans and why he is optimistic on the future of electric vehicles in India.
What all is in the pipeline?
Ather Energy says that the real business value comes in only when you expand into all the big segments out there and don’t limit yourself to a niche. Tarun says that as the company expands its business across scooters, it will be expanding the business into bikes as well. He adds that Ather Energy will be launching an electric bike but that is going to take a few years. According to him, 96 percent of owners of the company’s electric scooters are on the Ather Community with a total count of close to 3,000. There are multiple threads and there is a new section called New feature asks. He says that there are numerous ideas that make him think there are multiple untapped opportunities.
Ather Energy has confirmed that it will expand across both the segments when it comes to electric scooters. This means that the company is working on two electric scooters. First, Ather Energy is developing a low-cost electric scooter that will cater to a wider set of audience. The scooter will have lesser features compared to the Ather 450 and hence, will come with a lower price tag. On the other hand, the brand believes that if people can purchase a Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.2 lakh electric scooter, there is also an opportunity for a better offering with a slightly higher price. Tarun said that the core product driveability will remain quite similar across the two upcoming scooters. He adds that the basic platform is ready and Ather will now start to develop variants out of it.
Ather Energy expansion plans
Ather Energy is currently present only in Bengaluru. The company is set to enter in Chennai in June this year. This calendar year, the company will also be entering Pune and Hyderabad. Delhi NCR is on the list a few months down the line. By next year, Ather Energy aims to be present in 10 Indian cities and by 2023, the company will be present in a total of 30 cities. By the said year, Ather Energy will have a total of 6,500 charging points.
Ather electric scooters currently command a waiting period of six months. The company says that in the next 10 to 12 months, it should be delivering 10 to 15,000 vehicles comfortably. The company says that beyond that, it will be installing a charging point in every customer’s house. By that point, Ather Energy aims to deliver around 1 million scooters.
Thoughts on the future
Ather Energy believes that for electric two-wheelers, there will be a 100 percent penetration by the year 2030. Tarun says that Ather Energy sees more production and delivery constraint than the fact that there is limited demand in the market. He adds that even if prices will go up, there will not be a drastic change in demand will change at this point of time as the demand is inelastic.
Charging infrastructure to ditch range anxiety
Ather Energy says the distance between its two charging points will be less than 2 kms in most cities in which the brand will be entering into. With this thinking, Ather aims to exceed the density of currently existing petrol stations with its charging points. This coupled to the kind of predictive nature of Ather’s electric scooters that will help customers deal with the range anxiety in a positive way. Ather scooters tell you exactly the range left on the basis of a customer’s riding pattern. Also, the navigation present on board shows the nearest charging point.
Tarun says that suppose if your destination is 4 km away and the nearest charging point is 3 km away, the customer will get a big alert on the dashboard that instructs him or her to navigate to a charging station first, charge for like 10 minutes and then go. With all this, he does not think that the range anxiety will be a real thing in India. Mehta adds that the density of charging points will increase by 8x than what the company has at present. The idea of Ather Energy is to exceed petrol station density in any city as this is not only visually impactful but will help in changing the perception of the people about electric two-wheelers as well.
Ather Energy believes that people have gradually become more and more comfortable when it comes to the range of electric two-wheelers. Tarun says that with the changing scenarios, suppose if every 2 to 3 km, if you see a charging station on the road, then you might don’t even worry while riding your scooter to the last 2 km left. Those charging points will be apt for all electric vehicles.
Can an Ather electric scooter and a traditional 125cc petrol scooter have similar prices in the future?
Ather Energy believes that electric vehicle prices are surely going to come down, given how the technology is evolving. Tarun says that in the coming 2-3 years, a 125cc petrol scooter will see an inch up in price due to reasons like BS-VI emission norms. In this way, he believes that the price of an Ather electric scooter and a 125cc scooter will be very much in the same ballpark. There is no invention that needs to happen for it and that kind of similarity in price point is almost bound to happen. Tarun says that if the prices are not radically different and the running costs is 1/8th and its a much better riding experience, why will I still buy a petrol scooter is one thing that anyone would think.
Thoughts on Tier-II and Tier-III cities
Tarun said that Tier-II and Tier-III cities are the places today where the bikes outsell the scooters but in major urban areas, scooters have now started outselling bikes. For tier-II and Tier-III cities, people feel that the convenience of a scooter is far better than a bike. Mehta adds that the conversion will not come from scooter to scooter, it will come from bike to scooter and that transition is going to be huge. he says that the reason why people primarily ride a motorcycle in such cities is due to low pricing and high fuel efficiency. With Ather scooters, there is no issue with the running costs and as far as pricing is concerned, more affordable variants will be launched in the coming years, Tarun confirms. As already mentioned, you can expect the upcoming e-scooters with simplified electronics, lowered range, a not-so feature-rich dashboard and more. Moreover, financing will also take place at some point of time that will make owning an Ather electric scooter much easier.
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