What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words - ‘electric two-wheeler’? Well, chances are that this question three years back would have you visualizing a sluggish scooter that is designed to fulfil your bare minimum commute requirements with the only highlight being, it needs no petrol. Add to that the worrying thoughts in your head about range anxiety and lack of charging infrastructure as these still were major concerns when it came to owning an electric vehicle back then.
Fast forward to current times, this is not the case now. A group of IIT graduates decided to pursue their dream and instead of doing a typical corporate job, opened a firm named Ather Energy, a decision that was meant to make a difference. Last year, their flagship product 450 made its entry into the market along with the lower-spec 340. Within a short span of time, the Ather 450 started making a noise in the EV territory as it was unlike any other electric scooter India has ever seen. Despite being the costlier of the two scooters, the 450 garnered 98 per cent of the total bookings and hence, the brand started focussing more on its flagship offering. Ather Energy recently entered Chennai as the second city in India in which it has commenced its operations. During this launch, Express Drives was invited to spend an entire day with the Ather 450 and here is what we think about it. Also, is this an ideal electric scooter for India? Read on to find out!
What is it?
Ather 450 is the brand’s flagship scooter that is currently seen as the benchmark among all-electric scooters currently on sale. Before we proceed any further, first a quick fact which no one will tell you. Why the name ‘450’? We asked this question to the IIT grads who jokingly replied that thinking the name of the company took some months while the name of the product was thought in just 5 minutes. Instead of coming up with a rather fancy name for the scooter, folks at Ather wanted a descriptive name. The simple reason is the fact that this scooter uses a ‘4’ kW motor and ‘50’ amp battery pack and hence, the name ‘450’.
An electric scooter doesn’t have to look ugly, right?
The Ather 450 has a quite futuristic design language and it stands out from the sea of other electric and petrol scooters currently on sale. The front end of the scooter gets an all LED headlamp fitted on the apron while the DRLs are integrated on the front cowl. The scooter looks striking in this light coloured shade with minimalistic graphics. In fact, the only ones you will find are Ather in green on the rear side panels and a 450 badge on the apron. The LED tail lamp looks simple yet appealing and the turn blinkers do look a class apart.
Ather Energy is so confident of the design and styling of the scooter that it is available in a single white colour option only. The attention to detail is simply brilliant and the quality of the material used sees no compromise either. Even the side stand of the Ather 450 is thoughtfully designed. Not only it looks different and appealing, it seamlessly merges into the body when you pull it up.
The biggest highlight of the Ather 450 is the fact that it does not feels like an electric scooter while riding. That said, it finally breaks the perception we have for electric scooters in India in terms of performance. The electric scooter gets a 2.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers the 7.2 hp BLDC electric motor. The battery pack is purely waterproof with an IP67 rating, which means there will be no harm even if it is submerged underwater to a depth of 1 metre. Bye, bye Monsoon worries!
Being an electric two-wheeler, the torque output of 20.5 Nm is available instantly right from the word go and the result is impressive acceleration. The roll-on acceleration is also decent and quick overtakes in the city will make u believe that this one is nothing short of a conventional petrol scooter in terms of performance. The 450 feels light and quick on its feet and the performance is exciting enough to make you believe that you can have fun on an electric scooter too.
Ather 450 earlier used to come with two riding modes namely Ride and Sport with former meant for city and latter aimed at spirited riding. After the feedback from some customers and keeping in mind those who want better range, Ather Energy recently introduced an Eco mode. The throttle response in this one is rather dull and you can achieve a top speed of close to 45 kmph. Next up is the Ride mode in which the throttle response gets crisper and the top speed increases to close to 65 kmph. The most exciting one is the Sport mode that offers maximum acceleration with a realistic top speed of 80 kmph while the speedo showed 92 kmph.
Now, coming to one of the biggest concerns while owning an electric vehicle in India - the range. Ather Energy claims a realistic range of 75 km for Eco, 65 km for Ride and 55 km for Sport modes and some customers have even claimed that they received over 100 km range. In order to step up the convenience, Ather 450 also comes with parking assist, which is basically a Reverse mode to ease up the task in tricky places with a maximum speed of 2 kmph. The said mode can be activated by swiping the Parking assist icon on the touchscreen instrument cluster. The forward and reverse modes can be toggled with the help of start button.
How does it ride?
In order to compensate for the added weight of the battery pack, the Ather 450 sits on an aluminium frame. The 450 has a 51:49 weight distribution for better stability and ride quality. The electric scooter gets conventional forks upfront along with a rear monoshock. The suspension is slightly on a softer side but is firm enough to contribute in handling. The grip from the MRF tyres is confidence-inspiring and all thanks to the well-tuned suspension, one can dive into corners without second thoughts. The directional changes are quick and you can go through a corner at reasonably higher speeds. The scooter also feels agile and is easy to manoeuvre in city traffic, which is a bonus point.
The 450 sticks to its line even when being ridden at its full pace. Ather 450 gets disc brakes at both ends and these are coupled to a Combined Braking System for additional safety. The brakes offer a fantastic bite and feedback and in fact, the stopping power is one of the best that I have experienced on a scooter till date. You can easily trust the set up with all your heart during panic braking. However, for this reason, we felt that instead of CBS, the scooter should have been offered with an ABS (Anti-Locked Braking System) for better safety.
The 450 is smart, but how much?
Ather 450 gets a 7-inch touchscreen that can do more things than you must have thought. The display shows the estimated range left along with the remaining battery percentage. Below it, you can see the riding modes that can be toggled either by touch or with the help of a switch located on the right side of the handlebar. Ather 450 also gets navigation assist and an inbuilt 3G SIM card makes sure that the scooter is always connected to the internet. You just need to enter the location through the touchscreen and you are good to go. A location can also be pushed to the scooter with the help of Ather smartphone app.
Moreover, there are settings to turn ON and OFF the indicator buzzer, parking assist, guide me home lamps and the real-time efficiency. You can also activate the incognito mode if you do not want to keep a track of your ride history but the same will disable the GPS tracking and navigation. The display also shows the detected errors on the scooter and you can also store your documents digitally.
The Ownership Experience
If you buy the scooter, a home charging point is installed at your place a couple of weeks before the scooter is delivered to you. The home charger can charge the battery from 0 to 80 per cent in almost two and a half hours. Ather Energy has also installed 10 fast-charging points at multiple locations across Chennai and aims to take the total count to 50 within the next 12 months. The same can charge the scooter to 80 per cent in just one hour at the rate of almost 1 km per min.
Ather Energy is offering multiple subscription plans for the 450 under ‘Ather One’. The subscription starts at as low as Rs 250 per month and it includes multiple benefits like unlimited charging, maintenance, data, roadside assistance and labour charges depending on the plan you purchase. Moreover, if you have opted for Ather One, the electricity bill that comes as a result of charging your scooter at home is also reimbursed by the company.
In such a case when you are not interested in buying the scooter but have an urge to experience it for some time, you can purchase the lease plan at a price of Rs 2,517 a month that includes maintenance, insurance, connectivity and software upgrades. The only requirement is you have to deposit a fully refundable amount of Rs 75,000 and Ather demands a commitment from you for at least 12 months.
Price and should you buy one?
Ather 450 has been launched in Chennai recently at a price of Rs 1.31 lakh and the price may come down to Rs 1.22 lakh, all thanks to the GST revision for EVs announced in Budget 2019. This includes everything from road tax to insurance and registration and you also get two helmets in the said price. The Ather 450 is not just a scooter, it’s more about a completely different ownership experience that promises loads of benefits.
The 450 is the most exciting electric scooter that we have ridden till date and it indeed surprises you with what all it has to offer in terms of performance and ride quality. While at this price, the Ather 450 may seem an expensive scooter to buy, if you can pay the price what it asks for, there is arguably no better bet in India at present than this one.
The Ather 450 is comparable to a 125cc petrol scooter and with the upcoming BS-VI emission norms along with the price of the batteries expected to come down in the future, we see the price gap between the two kinds of scooters getting narrower. We would also love to pitch the two against each other, but that is a story for another day.
So, is Ather 450 an electric scooter that India needs? Well, certainly, as it is proving to be a major step in ditching range anxiety and setting an example that an electric scooter can be practical and fun at the same time. The future is indeed electric!