We have documented all, in our popular podcast and we have also asked the question in our poll of the month for Feb 2020 (seen in our Homepage) and the response has been very critical of Ather.
Despite having a slight leg sprain, i could not miss the opportunity to meet the Ather team and get their perspective of things and also take a look at the 450X.
So this is what we learnt.
Mr Tarun Mehta, gave quick updates on the Ather 450 owners community, there was QnA on the technical specs of 450X electric scooter and finally a discussion on pricing and subscriptions.
I did meet Tarun for couple of minutes before the meet and his intention is to ensure Ather remains profitable and not take losses on each sale. Also i did not want to hide the community sentiment regarding the pricing strategy and expressed the same to him.
So here are notes from the open house.
- Ather 450 customers are a passionate lot and many of them have pushed the 450 to the limits. Some have also taken it out of the city. They have done Bengaluru-Chennai, Hyderabad, Tirupati and more.
- Ather want to offer superior experience to owners of an electric scooter. How do you sell a vehicle that is not desirable? EV’s have to be desirable.
That is what they did with the 450 and now with the 450X.
- The Ather dot home charger is installed by the team and is water proof.
- Regen happens when you twist the throttle in the opposite direction and does not get activated while cruising. Apparently it's mild regen done on purpose.
- Ather 450 and 450X uses PMSM motor which offers high performance. Mr Tarun also spoke about how a hub motor used by majority of electric scooters does not offer a great performance to weight advantages. For example to deliver 6 kW of peak power a hub motor would weigh 18 kgs, while Ather's motor weighs around 3.5 kg. Thus saving weight and offering a better experience to the user.
- There were questions on the battery discharge rate in a 24 hour period without using the scooter. Apparently there is a 4% of drain in the State of Charge (SOC). This is slightly more than my e2o Electric car, but acceptable.
Ather 450X Pricing & Subscription
- Ather today sells the 450 electric scooter at Rs 1,13,000. At the start, if they want to sell without making a loss it should have been close to Rs 1,90,000. Essentially they took losses on the 450 to create a market. They did improve on the cost efficiencies etc. But that was not enough.
- Tarun also made some observations at some competitor products - the Bajaj Chetak, TVS iQube electric scooters are selling at around 1,20,000 and are still making a loss. These competitor products have no software features, no touchscreen, no charging infrastructure among others. Why is Chetak available only in 2 cities? The reason being to go pan India, they need to stop taking losses.
- In order to go pan India, they had no option, but to increase the price of the Ather 450X to Rs 1,49,000 for the "plus" variant and Rs 1,59,000 for the "pro" variant.
- When you pay the full amount, there is no need to pay any monthly subscription.
- You can opt for Ather connected services at Rs 400 per month. This includes new software features delivered via OTA updates and critical system fixes.
- If you don't want to pay Rs 400 month for connected services, Ather has promised critical fixes delivered, most probably at the service station but not software features.
- Ather Service plans have to be paid annually. The amount has not been announced as of Feb 10th. This will be updated here as soon as they update their website.
- Ather Dot Home Charger is included.
- 3 year battery warranty. Beyond warranty the owner should be responsible to use the 450X with a degrading battery and take care of battery replacement
whenever that might be - say after 5 years.
- If you don't want to pay 1.5 Lakhs upfront, you can lease the battery by paying Rs 99,000 upfront and pay Rs 1699 per month for the "Plus" power pack.
Subscriptions are created to offer the same experience after 5-8-10 years.
- This includes unlimited Ather Grid charging
- Connected services included - that is new software features delivered via OTA updates and critical system fixes.
- Ather Dot Home Charger is included.
- 3 year battery warranty.
- Battery replaced if it degrades below 80% - thus offering infinite battery warranty.
- Ather 450X will also be made available on Lease scheme, where you don't own the vehicle, just pay monthly.
Other Questions Answered
Why not give full range to "Plus" users too?
- The battery of the "plus" user of the 450X will use less buffer thus the battery will last longer. A "pro" user who uses the scooter heavily may degrade the battery faster. To protect themselves (Ather) the range is locked to be 75 km for a "plus" user.
Will there be new power packs created for the 450X for example to reduce power and increase range
- The team is open to creating additional power packs if they see demand.
How will Hero Motor Corp's investment into Ather affect the startup? Will they be around in 5 years time?
- Tarun said Hero is an ethical company that wont suddenly start to interfere in Ather, that will create bad publicity for them as well. Hero does not interfere in day to day running of the company. Also the culture of Ather is totally different to the way Hero operates.
- What is Ather's goal in next 3-5 years?
- Ather will be happy to sell around 30,000 vehicles in FY 2020/21.
- A good 3 year goal is to have enough production scale to sell a premium scooter at cost of around Rs 1 lakh
- When will 450X be made available for test drives and when will deliveries start?
- Test drive vehicles of 450X will be available by March in Pune and other cities
- Deliveries begin in July
PluginIndia Poll Results as of Feb 10th, 2020
It's interesting to observe from the above data, we see many people still sitting on the fence. Maybe once test rides become available, once they touch and feel the product and maybe work out the TCO, the fence sitters may be convinced to go for the Ather 450X
We at PluginIndia really appreciate the effort made by the Ather senior management team to directly interact with enthusiasts and supporters.
The Ather electric scooter might be one of the best scooter experiences found in the world - and we have to be proud to say it's made in India. It's imperative that Ather remains in the market to keep raising the bar and keep pushing our ICE two wheeler manufacturers to launch even better electric two wheelers. That is how important Ather is, for the entire Indian EV industry as a whole.
Keep going team, the EV community is proud of your efforts!