We spent time with the Ather 450X. In this blog, i give my thoughts on the scooter.
If there is one thing that defines the Ather 450 X, it is warp. For the non Star Wars fans, the warp is a puzzle. Warp is difficult to define, but easier to experience. Warp is the scooter zooming from 0 to 40 kmph in 3.3 seconds! Putting the vehicle in Warp mode in test drives is the only pitch the Ather sales team uses. I did that with quite a few people, warning the driver about the impending insanity. If you are not shaken and stirred by this, then ‘zindagi main kuch hone nahin wala tumhara!' Got overtaken by a White Ather on Prabhat road. Soccer dad. The two young kids were thrilled as their Sport Mode Ather zipped past the Eco mode one ridden by yours truly. Saw a guy on a Harley Davidson waiting near my office and was tempted to do a shoot out with the guy! My usually calm and composed EV veteran friend, Abhay Patwardhan, was floored by Warp. Abhay declared that the Ather will lead to the death of the Middle stand EVs. Either customers buy a Rs. 1.8 lakh scooter or a Rs. 0.6 lakh one. The ones in the middle don’t stand a chance.
At 108 kg, the Ather 450X matches the Activa weight. With an all aluminum body, I expected it to be lighter. It is over-engineered in terms of casting wall thicknesses - the conservativeness important to protect a battery whose NMC chemistry is prone to thermal runaways. Not sure if the extra stiffness of the cast aluminum frame leads to a better ride. Some amount of flexibility is important in ride comfort. What happens to such a scooter in accidents? In cars, there are crumple zones which deform to absorb the energy. You would definitely not want the Ather NMC batteries in crumple zones. A vehicle needs some amount of weight for stability and tackling crosswinds. Am not too sure about the ideal weight. But methinks, the Ather can shed a few more kg and still achieve its stability and safety objectives.
The Ather speaks a neat, clean design language. The fits and finishes are superb. Kudos to the Ather design team, they do a good job of damage control. Interestingly, there have already been 2 accident cases in the 150 odd Athers that have been delivered in Pune. Both were falls, and the only thing that got damaged were the side plastic panels. The mirrors flex; there are no projecting footrests which can break or cause damage to the panels or feet in a fall. The steering column collapses. Zero dep insurance is insisted on for year 1. Helps with the ownership experience.
The seat and posture is Ok - but could have been better. The front seat is long and slim - would have been happier if it had been broader and shorter. An underfloor battery has advantages like low Center of Gravity, and hence stability. But it leads to a riding posture which is a bit of a legs up. In contrast, I liked the under front seat Chetak battery arrangement, which leads to better angled legs while riding. The rear seat comfort is good - the pillion leg supports are also quite cleverly done. Though at signals, the pillion struggles to keep the feet on the ground leading to more weight bearing responsibility on the driver. A center stand could have helped. You miss it when you park the vehicle with bags hanging onto the front hook. The bags tend to slide off when you park. But then there are plus sides too for the side stand. You will not have unwanted guests using your scooter as a roadside armchair. The side stand is also designed cleverly - the tuck in mechanism is quite good.
The dicky at 22 liters is spacious. The Ather passes the single drop dicky close test with flying colours. The rubber grommets inside the dicky look ugly. The grommet covering the chassis number came off in my vehicle - and we have not been able to locate it yet. The brakes are adequate, but would have been happier with larger dia discs - at least for the front wheel. The turn indicator switch needs to click when it switches off the indicator. If you have chosen to switch off the speaker output on turning, then you are forced to look at the display to confirm if the turn indicators have been switched off. And speaking of turn indicators, they have a tendency to switch off on their own - which can be embarrassing at signals. I ended up taking some inputs from my friend Sachanand Dakhneja, a manufacturing expert, who has spent many years in the petrol two wheeler industry. He noticed a few rusted bolts on the vehicle - and advised that galvanisation needs to be done before anodisation. The other thing that he noticed was a mismatch of panels - which leads to sharp edges. If a young kid is standing on the floorboard - she can injure her hand if she grips the panels there.
The indigenous Mahle 5 kW motor delivers on the crazy acceleration figures. The 3 kW battery that it is married to it, makes for an Amitabh-Jaya story. The battery needs to raise its stature to meet the Big B motor standards. The IP67 rating of the battery helps get the confidence to tackle monsoon roads. What helps is the Tesla inspired special aluminum cast battery enclosure which is part of the chassis design itself. The NMC chemistry lends itself to high discharge rates - read more zip, and higher charge rates - read fast charging. We tried fast charging - and it took us about 30 minutes to go from 50% to 100%.
Distance - 41 km. Range estimated - 43 km. (Total range - 84 km)
Distance - 45 km. Range estimated - 37 km. (Total range - 82 km)
Distance - 55 km. Range estimated - 24 km. (Total range - 79 km)
Distance - 63 km. Range estimated - 14 km. (Total range - 77 km)
Distance - 69 km. Range estimated - 7 km. (Total range - 76 km)
Distance - 75 km. Range estimated - 1 km (Actual range - 75 km)
The vehicle stopped moving, at the 75 km mark and had to walk back to my home charging point. The lights and odo were both working even when the motor stopped. Disclosure: My wh per km started with 29 and ended with 32 at the end of the range test. The culprit: use of warp modes on test rides that I offered to guys around me.
Do watch our Range Test and BMS details video here
The Times of India full page ad in Pune led to 300 + enquiries. Sakal got only half of that. Most of the buyers are from the upmarket Kothrud and Prabhat Road. Will this kind of niche upmarket targeting deliver on the Activa beating numbers that the Ather team is looking at? Was in Pune’s Electronic Industrial Estate when a guy riding an Okinawa Ridge stopped me. EV Pioneers need not all be youngsters. Our friend was definitely 60+. And he had taken a kasam to not go back to Petrol. He is also B Gauss B8’s first customer in Pune. He told me that he bought the B Gauss so that he can tow the Okinawa home in case the scooter runs out of charge. Gave him the Ather to ride. His comment after the chhota chakkar: ‘Definitely better than the B Gauss. Smoother power delivery. The brakes could have been better.’ So would he buy the Ather? After the ride, he was not too sure. His logic was that after 3 years and a 30% degradation, he will see usable range fall from 75 km to sub 50 km. The Ather VFM equation sorely needs a 5 kWh battery to make price balance with value!