Ather's corporate avatar is called Ather Energy. And the Ather grid plays an important part in justifying the Energy moniker. Energy has always played a significant role in civilisation.
The PluginIndia team charged the Ather 450x and other EVs via the Ather Grid charger provided by the Bengaluru based electric scooter brand.
We calculated the charging time, cost and ease of use, Here are my thoughts on it.
The human biological machine can create a continuous power of just about 50W. For 10000 years this was the only power that got used for everything - weaving, cooking etc. The first non-human power source was animal power. This animal power got used in the fields - when we borrowed energy from bullocks to till our fields, and in transportation - when camels and horses helped shorten distances. In the last 2 centuries, this animal power has been replaced by machine power. And today the Ather scooter chariot can draw on the equivalent of 5 horses as it charges along our city roads. The fodder for these horses is the battery. And our Ather horse chariot has had to compromise about how much fodder to carry so that it can sprint ahead of its ICE siblings in urban races that it runs everyday. So the density of the fodder supply stations is going to play an important role in Ather's march to business success. In the America of the 19th century, the fastest mode of transportation was the stagecoach. There would be pit stops where your coach would get a change of horses - and the coach would continue its journey. Think of the Ather grid as such a pitstop, except that instead of changing horses - you are boosting them with super food, which they can gulp up in a hurry.
Honestly, the Grid would be a lot more useful for EV fleets. This is because the fleet owner has to maximize her Return on Investment by sweating the assets. An airline does not make money when its planes are sitting on the ground. They make money when the planes are in the air. In the same way, for an EV fleet company, the money gets made when the deliveries are being made, not when the vehicle is sitting in charging points. There are two solutions to getting the vehicles more on the road, one is charging points - and the other is battery swapping. Between the two, from a battery health PoV, the swap is actually better. You can get a fully charged battery much faster - as you are only replacing one battery with another. The big disadvantage is capital cost. So you need to invest in more batteries to feed the buffer battery stock. As more data about battery life in fast charging becomes available, we will come to know which solutions are best suited for which conditions
Will chargers make money as a stand alone business? The biggest cost driver for chargers is going to be real estate. So the only way to make money is to collaborate with folks who already own parking spaces. As of now, these guys don't really make any money from Ather. And since Ather itself is not making money from charging stations currently, this scenario has been accepted by the space providers. As utilisation goes up, and the pie grows bigger, then possibly the pie sharing will start. But sometimes I wonder, what if the pie doesn't grow? What if Ather grid usage does not go up with increasing Ather population? Will we see space providers reneging on the contracts - and a shrinkage in the number of Ather points? The answers will be in place in the next 5 years. We will keep you posted as the Ather Energy story unfolds...