It's February 2017 now, and we have we not seen these experience centers nor have we seen any deliveries made to customers who have pre-booked the S340.
What's going on? Do listen to podcast or read to find out!
Hello everyone! This is Kamlesh from PluginIndia. We along with the EV community in Pune and Mumbai organized the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik Electric Vehicle Rally last month. We had 10 Mahindra electric cars and 4 Spero e-Bikes participate in the rally, whose main objective is to create awareness of electric vehicles.
We were even covered by the media. Both the Times of India and the Hindu were very curious about what we were upto. This is the first time in India, there has been such a community movement and this was appreciated. For those of you, who missed the rally, do check our Youtube channel and the website for more information on the rally.
Now, let us get to another episode of PlugInIndia musings. In this episode, we talk about Ather Energy and their upcoming S340 electric scooter.
As many of you know, Ather Energy was incubated in IIT Chennai in 2013 and was founded by two of its graduates Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain.
While talking to them, it became apparent to me that these guys understood the problems faced by previous generation electric scooters and were trying to solve the problem of offering an electric scooter, that is both compelling and affordable to the Indian public.
The key objective is this - Compelling and Affordable. In order to achieve this, the people at Ather knew they had to make couple of important decisions during product development
- First was that the Ather S340 e-Scooter will have to use emerging technologies in terms of cell chemistry, motor and controller technology which are in the middle of S curve of development and will see steep improvements in future. Even at the current state these technologies perform far better than the technologies used in previous generation e-scooters. The point about using emerging technologies, is significant. These technologies are available in the market now, but are expected to develop significantly in the coming years. So it makes sense to adopt technologies which are on the upward curve. One big example of this technology is the battery pack - which is the most important component in an EV. Currently most e-bikes sold in India use the Sealed or Valve Regulated Lead Acid batteries. They are cheap but the biggest problem is that these battery packs cant store as much energy as the new generation Lithium Ion packs. They are heavy, they have lesser charge cycles, they take forever to charge (7-8 hours on a 230 V, 5 A socket).
So its imperative that any new e-bike should use a Lithium Ion battery pack in order to deliver decent power, go further and satisfy customers.
- The second important decision was about spending time on technology and processes before launching a product.
Mr Swapnil Jain told us back in 2013 - "At Ather we believe that any product which was not designed under one roof cannot deliver the best and hence we are designing most of the components in house with a high level of synergy between them. This will help us deliver a better product. Its a tough task but its the only way to go forward if you want a good product."
The EV community were excited about this startup. The community knew, Ather is poised to drive serious disruption, not just through an innovative product, but the way they plan to take it to market and engage with consumers.
This kind of maturity and forward thinking ensured people sat up and took notice and take notice they did.
- In late 2014, Ather received its first seed fund of US $1 million (around 6.5 Crores) in late 2014 from Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal of Flipkart and Raju Venkatraman of Medall Healthcare.
- In late May 2015, Ather received US $12 million funding (Rs 75.33 crore) from Tiger Global. The new round of funding was used for development, testing, production and the launch of the S340.
- In October 2016, Hero MotoCorp, India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, signed up to invest up to Rs 205 crore in Ather Energy for a 26-30% stake in the company. Proceeds from the latest round will be used for further engineering-and-testing validation for the S340 bike, as well as for infrastructure building, such as chargers. Also they will plan to start constructing its manufacturing unit, which will be in Whitefield, Bengaluru.
"The funding is a strong validation of our product roadmap and technology capability, endorsed by one of the biggest global automotive players. We believe smart connected electric vehicles are the future, and India will be an important global player in it. Our vision is to fast forward to that future, and this investment will help us leapfrog several years of automotive experience."
Funding from Hero Motors raised eyebrows and many people in the community were worried if using Hero's money would stifle the growth and plans of Ather and the electric S340.
Those worries were answered in a blog post, which i will read.
The following is an excerpt from Ather's blog, about Hero's investment.
Does this change anything? Does it mean we will change our strategy? Or distribution model? Should you expect a change in the product? Is this an acquisition?
No. Both Ather and Hero have different approaches and have chartered different paths. But more importantly the industry is just building up and we believe start-ups like ours will lead the change - we need to build a new narrative, a new story. Different from the one that the old world built up so admirably. Competing on parameters that the incumbents do not compete on. This new story deserves a new company.
Having understood the background on Ather, let us take a close look at the Ather S340 electric scooter. It's got extremely stylish and sporty looks. A dynamic silhouette with a kicked out rear wheel and a distinct forward leaning profile lends the S340 a sportier stance.
Current generation Petrol scooters - hang your heads in shame! The Ather S340 connected touch screen dashboard integrated with the cloud with deep personalization and predictive analytics, just blows the competition out of the water!
The S340 is 3G/4G enabled, which will ensure you are always connected to it, via a mobile app.
Over the air software and firmware updates is a sweet deal. Really. No more visits to your service center even to get a software update. Mahindra Electric. Are you watching this?
The rear lights of the S340 looks incredible. And LED lights, that that switches on automatically and controls light intensity based on ambient light conditions makes it perfect.
Everything under the hood like the lithium-ion battery is well protected by thermal management, and a battery management system. Instant torque like every electric vehicle is assumed.
60 km range in one charge will meet most people's needs in most cities, having few charge points in strategic locations can also help.
1 hour charging is a reality due to the fact that the battery in the S340 is not a lead acid battery.
50000 km life on a scooter is again a sweet deal as is the IP 76 rated battery pack!
Ather wont have dealers and distributors like a traditional auto company. Online sales and service at your doorstep is the way forward.
All in all the S340 looks like a paradigm changing product that truly makes electric 2 wheelers compelling and affordable - with running cost of Rs 10 for 60 km (2 units per charge and assuming Rs 5 per unit), the S340 looks like a winner indeed!
at switches o n automatically and controls light intensity based on ambient light conditions
SURGE Event - February 2016 unveil
In February 2016, one year back, Ather showcased the S340 in SURGE 2016, which is one of the most influential technology summits in the world. It made sense as an Electric Vehicle company is more of a tech company than a Automobile company.
Mr Tarun Mehta talked about the various features of the S340 and even showed us a cool reverse feature. He went on to to say that experience centers in Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune would come up in 4-5 months and sales would happen by the end of 2016.
It is February 2017 and we have we not seen these experience centers nor have we seen any deliveries made to customers who have pre-booked the S340.
What's going on?
Ather sent an email last month, saying that they have pushed the production date by at least a year. The mail clearly states the reasons for the delay.
The following is an excerpt from Ather's email
We under anticipated the challenge. Heavily.
Building a completely new product, development typically takes around 6-8 years. And that’s usually on the back of a fairly stable platform, existing technology and established operations. We wanted to compress the process into a much shorter span. But we under-anticipated a couple of things.
- Being a new product, we don’t have years of customer and field data. Working around that, (testing on the bench and in the field) meant we took longer than we thought it would.
- Also, building a vertically integrated company has meant that we are practically our own suppliers, putting the entire reliability, design and manufacturability in our hands. While this end-to-end control is exactly what we wanted - it comes at a large upfront time investment.
- A first attempt meant that we are doing technology development in parallel with product development - and that’s hard to parallelize.
The fact is that it is hard to build something as complex as an automobile, especially when a company like Ather is designing and developing most of the components in house.
So what do you guys think about Ather and the S340. Which feature blows your mind? What features can be included? What are your expectations of it?
Do you guys feel, the production delay is justified or are you frustrated about the delay? Do you feel, Ather must have unveiled the S340 only when they were confident if they could launch the production version?
As usual, do comment below, we read every comment! And we will pass on every tidbits of advice to our friends at Ather!
We at PlugInIndia promise lots more EV related content in in the coming months, stay tuned!