An Invention of Inventions!
It has taken four years, but Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain have finally finished a new scooter design. They worked hard on prototypes which contained everything from battery packs to new types of combustion engines, but after their graduation from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, they have been able to build a brand new e-bike.
Mehta has said that they were working in a dying industry- people no longer wanted to buy electric scooters because they had been disappointed by them as they’d take eight hours to charge and could only go as fast as 25 km/h. Other companies had been leaving the market or deciding to work on other projects, but Mehta and Hain began creating Ather Energy. They started the project in 2013 when they had almost no money, and had left their jobs to pursue the idea. They wanted to create electric two-wheeler prototypes that would be able to go as fast as the non-electric scooters in India.
After two years, they have created the S340 e-scooter, which takes just one hour for the battery to be fully charged, less than a smartphone. Over the last few months the new technology has attracted investors who have added funding to the project and entrepreneurs, such as the founders of Flipkart, have come onboard the project.
The First Smart Electric Scooter in India
By the beginning of the year, a number of prototypes had been completed which Ather Energy was able to use to get customer feedback. The S340 was completed, becoming one of the first smart electric scooters to be created in India. The S340 is able to reach 75 km/h and has a battery pack that lasts longer than previous electric scooters. The batteries can function for 50,000 km and are able to last between five to six years according to Mehta. Batteries used in other electric scooters don’t often last for longer than six months.
Built in navigation system
The electric scooter has a built in navigation system along with a touchscreen and is able to sync with Android phones. Ather has patented the battery pack used in the S340 and owns all of the other parts of technology in the scooter. However, the newest model will be more expensive than petrol scooters which is reportedly because of the modern technology that makes up the features.
The first Ather prototype received 25 pre-orders and the company is hoping to release the scooter next year. It wasn’t until last year that Ather was able to get real investment, which came from the creators of Flipkart who injected $1 million into the project. After this, Tiger Global Management invested $12 million into the electric scooter, which helped to get things off the ground and enabled the company to look to the future with their design.
Scooters are popular in India, with more than 14 million being sold in 2014 alone. However, electric scooters are fairly rare in the country with most people opting for two wheelers that run on petrol. It was less than 10 years ago that electric scooters were first introduced to the market, but interest in them lessened when government stopped providing subsidies for lithium battery packs three years ago. In 2012, 100,000 units were sold, but there were just 21,000 sales in 2014.
The main problem with the current electric scooter market is that the models that are currently available are not of good quality. Companies much overcome high costs, lack of infrastructure and lack of government subsidies in order to produce a product that works well and that people want to buy. However, Ather hopes that after its launch of the S340 in 2016, it will be able to sell one million units by 2020.
Ather will have competition from companies such as Hero and Mahindra, who aren’t making a big profit from their electric scooters, but who are the biggest rivals in the country at the moment and have financial backing along with experience behind them. Despite this, Mehta has said that there isn’t a better time to enter the market and Ather’s product is better than anything else offered by rival companies.