Bengaluru: Capacitive touchscreen, 24x7 connectivity, navigation, over-the-air updates, personalized profiles. Specifications for a smartphone? No, they are part of a new scooter, an electric scooter to be precise, launched by Bengaluru-based start-up Ather at Web Summit’s Surge conference in the city on Tuesday. It is, its founder and CEO Tarun Mehta believes, the new face of scooters – electric, and smartphone-like.
The Ather S340 – as the scooter is called – also shows a ‘surge’ in start-ups’ aspirations. At the event, among the more than 430 start-ups that were vying for attention and pitching to investors, media and just about anybody interested, there was far less of the e-commerce start-ups craze of late and far more of innovative start-ups in healthcare, education, travel, smart homes, climate change and waste management, etc., and, of course, the future of mobility.
A start-up called Mean Metal Motors, for instance, is really a moonshot effort, wanting to build a hybrid electric super-car out of Bengaluru for a tenth of what supercars cost today.
Hyderabad-based Hombot wants to convert every home into a ‘smart home’ without any re-wiring or alterations required, and for just Rs. 65,000 as against the Rs. 3 lakh solutions that exist today. And all of these are backed up by in-house research and development, prototyping, testing, and patents and new materials developed by team members.
For the Ather S340, “We developed and built everything from the ground up,” company CEO Tarun Mehta said, “The hybrid aluminum chassis that makes the vehicle 20 percent lighter than a petrol scooter of its class; the Li-Ion battery pack which we have tested to last 50,000 kilometres, the battery management system and the fast charger that will have the scooter charged to 80 percent in one hour, etc.” The company says it has 15 patents for the various technologies it has developed.
The scooter can run 60 kilometres on a full charge, do a maximum speed of 72 km/hour on its 3KW motor, the company says. “Any new technology succeeds when it is better than what exists in all respects”, Mehta said, “And electric vehicles score against petrol vehicles on all points today, be it drive quality, the ridiculously easy maintenance, smart features, etc. In 10-15 years, at least the two-wheeler market will be completely dominated by electric vehicles”. That’s not an empty boast.
Ather, which has been working on the scooter for three years now, has built in on-board navigation onto the raised touch-screen dashboard, connectivity options, onboard navigation, and vehicle data collection and analytics for predictive maintenance. Multiple users can set personal profiles of riding preferences.
If that’s not enough, the company, which plans to initially sell the scooter only on its own website in a bid to control the whole experience of owning one, will offer customers a dedicated relationship manager and door-step delivery and pick-up of the vehicle for service and documents. “You will never see a service centre for the Ather S340,” Mehta said.
Ather, which has raised Rs 81 crore so far in funding, plans to put up a Rs 25 crore 50-scooters-a-day production facility in Whitefield in a couple of months, experience centres in multiple cities, and then open up for pre-orders. The company hasn’t revealed the scooter’s pricing.