I’ve followed Tesla from their Roadster days and especially so during my days in California. California, I’ve always felt, was an quick adopter of hybrids. More so, with backing of the state in the way of policies that allowed Hybrids, PZEV’s and BEV to take advantage of rebates and even seemingly minute things like being able to use the HOV lanes with just a single occupant.
It was no surprise that Elon Musk built his base in the heart of what turned out to be a Ground Zero for an EV revolution.
In 2014, after having returned to Bengaluru for good, I was out hunting for a 2 wheeler and a 4 wheeler. My family has always owned a Honda Activa, after all it was the best selling scooter in the country and relatively easy to maintain. I walked straight into a Honda showroom, cheque book in hand, to purchase an Activa I. 6 months later I put down a deposit for a Hyundai Grand i10.
Both purchases were well researched. The Activa I – Brand familiarity + its lighter than the Activa 3G that was on sale at that time. The Grand i10 – Bengaluru traffic made it clear that driving anything larger than a hatch was an absolute nightmare. I wasn’t ready to compromise on safety too, so I took the top end Petrol Grand i10 that came with ABS & Dual Airbags. I did not take the Automatic because the top end trim did not have ABS!. I just wasn’t willing to compromise on that.
Why an EV?
Fast forward to 2018. My wife’s workplace had moved closer by 5 kms and I was looking for a small car, automatic, that she can use to commute. I was trending more towards a pre-owned Reva or e20 as a used battery pack with even half the range would be more than sufficient
As I was researching various ownership reviews and blogs, I came across an Ad for the Ather S340. It looked different – very different from any other 2 wheeler I’ve seen before. And just out of curiosity I clicked on the link to view their website. The website design itself was a huge draw for me. It was clutter-free and had a story like flow to the visuals, with features and tech specs being brought out in not-so technical language. They were able to portray their key features and strengths in a easy to understand manner. What also impressed me was that they weren’t quoting ARAI numbers, but rather a lower True Range* number for advertised mileage.
Who does that? Who junks a higher regulatory approved number and puts up a lower real life mileage number? It sounded insane and seemed like a dumb marketing interns idea!
Here is a scooter that had a Touchscreen display larger than my current phone, had built-in GPS and 3G connectivity, could download the latest OTA. Bloody Hell!. My own android phone – all of 18 months old – had stopped getting OTA updates, and here is a desi company that wants to ships OTA updates to a scooter!
They promised a fast scooter, low maintenance with OTA updates to add more features.- for a fully refundable deposit of Rs 5000. It seemed reasonable and was refundable, so why not just try?. I booked my 450 a fortnight after Ather had officially launched both the 340 & 450.
The endless wait for the 450
So, when I booked the 450, I was given a tentative delivery date in Nov 2018 – Not bad and I wasn’t in a hurry to take it anyway. However, September came and went by with no updates after the initial 20 deliveries. I was starting to lose my patience since there did not seem to be any clear communication from the company about delivery timelines, Until in October when all of us got a dread email – deliveries were being delayed.- to March 2019. Pushed by 3 months!. This did not go down very well with all those folks who were waiting and so Tarun (Co-Founder & CEO) posted a detailed post on the forum explaining the delay.
The Test Drive
2 weeks after Ather officially announced test drives, I booked a Saturday afternoon slot for a test drive and showed up at the Experience Center in Indira Nagar, Bengaluru. The showroom was classy, minimalist and did not look or even give the vibe of a place that sells scooters. Walls were adorned with photos, a giant LED TV with what looked like ride statistics and graphs, 2 large tables that had the 450 in its bare frame, the motor and the battery pack immersed at bottom of what looked like a fish tank (no fishies were harmed).
Since I had already booked a slot, the sales guys (Ather likes to call them Product Specialists) had all my info with them. They took me around the showroom explaining all the neat features of the bike and answering all possible questions I had. They knew what they were selling and were well trained, unlike the typical car salesman who thinks AIRBAGS are a waste of money!
They took copies of my Drivers License and took me out to show 3 450's parked and ready for TD. Put my helmet on and sat on the bike – Press the ignition and nothing happens. Its silent. The sales guy walks up to me and point out a small green tab on the touch screen that is basically screaming “MOTOR ON”. Slowly reversed out and took it for a spin.
The Ride by itself was exhilarating. The throttle response in Sport mode was unbelievable. The scooter was flying, with no smoke from its backside. The brakes were sharp ( I was warned about this). Took a 10 minute ride through the side streets of Indira Nagar just revving and braking. I came back to the showroom with a very wide grin across my face. I was sold and there was no question about not buying this scooter!
On a Wednesday morning, at work, my smartphone pinged the familiar email notification. I ignored it as just another junk mail selling me stocks, real estate or a prince from Nigeria needing my help. I came back home to check my email and noticed one from Ather. I nearly jumped up in joy!
Took me 3 days to think about if I would need to go for a lease or a loan. Lease looked attractive as it came with 3 years of the top tier subscription plan including covering data, service and even charging reimbursement. I finally went for a full payment as I felt I would be using the 450 for much longer than 3 years and did not feel like paying the extra interest amount for the lease. Well the downside was that I lost the free 3 years Ather One (now discontinued) all inclusive subscription plan. Oh well, the grass is always greener on the other side.