QUEEN’S ROAD: A team of engineers has developed a ‘smart’ electric two-wheeler that runs on lithium ion batteries that need charging for just an hour.
Test runs of the bike, called Ather S340, begin this November. The vehicle is slated for launch early next year and will be manufactured at a unit coming up in Whitefield.
Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, both IIT-Madras graduates, claim the Ather S340 will be on a par with a 110 cc petrol scooter and can go 70 km on a charge.
The team has attempted to address the problems faced by electric vehicle users — charging time, speed and performance — and completely replaced the lead acid batteries with lithium ion ones of the variety used in mobile phones and laptops.
Tarun Mehta, CEO and co-founder of Ather Energy, told City Express 5,000 to 10,000 scooters would be manufactured annually at their Bengaluru centre.
Since the launch of the company in 2013, it has received three rounds of funding, of about Rs. 83 crore, from the Central government, angel investors, Flipkart founders and Tiger Global.
“After the waning of the market for electric vehicles in 2009-10 because of poor performance, battery and maintenance problems, we spent two years working on prototypes,” Mehta explains.
If the existing electric vehicles take eight-10 hours for charging, the lithium ion batteries need to be charged for only an hour.
Tiger Global has given Rs 76 crore for this project this April. Its co-head Lee Fixel said, “We see great potential in Ather’s product offering as well as the technology and are confident that their maiden launch will attract tremendous positive response. We look forward to partnering with them and bringing their vision to fruition. Their vision of building smart EVs has a potential to revolutionise the driving experience.” Flipkart founders has provided the first seed funding of Rs. 6.5 crore in their personal capacity. Co-founder Sachin Bansal said, “They are using technology successfully to make a mark in the field of automotive sector with a clear focus on product design.”
The battery, fitted in the floorboard inside a metal casing, has multiple fuses for safety, and a monitoring system.
The life of the battery is said to be 50,000 km or seven-and-a-half to eight years. Running at a speed of 70 km/hour, it can easily manoeuvre gradients and carry a load of 250 kg, the company says.
The running cost is Rs. 0.24 paise per km, against Rs. 1.9 in a petrol scooter. The cost of the vehicle is between Rs. 65,000 and 90,000, Mehta elaborates.
“One of the key differentiators of Ather S340 would be the in-built digital dashboard that allows you to connect your vehicle to your smartphone and review its performance. Additionally, the dashboard provides on-board navigation and enable the rider to create a personal profile.”
With the announcement of a ‘green subsidy’ for electric vehicle manufacturers in the budget this year and a varying subsidy component of Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 22,000, the team of engineers at Ather Energy are hoping to hit the road soon. “Unlike the US, China or Europe, we don’t have product development companies in India, so our focus is wholly and solely on product development encompassing indigenisation. This is a new and exciting industry and in the coming days, we can become larger players but only with our own design and development,” Mehta says.