Ather 450 - Riding the electric beast!

Around 2 years back, in the July of 2016, I had written about a startup planning to introduce an electric scooter to shake up the 2-wheeler industry in India. I had attended one of their open house sessions and had been involved with their MESSI program as well (MESSI, which stands for "Making Every Scooter Smart and Intelligent", was their program where they collected data about daily riding behaviour from volunteers)  When Ather finally launched, not one but, 2 electric scooters, I was a little too excited.

And a week later today, I finally got to ride the electric beast thanks to Ather blocking a test-ride slot for me.

The Expectations

An electric scooter that promised to ride better than your traditional scooter (read Activas and Dios) was something that I thought was too good to be true. Till date, all the electric scooters available in India were boring machines which wouldn't really let you zip around. And consequently the electric scooters ended up being bought by the elders who didn't mind a excruciatingly slow ride.

But given that Tesla has demolished the notion that electric cannot be fun was something that gave me hope. Looking at the rave reviews the Ather 450 and 340 were receiving, Ather seemed to have truly lived up to that hope. And I was looking forward to see how the final product had shaped up.

The Space

With the test ride planned  for 4:30 PM on a Sunday, I set out with the missus and the little one. They couldn't understand why I was so excited about a test-ride, and I guess their incomprehension was understandable.

We reached the AtherSpace at Indiranagar. And I must say the experience centre is a well designed (think Apple and Tesla) space. You are greeted by an obituary for the silencer at the entrance. A well thought of memento-mori indeed!  :)

The obituary!

And then there is the star of the show, in all its glory stationed just inside.

Ather 450

The rest of the space is a tribute to the various components that go into the making of the machine. You have display areas for the battery, motor, the charging station and a bare bones model along with screens running videos all around. The overall look and feel was very minimal and very futuristic. And I was all prepped up for the actual ride.

The skeleton

The battery and specs

The motor

The battery goes for a swim

The Dashboard

After a small wait for the drizzle to stop, I got my hands on the Ather 450 - the bigger cousin of the originally planned 340. The 450 is exactly same as the  340 as far as looks go. The only difference is the green rim stripes on the wheels. The 450, however, is the sportier version with a bigger battery and peppier performance. They only had the 450 available for the test rides. And I couldn't be happier.

The first thing you notice when you sit on the scooter has to be the 7" dashboard that lights up as soon as you turn the key. The dashboard again is very minimalist but at the same time gives you all the information that you would need.

The dashboard

First and foremost it tells you that the motor is ON. Without that indicator, you won't even know the motor is on. It is that silent.  It also has a navigation icon which takes you to the Google Maps powered navigation screen. You can personalise the navigation by saving your Home and Work as well as search for places as you would on Google Maps. The Ather app can also be used to search for places on your phone and send it to your scooter even before you start the ride. Once in motion the rider cannot interact with the screen. And that is why an extra physical switch is also provided to toggle routes in case a better route is suggested by the navigation.

There is a nifty parking assist feature which allows you to reverse the scooter. Speed in reverse is limited to 2 kmph to avoid accidents. The dashboard also lets you check for notifications and OTA updates. The dashboard gives you an option of switching between riding modes - ECO for a more relaxed ride over more kilometres. Switching off ECO mode gives you a more punchier ride at the cost of some range. The full-battery range in ECO mode is 75kms and goes down to 60 kms when ECO mode is switched OFF.

Additionally, you can save and access your RC and drivers license on the dashboard itself. Impressive, I must say!

The Hardware

Ather has gone with conventional and clean with its first attempt at designing a scooter. The Ather 450 and 340 both look smart, but not too outlandish. The scooters might be electric but there is nothing in their appearance which would make them stand out in your office parking lot. And you can have the scooter in any colour as long as it is white. (Henry Ford just smiled in his grave)

Having said that, each piece on this scooter feels premium. The side-view mirrors are elegantly designed (however they are too small to be particularly effective). The grab-rails are aesthetically done as well. The under-seat storage is one of the biggest one and has a couple of rubber-lined spaces for storing your mobile. And the cherry on the top is a strip of LED lighting to brighten up things in the dark.

The side-stand is also tastefully designed with it disappearing into a recess on the side of the scooter. Sadly, there is no main stand and I have no idea how a puncture is to be dealt with.

I felt that the ride height is a little on the higher side, with it being a tad taller than the average scooter. For me this was a definite plus.

With the 340, you get a charging cable which can be plugged into any domestic electric socket. With the 450, you get the much cooler charging point along with the cable.

The charging point

The Ride

After spending too much time ogling at the dashboard, it was finally time to twist the throttle. And boy, was I surprised, The scooter shoots forward. And the acceleration is unlike any other scooter I have ever ridden. And to top it all, everything is in pin-drop silence and with zero vinrations. That insane burst of silent acceleration was the "wow moment" product managers aspire for and motorists long for. Ather delivers on that front. The numbers say that it goes from 0 to 40 in 3.9 seconds.

It accelerates great and what is better is it keeps doing it past the initial madness. It can easily reach and maintain a top speed of 80kmph. Sadly, I didn't get to do this since the road conditions didn't permit this. :(

The acceleration is ably supported by the disk brakes, both on the front and rear tires. Stopping was crisp, confidence inspiring and way better than my experience on the Dio.

Another smart feature was the auto-cancelling turn lights. When going into a turn, just switch on the turn lights and once the turn is complete, the lights switch off on their own.

I tried a round with my 'better half' and 'better one-fourth' as pillion on-board. And there was no significant drop in performance or handling. And the missus particularly like the seating! The kid on the other hand had to make the drrr-drrr noise on his own, since the scooter was too quiet for his liking.

Daniel posing with the Ather 450

Overall Impressions

Overall, the Ather 450 came across as a smart and able ride. If you use a scooter for your daily commute then this is a great product. The only issue I see with it and it is a pretty huge one is the price.

At INR 1,24,750 the Ather 450 is definitely heavy on your pockets but what you get is a spectacular scooter and a chance to be a part of the electric revolution.

Will I be buying one? I guess a couple of months and we'll all know.
By the way, the kid and the missus loved it.

If you are in Bangalore, do go ahead and book a test-ride to experience the future.

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