Now, a scooter that is smart and connected

Bengaluru-based startup makes a two-wheeler that is better than petrol scooters

November 03, 2015 12:59 am | Updated 01:36 am IST

The first reaction to electric scooters is usually that they might be good from the environmental standpoint, but aren’t as efficient as petrol-powered ones. But two IIT Madras graduates, Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, are all set to change that perception.

Ather Energy, the Bengaluru-based startup they founded in 2013, is making, “the best scooter in India that is electric, connected and intelligent, better in performance than their petrol counterparts”.

“Most electric scooters are not aimed to be a replacement for petrol scooters,” says Mr Mehta, CEO of Ather Energy. “They are underpowered, slower, have lesser carrying capacity, take long to charge up and they have a poor battery life.” He says users of their e-scooter won’t have to compromise on some benefits or comforts in order to switch to electric.

Not just electric, but intelligent too

The dashboard, which syncs with a smartphone, has a digital touch screen that provides navigation details, and alerts prior to any malfunction. It allows each rider to have a personal profile and customise riding modes. It also has a number of sensors that collect data to control power, torque, throttle etc.

Mr Mehta illustrates two use cases to explain what he means by an intelligent scooter. “Suppose you have 8 km to reach home but you have battery charge for only 4 km. The vehicle then tones down the performance to take you home without a break down. Another example: You usually leave home for office at 8.30 pm. But one day at 8 am, you realise you haven't charged the vehicle. You can then fast-charge it in 30 minutes to get yourself going.”

Incubated in IIT Madras

Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, batchmates at IIT Madras, were product designers and were clear in their mind that they will build a physical product, and they hit upon the idea of an electric scooter. The project was incubated in the IIT Madras.

In February last year, the company received Rs 45 lakh from the Technology Development Board under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, IIT Madras and an another IIT alumnus and founder of Aerospike, Srini V Srinivasan as equity.

In December last year, Ather got their first $1 million seed funding from Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal, and Raju Venkatraman of Medall Healthcare. In May this year, Ather raised $12 million from Tiger Global.

Electric is the future

The strong premise on which the startup has been founded is that electric is the future. But aren’t such vehicles more expensive than the conventional ones?

Says Mr Mehta, “Our e-scooter runs a km in about 25 paise, while it’s over a rupee for conventional ones. Cost of most components of electric vehicles is coming down. Battery efficiency is improving by 8 to 10% annually. For petrol vehicle, it’s the other way round.” Mr Mehta and Mr Jain are so optimistic about the future that they think a day will come when it will not make any sense to buy a petrol scooter.

Early trials are expected to start in December, and the larger public trials in February. Though the price hasn’t been fixed, they hope to keep it at sub-one lakh rupees.

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