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Ather Energy to start production of its first electric scooter in December

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-07-2017 Yuvraj Malik

New Delhi: Ather Energy Pvt. Ltd, a start-up developing an electric scooter from the ground up, plans to move its first model into production in December, its founder and chief executive Tarun Mehta said in an interview.

The Bengaluru-based company, currently running tests on prototypes, plans to start shipping the first model, S340, sometime next year.

“The focus now is to close the design, draw the line and push it to production,” Mehta said. It may take anywhere from four to six months between having the first scooter assembled in the new manufacturing facility and rolling out the finished product in the market, he added.

As most components have been designed ground up, Ather has created heavy-duty moulds for these parts and is shipping them out to its partner manufacturers.

Typically, vehicle makers outsource manufacturing of most of the parts to third-parties to reduce costs.

Ather’s vendors will deliver finished components on a scale ready for assembly-line manufacturing.

Mehta said most components like body plastic, central frame, brakes or suspension are being manufactured within India, while the lithium ion cells that will power the scooter are being sourced from abroad.

“They don’t make that (lithium ion batteries) in India. It is not an impossible problem, but we don’t have enough demand to set up manufacturing in India. Think of it as a Rs2,000-3,000 crore cost that only a large conglomerate or an incredibly well-funded start-up can afford. We feel it will take some years to happen,” Mehta said.

Simultaneously, Ather is giving final touches to its assembly facility in Whitefield, Bengaluru, which, when completed, will have the capacity to produce 20,000 scooters (40,000 if run in two shifts) per annum.

Ather has devised a multi-fold strategy for the roll-out. This includes focusing on a limited number of cities initially; laying a network of charging stations; and opening experience-cum-testing centres.

The company will initially launch the electric scooter in three cities—Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune—and have one “large” experience zone in each of them to educate potential customers and allow test-rides. The first of these may come up by February next year.

“The target here is not to reach every last corner of the country; it is how to get to the right audience for the product, which in our view exists in a few cities to begin with, until we can increase our brand value and grow to other cities.” Mehta said.

For the charging infrastructure, Ather is in talks with owners of malls, offices and tech parks, restaurants and grocery stores to put up charging stations. The company has another prototype unit for home charging and is in discussions with residential complexes to install these.

The company, however, has certain legal hurdles to cross before it can move ahead with its plans of setting up a charging infrastructure. There are laws—some at the state level and others that govern distribution of electricity in the country—prohibiting Ather from installing electric metres at places it does not own and from re-selling electricity.

Mint reported in May that Ather had raised the issue with the government and had been told by relevant ministries that a policy change was being deliberated in this regard.

“In some really large complexes, especially in Bengaluru, we are telling them to give us a central area, where Ather will put up the charging modules and Ather will pay the building for electricity use. We don’t mind giving free charging initially to users because we want to drive adoption,” Mehta said.

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