Ather’s Ravneet Phokela on the company’s new scooter, affordability, EV safety and more
- The new
Ather 450X Gen 3debuted today, promising 105 KM range and other performance upgrades.
- Ather has been around for several years, and the company says it is only gaining from the arrival of credible competition in the last two years.
- From Ather’s philosophy to safety, competition and customer demands, we caught up with
Ravneet Singh Phokelato understand how the company operates.
On the eve of the launch, BI caught up with the company’s chief business officer, Ravneet Singh Phokela, to understand the rationale for the 2022 facelift of the Ather 450X, safety concerns around EVs and the ever-growing competition, especially in India’s electric two-wheeler segment.
Safety concerns around EVs
Safety concerns about electric scooters came to the fore after vehicle recalls, incidents of batteries catching fire were reported several times, spooking prospective buyers.
According to Phokela, it’s a case of “design for safety” issue – it’s about whether those electric scooters and battery modules are designed keeping the Indian conditions in mind – road, thermal and grid-wise, instead of just importing cells likely designed for better road conditions.
Phokela assured that their own reliability banks on stringent safety and design checks.
On the new Ather 450X Gen 3
The Ather 450, originally launched in 2018, changed how people viewed electric scooters with its power and performance. For many, this was the first time they could think of an electric scooter as their daily ride.
The 450X is still a powerful ride for most people, but the growing competition post the entry of the Ola S1 Pro and new TVS iQube ST with a range of 145 KM has likely pushed Ather to update its scooter.
But what does the new Gen 3 bring to the table?
From a bigger battery pack that now offers a “TrueRange” of 105 KM to new ride modes and larger boot space, the Ather 450X Gen 3 is an iterative update that tries to bring the 450X into 2022 from 2020.
“The larger philosophy is that we keep updating the vehicle based either on consumer feedback or just our own development. The Gen 3 is a continuation of that philosophy,”
Apart from this, the new Gen 3 comes with a faster dashboard thanks to a RAM upgrade, the UI has also seen performance improvements, so things like maps and documents load faster.
Chasing the psychologically important 100 KM range number
Range anxiety is an issue that EV makers and users alike have had to deal with. Unlike ICE vehicles which can be topped up with fuel instantly, EVs take time to charge, and the charging infrastructure is still a work in progress.
For now, offering buyers as much range as possible is the closest EV makers can get to addressing range anxiety. According to Phokela, the 100 KM number is “psychologically important”. It’s also a 24% improvement over the second-gen model.
On the growing competition from the likes of Ola, TVS, and others
While electric scooters have been present in India for a long time, quality electric scooters have only come around in the last few years. And that is what is important, says Phokela.
AdvertisementHe believes that it’s quite premature to worry about competition.
“It’s best to keep the competition in the peripheral vision and the customer in the primary one,” said Phokela, stating that Ather’s philosophy in this regard is “not going to change”. Instead, the new entrants have had a positive impact on Ather’s sales, according to him.
More affordable Ather scooters are coming, but customers are willing to pay a premium for quality
The Ather 450X Gen 3 is priced at ₹1,39,007 in New Delhi (ex-showroom), while its competitor, the Ola S1 Pro is priced at ₹1,39,999 after a price hike of ₹10,000 recently.
Phokela says that Ather buyers are willing to pay a premium for better quality and features – he revealed that 85% of the buyers go for the top-end 450X instead of the cheaper 450 Plus.
AdvertisementHowever, he added that more affordable Ather scooters would be launched later as the company looks to expand its portfolio and presence.
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