Ather Energy isn’t just a startup anymore – close to 25 million kilometres have been ridden on Ather’s scooters across the country, it is on course to be present in 27 cities by the end of the year and with demand growing rapidly, Ather’s original factory in Bengaluru was just too small to keep up. Now though, Ather Energy has a brand new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu. It is sprawled over 1.23 lakh square-feet and takes care of everything from the manufacturing of the battery pack to the entire scooter.
The 450X (or the 450 Plus) starts off at ‘Station Zero’ where the motor, battery and the exposed sub-frame are married together, this then moves onto the assembly line where it crosses 37 more stations before it rolls off the line as a finished scooter. All this is accomplished in four minutes, as opposed to the six minutes it took at the earlier facility. While two minutes saved may seem trivial, when you consider the plant’s 9200 unit per month capacity, that equals 18,400 minutes saved! Once the finished scooter is off the production line, it is tested on a dyno to ensure everything is running fine, followed bya final check for the electricals and the body panels.
Ather Energy also produces its own battery packs — something no other EV company in India does at the moment — and the manufacturing for that runs in parallel. Each battery pack is assembled from the imported cells, then tested and given one final check before it is delivered to Station Zero. And it’s not just the battery packs that are made in India. All the machines within the factory are, in fact 90 per cent of the 450X and 450 Plus’ production is localised, with only the cells for the batteries being imported from overseas since there is no large-scale cell manufacturer in India.
“We originally planned to set up the factory in December 2020, and it is a miracle that we actually got it up and running in that timeframe even after the pandemic”, says Tarun Mehta, co-founder of Ather Energy. And this timely completion will have a ripple effect on customer deliveries, speeding things up in that respect as well.. Tarun went on to say that every new order can be fulfilled within a month, at the maximum, thanks to a production capacity five times that of the previous factory.
There are also quite a few measures being taken to ensure the factory is almost as eco-friendly as Ather’s scooters. For instance, there are zero effluents generated and all of the e-waste is solely handled by authorised recyclers. While the factory doesn’t currently draw power from any renewable energy sources, Tarun is eager to set up solar panels and ultimately be completely dependent on clean energy.
We also asked Tarun about the future of Ather, and the road maps for its future products – whether they will be further improvements of the 450, or whole new product families. “In the next 12 months, if there are any launches, they will be improved versions (of current models). We will not be launching a new platform in the next 12 months for sure either”, he replied. The company is juggling ideas about new vehicle platforms and perhaps even a motorcycle, but that is all in the air for now. Tarun did say that it will be easier for the company to create more variants at more price points. “But we don’t have plans to release anything in the next six months”, he says.
Ather Energy is also setting up charging infrastructure left, right and centre. “We are setting up more chargers every month now, than the company ever did in its first two years”, says Swapnil Jain, co-founder of Ather Energy. “The plan is to set up around 300 charging stations across the country by the end of the calendar year,” adds Tarun.
Delhi-NCR is Ather’s next big target and it will be interesting to see how this premium electric scooter company is received by the four-wheeler loving city of Delhi. However, the state-wide benefits mean that Ather’s scooters would be almost Rs 20,000 more affordable in the capital city.
Ather Energy is on the cusp of becoming mainstream. It has been steadily speeding up its expansions plans, setting up infrastructure and ensuring that the customer experience is the same across the country. Ather’s commitment to design and quality, as well as a ‘Make in India’ approach to almost every aspect of the scooter is commendable. This new factory should help Ather’s scooters find more homes, in more cities than ever before.