automobile, Electric Scooter, road test, india
A lot has changed over the past year and we now sit at the cusp of the old and new normal. The next couple of years will be about prioritising personal mobility, allowing the electric two-wheeler segment to grow and nurture. That's where the Ather 450X fits right in and we finally have our hands on the production-spec version. It's been 10 months since we first rode the prototype back in January this year. Only this time, the 450X is in our backyard - Mumbai - as opposed to its home market Bengaluru, which gives us a chance to test it in more real-world conditions to learn about its true range, charging times, and everyday usability. So, is the Ather 450X an ideal addition to your garage? We find out.
I finally get to ride the matte grey finished Ather 450X, one of the two new colours on the electric scooter. The other is the mint green shade that looks quirky and we saw it on the pre-production version. The new shades are the only big difference visually compared to the now-discontinued Ather 450. The sharp styling continues to be the highlight with the bold LED headlamp complemented by LED pilot lamps. In fact, the slim taillight and indicators get the LED treatment as well. The scooter looks agile, no matter the angle you view it from. The side panels taper towards the rear adding to the slim and sporty appeal. Probably the least flattering bit for me is the gap between the rear wheel and the seat that looks out of place, especially from the rear-three-quarter. The 450X remains practical with 22 litres of under-seat storage that can gobble plenty of things, and is still the largest in scooters. A concealed hook at the front is also a nice touch.
Performance & Dynamics
All-electric and all-sporty, the Ather 450X is far from a compromise that you think of electric scooters as. Compared to the 450, the new X now uses a larger lithium-ion battery pack producing 2.9 kWh, while the electric motor now develops 6 kW (up from 5.4 kW), equivalent of 8 bhp and 26 Nm of peak torque. That's a whole 6 Nm more than the 450 and boy oh boy, does that feel a lot. I am happy to report that compared to the performance on the prototype, nothing has changed on the production-spec 450X and it continues to be entertaining to ride.
The Ather 450X gets four modes - Eco, Ride, Sport and Warp. The Warp mode is new and gives you access to the full 26 Nm. Ather claims 0-40 kmph in just 3.3 seconds, while 0-60 kmph takes 6.5 seconds. It is blisteringly fast, enough to get your heart racing. The rolling acceleration impresses the most and is extremely responsive between 20-60 kmph. You leave behind stunned faces in the rearview mirror every time you twist the throttle. The 450X can hit a top speed of 85 kmph, but the digital console will indicate well over 90 kmph if you continue accelerating.
Ather has also improved gradeability to 20 degrees (up by 2 degrees) and we even tested the same. Power lag is noticeable in the Eco mode, minimal in the Sport and Ride modes and negligible in the Warp mode. So, climbing a flyover or a steep gradient will not be a concern at all, even with a pillion. While there's no question of vibrations, you do find a strong whine from the electric motor to keep you company and there is some buzz from the floorboard at speeds above 70 kmph.
Ather has also rejigged the weight distribution ratio on the 450X that now stands at 47:53. The front is lighter thanks to a lighter digital console and handlebar, which makes this a quick scooter to steer. The 450X has also trimmed its weight by 4 kg over the 450 at 108 kg. The scooter feels agile and quick in direction changes. The suspension is stiffer than before and the new X feels more confident around a bend. This set-up is sturdy over broken roads but comes at the cost of ride quality. While the 450X will sail through small bumps and undulations, the nastier ones are felt now. The rear monoshock bounces a bit too much at low speeds and feels a little out of place. The 12-inch alloys wrapped in MRF tyres offer fantastic feedback, and Ather will also sell you the wider TVS Remora tyres for better grip levels.
Living with the scooter gave us a true picture of what the real-world efficiency looks like. Ather claims 85 km on a single charge, but that's only on the Eco mode. It will drop to 75 km in the Ride mode and down to 50 km on the Warp mode. It will have to be a mix of different modes when riding to maximise charging intervals. For those looking at doing close to 70-80 km distances on the scooter, it is possible without having to compromise on performance. The Sport and Warp modes drain the battery most and are best used for overtakes. It's like downshifting on an ICE vehicle.
Tech & Ergonomics
The Ather 450X is loaded on tech, all of which is accessible via that digital console. A new Android-based user interface graces the screen and the change is immediately noticeable. The new unit is more intuitive to touch and easy to use even with the gloves on. The last OTA update also saw the addition of Google Maps that lets you feed the location directly to the system that offers turn-by-turn navigation. No need to take your phone out. Our test vehicle wasn't ready with the Bluetooth connectivity option that will also show incoming calls and text alerts as well as music controls, but we did test it out on the prototype. Ather says that the hardware for the same has been installed, while the feature will roll out for customers from April 2021 onwards.
The digital console is rich in colours and graphics and easy to read under sunlight. It also changes colours according to the speed (green under 50 kmph, red above 70 kmph). The switchgear and plastic quality is top-notch and everything feels sturdy and easy to reach. The seat height is higher than regular scooters and so is the ground clearance at 160 mm. Climbing on one won't be an issue for the rider or pillion though, but tall riders will be slightly uncomfortable due to the high-set floorboard. That's where the battery is placed and the legs sit higher than usual, which causes the knees to often obstruct the handlebar around a bend. We also found the auto-cancelling indicators to be inconsistent on our test vehicle and have communicated it to the folks at Ather.
Lets also talk about charging. If you live in an apartment complex like I do, especially an older one, finding a plug point can be an adventure on its own. I needed to find my apartment manager, secretary, security guards and explain what this contraption is and how the whole charging bit functions. And that means I had to be extremely nice to them. Maybe electric vehicles are the key to world peace then. Jokes aside, the charging infrastructure for EVs remains a crucial concern and is almost negligible in the country. Ather will set-up its own fast-charging stations in every new city, but we do need more charging stations to pop-up organically in public areas.
This is extremely relevant since the 450X does not have a massive range. It could've done with just a bit more to ease my anxiety. At 85 km on a single charge, it's not a deal-breaker considering most scooter users will not be exploring those kinds of kilometres on a day-to-day basis. However, a true range of 100 km in the Eco mode, would feel more valuable. Can an OTA update solve that perhaps, for old users and new?
Compared to the erstwhile 450, the new 450X is a good ₹ 50,000 more expensive. That's steep by all accounts. Sure, there's the 450 Plus that's ₹ 20,000 cheaper to bridge the gap, but that also sports fewer features and less torque in comparison. Let's not forget that the majority of 125 cc ICE scooters on sale are priced around ₹ 1 lakh (on-road) today. What we need then, at least in the short-term, are more subsidies from state governments to make electric offerings more affordable. We also hope Ather can achieve higher economies of scale at its upcoming production facility and drive down prices in the long run.
|Ather 450X Charges||Prices In Mumbai||Prices In Delhi|
|Base Price||₹ 1,90,426||₹ 1,90,426|
|FAME II Incentive||₹ 29,000||₹ 29,000|
|State Subsidy||-||₹ 14,500|
In Mumbai, the Ather 450X is priced at ₹ 1.61 lakh (ex-showroom, after FAME II subsidy). In addition, Ather sells its annual service and connectivity packages separately that further set you back by a maximum of ₹ 6000. This includes the Ather Service Pro at ₹ 3600/per year comprising scheduled maintenance, labour and consumables, charge and puncture assistance, and RSA, along with pick-up and drop. There's also the Ather Connect Pro with the 4G e-SIM connectivity that adds the suite of connectivity features including ride statistics, remote location tracking, theft and tow detection, remote charge monitoring and push-location at an annual subscription of ₹ 2400.
There's no doubt that the Ather 450X is a well-built scooter. The quality levels are top-notch, and so is the performance that will leave you happy, every time you get off the seat. Most importantly though, it's high on desirability that lets you overlook some of its serious flaws like the range and even pricing to an extent. There are very few scooters that can claim a feat of being fun and practical, fewer even are electric.
We've always said that Ather Energy has a good thing going and the 450X reinforces that statement as a made in India quality product. With a charging infrastructure that's more accessible and a slightly lower price point, this electric scooter can absolutely change the game. And not just for Ather, the electric mobility ecosystem will benefit from this as a whole and that's something we look forward to, especially on the environmental and sustainability front.
automobile, Electric Scooter, road test, india