Hero MotoCorp-backed Ather Energy, a Bengaluru-based maker of electric scooters, will expand its production capacity by 12-fold and will introduce a new range of products including an electric motorcycle.
Having consolidated the market of Bengaluru, where it has been present for the last few years, the startup is keen to add 30-35 cities in the next two-to-three years. About 10-11 cities will be added in 2020, alone. Chennai recently became Ather Energy's second market after Bengaluru.
At present, Ather Energy sells only one product, the Ather 450, which is priced at Rs 1.15 lakh. The maiden product, the Ather 340, was pulled out by the company after the entire demand almost moved in favour of Ather 450.
Speaking to Moneycontrol, Ravneet Phokela, Chief Business Officer, Ather Energy, said, “There will be another line of scooters for consolidating the scooter market, and then we move on to motorbikes. We will certainly build a motorbike. But that is still few years away, may be three-to-four years. The new line scooters will hit the market in about 12-18 months.”
As the existing Ather 450 is positioned at the premium end (buyers have the option of the Bajaj Pulsar NS200 for the same price), the company is working on an affordable scooter. “The (new) scooter will be one notch lower in price than the Ather 450 but certainly not a Rs 50,000 product. It will be a high performance, well designed and connected product, having a range of around 75 km to a full charge,” Phokela stated.Distribution
Bengaluru and Chennai put together generate about 10,000 units in annual sales. Ather Energy’s immediate plans are to enter other large cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, which will provide it scale. In mid-2020, the company plans to enter the Mumbai market.
“Bigger companies like Hero, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company can be in 400 cities overnight in one go. Our ambition is not to be in 400 cities. Given where we are in the next two-to-three years, we would want to be in 30-35 cities. In 2020, we hope to be in about 10-11 cities,” he added.
Ather Energy does not have any dealers. Instead it has large experience centres where buyers can test drive the products and get first-hand experience of their electric vehicle technology.
“Our model is different because we don’t have any dealers, but we have service centres and charging infrastructure. We have experience centres. Right now, we are starting with one experience centre per city. At some point we will look at expansion. These are large centres spread over 2,500-3,000 sq ft,” Phokela explained.Manufacturing
Ather Energy currently has a manufacturing capacity of 35,000-40,000 units a year. It is in the final leg of setting up a greenfield factory that will have a capacity to produce 500,000 units a year, which will come up before September next year.
“Our current capacity of 35,000-40,000 units certainly won't suffice. We are very close to finalising our new manufacturing facility, which will have a capacity of half a million units and that will include batteries as well. We will make an announcement very soon. We are looking at southern states, which will be a two-to-three hour drive from where we are presently based,” Phokela added.
Once the new factory comes up, the existing facility will be converted into a R&D centre.Charging
To solve consumer anxiety about charging, Ather Energy has taken it upon itself to erect chargers across cities where it plans to enter. In Bengaluru, for instance, the company has 35 chargers in 29 locations, whereas in Chennai it has chargers in 11 locations.“Our ambition is that no matter where the consumer is he would never be more than 2 kms away from a charging point. In Bengaluru, there is a charging point every 4 kms, which will become 3 kms and then 2 kms. This will be the case with every city,” Phokela said.