Startup tackles range anxiety of e-bikes with computer

High cost and range anxiety have been big worries for electric vehicles. But what if an EV bike can be leased without ownership, and all anxieties redressed through an onboard computer that tells you how close you are to a charging station? A city-based mobility startup just turned a year doing this.

The startup, Ather Energy, had launched the EV scooter lease project as a pilot in January. “People want flexibility and updatability. In ordinary two-wheelers, you cannot upgrade without purchasing a new one. In our bike, you get software updates like in a smartphone,” Ather’s co-founder, Tarun Mehta explained to DH.

To address range anxiety, Ather had broken an unwritten rule: Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) do not own the charging infrastructure. “We set up 32 fast charging points at shopping malls, restaurants and other spots where public converge.” A monthly subscription model offered free charging at these points.

But it was through data-driven technology that the startup strove to stand differently. “The two-wheeler has a full-blown computer onboard with a seven-inch touchscreen as a dashboard. It has a 3G SIM card with navigation. The GPS lets you track it remotely through a mobile app,” said Tarun.

Key documents such as registration certificate (RC) and driving license could be uploaded onto the dashboard to be shown to the traffic police on demand.

The technology is also smart enough to predict the scooter’s range based on the owner’s riding style. Switching to navigation mode offers visual cues to ride efficiently. The startup has a safety feature planned for future upgrades: Automatic accident alerts.

Analysing EV ridership data in Bengaluru over the last few months, the startup has concluded that high range requirement is a myth. “Bengalureans travel less than 20km per day. Home-charging is the dominant charging behaviour, utilising electricity in non-peak hours,” notes the study.

Seventy-two per cent of the Ather-450 scooter owners charged their vehicles at home. “A majority of the charging took place between 7 pm and 6 am.”

EV vehicle use, the study found, is not restricted to city limits. In fact, an Ather-450 covered a distance of 8,344 km, covering Nandi Hills, Tirupathi, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Amaravathi and Dharmasthala.

The rider, Abhishek, ran a blog recording his experience with charging and range-anxiety. The toughest task for him was finding plug points with earthing. But everywhere he went, many eyebrows were raised over an electric scooter going that far.