The country’s largest motorcycle manufacturer Hero MotoCorp invested ₹180 crore in Ather Energy that makes smart electric two-wheelers on Thursday, thereby increasing its presence in the electric bike segment.
“… it (also) gives Hero another vehicle,” said Rajat Bhargava, head of strategy and performance transformation at Hero.
For the past couple of years, Pawan Munjal, chairman and managing director of Hero, has been talking of the two-wheeler manufacturer’s interest in electric vehicles, however, the company has not been able to make inroads into the market.
For the time being, Hero will help Ather build the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles across the country, and give it inputs on how to build an affordable product in India.
Meanwhile, Tarun Mehta, CEO and co-founder of Ather Energy, said the company would continue to chart its own future. “We have a different approach … startups can take moon shots. That’s not what incumbents do,” he said.
A source said that this could “very well” be the beginning of a potential acquisition, however, Mehta denied any such plan.
Ather’s S340 electric scooter is very different from all other electric two-wheelers. It has a full-touch dashboard, integrated navigation with Google Maps, and comes with in-built 3G connectivity, which allows the vehicle to keep sending data on driving, wear-and-tear, and roads to Ather’s server. The company will take care of the data cost in the first year.
“The dashboard can have sensors…. The vehicle should be able to get a new feature (like smartphone upgrades) if an upgrade is released,” said Mehta, who wants to build products that are not in the market.
Hero remains bullish on electric mobility, and said it would work with Ather alongside its own internal electric vehicle projects. “There will be products in the electric space that can be as big as the Splendor,” said Bhargava.
The S340 is an intelligent bike, which has all its components connected electrically, which also makes it adaptable for self-drive and ride-share – projects that are close to Munjal’s heart. “Autonomous vehicles are easy to build on electric platforms … the motors run on an electric drivetrain, instead of a manual one,” said Mehta.
Mehta will invest in other products, which include motorcycles, Hero’s strength. “… but you cannot have a scooter that looks like a motorcycle. It should be able to run at 120 kmph,” he said. The S340 has a top speed of 65 kmph.