Chennai 11/DEC/2014 This e-scooter with its Android dashboard is out of the ordinary. IIT-Madras-incubated Ather Energy has developed a first-of-its-kind Android tablet dashboard for an electric scooter its building. The tablet can help the rider with navigation and offer information on power, battery drain, system temperature and how long the scooter can go before the next charge-up. It can help track theft as well. Posing behind a glass door inside the IIT-Madras Research Park is the fifth iteration. Ather has built this right from the chassis to the motor to the battery packs. It\'s about the size of any 100cc scooter in the market. The lithiumion battery packs rest on the floorboard of the vehicle, sending minimal weight to the tyres and cutting \"unsprung mass\", a major energy drainer. It is 20 per cent lighter than counterparts and has a storage space that can accommodate two full-size helmets. \"The idea all along was that it should be futuristic. A Hero will slam us in manufacturing. A TVS will make us vanish with their supply-chain efficiency. So, our bet can only be in design, functionality and bringing a smart solution to Indian scooters,\" said Tarun Mehta, the 25 year-old co-founder of Ather Energy who quit Ashok LeylandBSE 0.50 % to start the venture in October last year.
Corporate employment was not for the other founder Swapnil Jain either, who had quit General Motors to team up with Mehta and return to their alma mater. Prof Krishna Kumar at IIT-Madras, who drew them into entrepreneurship, gave them the first few lakhs and the space to design their product. The first prototype, ready in four months, served to help visualise how it looks, and firm up basic specifications such as torque, range, and temperature. Ather focussed on raising system efficiency by optimising the weight. \"It took us three iterations to figure out where the battery should go,\" Mehta said.
About Rs 55 lakh has been spent so far, including investor money from Aerospike founder and IIT-Madras alumnus Srini V Srinivasan. Big names have just got on board: Sachin and Binny Bansal of Flipkart and Raju Venkatraman of Medall Healthcare have together invested $1 million. \"For me, the biggest return on investment will be the fact that not only do I get to encourage entrepreneurship, but also get to hear new ideas and learn from them at the same time,\" said Sachin Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart.