Exclusive: Ather E-Scooter Owners Will Soon Have To Pay To Use Grid Fast Chargers
- Ather Energy has enrolled a handful of scooter owners to participate in the beta tests of its upcoming paid charging programme.
- Customers will have to pay Re 1 + GST for every minute of using a Grid fast charger during the test phase.
- Move expected to minimise charger-hogging and improve access and availability.
After years of providing free fast charging to its customers, Ather Energy is about to monetise its fast-charging network in the coming weeks. carandbike has learned that the electric vehicle (EV) start-up has commenced beta testing of a paid charging programme it will soon roll out for users of the ‘Ather Grid’ fast charging infrastructure, with a handful of Ather 450 e-scooter owners being selected for the test phase. Sources aware of the company’s plans confirmed owners of the Gen 2 and 3 models will receive an over-the-air (OTA) update incorporating a payment step into the fast-charging process, and will then be directed to test the OTA update out at multiple Grid points, in a bid to squash bugs and glitches before the full-scale rollout.
Also Read: Ather Extends Faster Home Charger Upgrade To Base 450X Buyers At A Discount
As part of the test phase, customers will have to pay Re 1 for every minute of using a Grid fast-charger. So, leaving the scooter plugged in for 40 minutes will spell an expense of Rs 40, plus GST, for the customer. Ather says its public fast chargers enable the 450 to regain 1.5 kilometres of range per minute of charging, so a 40-minute charge would be sufficient to regain up to 60 kilometres of range. The company is offering rewards in the form of Ather merchandise to the first few customers who enrol for the beta testing phase and spend over Rs 400 at Grid points during the tests.
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Those using Ather's Grid fast-chargers will soon have to pay a time-based fee.
Ather – which has offered free fast-charging for the last four years – is understood to be working to minimise charger-hogging, a situation where owners leave their scooters plugged in for longer than is necessary. Following complaints from several customers, Ather recently introduced a cut-off limit for those charging at the Ather Grid, so now scooters cannot charge to beyond 80 per cent at a fast charging point. The introduction of a fee will mean owners will tap into the Grid network more judiciously, and be more mindful of when they need to unplug their vehicle. This, the company expects will in turn, lead to more sessions at each charger, and more customers using a Grid point more frequently.
Also Read: Ather Energy To Refund Charger Cost For E-Scooters Purchased Till April 12, 2023
Additionally, monetising the Grid will form an additional revenue stream for Ather Energy, which finds itself in a rocky boat at present, having recently been pushed to issue charger refunds for customers totaling to Rs 140 crore. A substantial reduction in FAME-II subsidies from June 2023 onwards also spells an imminent (and significant) price hike, which may lead to a slowdown in sales, at least in the short-term. At a time when cash flows are being squeezed, revenue from the charging infrastructure will likely provide some relief to the start-up.
Also Read: FAME-II Subsidy For Electric Two-Wheelers Slashed; EV Players React
Over the years, Ather has invested over Rs 75 crore to set up more than 1,000 Grid charging points across India. Use of the Grid charging points will soon be a paid affair for everyone, including those wanting to charge scooters from a different brand, or even a four-wheeler. However, while the payment step for Ather owners could be integrated into the existing smartphone app, it’s likely that Ather will create an alternate method for owners of non-Ather EVs to be able to pay for using the fast chargers.
Ather is likely to devise an alternate method for owners of non-Ather EVs to pay for using its fast-charging network.
Once Ather monetises the Grid fast charging infrastructure, it will also be proactive in keeping the chargers healthy and functioning around the clock, rather than reactive, a dealer source told carandbike.
“It’s a good step to make sure no one plugs in unnecessarily and blocks access for others who really need a quick charge. But, if it’s a paid service, it shouldn’t limit one to charging only to 80 per cent; I should have the option to choose if I want to charge my scooter to 100 per cent”, said one owner aware of the commencement of beta testing, on the condition of anonymity.
There is also some concern about Ather charging a fee based on the time a scooter remains plugged into the fast charger, and not the exact amount of electricity consumed. When temperatures rise, charger output can be affected, and owners may end up spending longer at a Grid point than they would’ve originally envisioned, resulting in a higher amount due.
“If I consume about three units of electricity, but it takes over an hour to charge during peak summer, it may cost me anywhere between Rs 70-80 after adding taxes. That would be more than Rs 20 per unit consumed, more expensive than even most DCFCs for cars”, said a second 450X owner on the condition of anonymity.