Pune to Saswad: An Electric Road Trip Experience!
4 Ather 450x — 4 Riders — 1 Fast Charger — 60km
By Siddharth Bhagwat
In this blog I’m going to share a really memorable experience of riding the all-electric Ather 450x, with 3 other Ather owners; going on a weekend ride to the beautiful and fun to tour outskirts of Pune.
Pune has a lot of amazing places to visit within an hour’s drive. Whether it’s Khadakwasla, Panshet, or Sinhgad Fort down south, Mulshi or Pavna lake to the east, Bhimashankar in the north, or even Lonavala & Khandala, it will surely offer you some of the best riding experiences. So, fellow Ather owners; Amit, Mayuresh, Karan, and I decided to visit Saswad. It is situated about 26 km to the southeast of Pune and the road passes through the beautiful Dive Ghat. The ghat is pretty steep to climb which twists and turns to the shape of its mountains making it the perfect road trip route!
If you’re not familiar with the Ather 450x, here’s a bit about the scooter, or else you can skip this part–
In October 2020 Ather Energy, a Bangalore-based EV start-up, launched its flagship product in Pune — the Ather 450x. An Electric Scooter that can travel 85 km on a single charge, completes 0 to 40 in 3.3 seconds on its Warp mode; and most importantly the scooter has a feature which can help you get out of tough parking spaces — a Reverse gear! The stylish looks, superb ride quality, and insane speed can also leave behind a 200 cc KTM in short sprints and is quickly becoming a public sensation all over India; and Punekars are beginning to absolutely love it!
The Ather 450x is primarily made to use in urban areas, with its sleek body design, decent range, and is supported by a fast-charging network that can quick-charge your scooter when in need. So, some of us fellow Ather owners came together and thought, why not take the scooter outside Pune and flex its muscles?
So, here’s how our journey started -
On the morning of 27th February, we decided to meet at Kondhwa’s Bliss Bakery Café, where Ather has installed one of its fast chargers in the city. As it was the closest fast charger on route to Dive Ghat when leaving Pune, we all ‘tanked up’ oh sorry, pardon my French ‘charged up’ our scooters; enough to make the trip when leaving Pune. Amit had joined us from halfway across Pune, from Hinjewadi (that’s almost 30 km away), so he had to charge up almost 50% of the scooter, but thanks to the fast charger, it only took him 20 mins to recharge it.
Leaving Pune from Kondhwa was pretty easy, thanks to the in-built Google Maps service Ather provides on the 7” touch screen on the dashboard. And within no time we were out of Pune, heading towards the mountains of Dive Ghat. The ghat was about a 5 km stretch with pretty steep inclines, beautiful twisting roads. Before the ride, we were a bit skeptical of how an EV might perform on ghat sections (as previous EV models really struggled to climb steep inclines). But we were riding through the ghat on Ride mode, which gives you the best combo of range and power.
The Ather 450x was able to cut through these roads brilliantly, the comfort of riding it combined with its ability to power and instantly accelerate, just filled us with a deep sense of excitement and adrenaline as we climbed up the ghat. With the Ather 450x, it’s easy to overtake other vehicles and fun to cut corners with; it was 5 km of pure Bliss! On reaching the top, we just looked at each other with a sense of incredible joy, to have experienced riding the Ather on a ghat like a knife through butter!
After taking some photos and speaking to random people on the road that were curious to know about the scooter, our ride continued on our way to Saswad, where we came across a mini misal Dhaba called Someshwar. This Dhaba is situated only 4 km before Saswad and we randomly stopped there just to take a break; but as we were parking our scooter, our eyes lit up as we saw several plug points well within the reach of the scooter. So, of course, like a kid in the candy store, we couldn’t let go of the opportunity to charge up our scooters and get a bit of range. We kindly requested the owner to get access to the plug points for charging and to our not-so-surprise at this point, like everyone else that speaks to EV owners, the owner was really excited to see electric scooters and we were happy to show him around and let him take a test ride. Nevertheless, he was happy to accommodate charging our scooters at his mini misal Dhaba.
How did we charge our scooters?
Ather offers 2 charging options; one is a portable charger and the other is a Dot charger. A Dot charger is a personalized charger that charges only the scooter it's synced with. The other is the portable charger — the type that can be used to charge any scooter and taken along with to be charged at a 5A or 16A plug point and since I had one, I brought it with me just in case. But little did we know, Karan also got his Dot charger with him, yes, you can take out the dot charger too and take it along if needed. I guess if you own an EV you would take those extra efforts to secure an opportunity to charge your vehicle. Kudos to him, cause that’s a lot of work, unscrewing all the screws and getting the charger along with him that fit well in the huge (22 liters) under-the-seat storage, leaving space for a water bottle.
Anyway, the misal was honestly really tasty, fresh, and authentic! It’s a good place to stop by, for EV owners on route to, or going via Saswad! And to show the owner our gratitude; Mayuresh gave him a tip, for letting us use his electricity to charge our Electric scooters. That was a really great gesture by him, I guess it’s a gesture that, we as the current and future EV owners can take up. Let’s not forget to tip at places like Dhabas or hotels that do not have dedicated charging infrastructure.
After a delightful 2 hours; where we had some great lunch and recharged the scooters, we head onto the scenic road of Saswad. And I was really enjoying the trip, filming it with my Go Pro and getting to know my fellow really passionate EV owners. On our way back from Saswad we took an alternative route via Bopdev Ghat.
We stopped quite a bit on roadsides to take pictures and frankly to breathe some fresh air! Suddenly, we saw a car parking in front of us, a guy got down and started walking towards us, we were a bit nervous at this point, I was just thinking maybe he needs help or something. But to our surprise, he was wanting to talk to us about the scooter; and told us that he recognized our scooter from an Advertisement that he saw and followed us for over 3 km as he was contemplating whether to talk to us or not! Of course, we were happy to share our experience of the scooter with him. Such experiences really underline the growing craze and curiosity towards EVs in India.
The Overall Experience -
We returned to Pune via the parallel route that had a lot of sharp bends and steep declines which we absolutely enjoyed driving through! We had completed almost 60 km, experiencing the pure EV magic (calculated from our starting point — Bliss Bakery Café at Kondhwa to Saswad); and we were in awe of what we just experienced, a ride quality that would match the top scooters on the market, speed that can leave behind most bikes on the road and above all, a mode of transportation that doesn’t pollute the air! The scooter didn’t really trouble us that much but yes, there were things we felt that needed to be improved most importantly, a better-charging infrastructure and bigger range on the battery as we were really enjoying riding it! At the end of the day, we all had some nice Cold Coffee at the café and laughed about the whole trip for over a couple of hours!
I’m sure we can still have a great ride, with any bike for that matter, if the company and roads are good. But riding an EV still makes it a bit more special because, you know at the back of your mind, that apart from realizing it’s a better product than petrol scooters; you aren’t polluting the air and causing global warming! You feel a sense of pride that sends chills down your spine when you really experience it first-hand.
#No Engine, No Kick, Let’s go Electric!
Check out the riding experience here: https://youtu.be/iKOH4gKZHgI
An environmentalist with a twist, Siddharth specializes in Circular Economy and helps industries reduce their environmental impact. He currently works as an Analyst for Climate Collective Pune and runs his own YouTube channel called Sustainability Whaaat!
This CCP blog is dedicated to personal stories of choosing Climate-friendly options and benefiting from them.