The Ather Scooter

We were visiting India recently and saw a good friend who bought an electric scooter. The scooter looked smart and had a whole host of nice features.

But what struck me was the conversation about why their family chose to do this.

The scooter costs 50% more than gas/petrol alternatives. However, it more than pays for itself on a day-to-day basis thanks to the relative cost of electricity.

Ather Energy, the company producing these bikes, is understandably experiencing explosive growth. As they grow, they’ll continue to invest in charging points around the city – making the ownership experience better and better.

This is the sort of conversation that gets me very excited. We’re moving very quickly from buying electric vehicles to accelerate a decarbonized future to buying them because they make economic sense. We’re seeing this play out quickly all over the world.

Here’s a chart from The Financial Times (hits a paywall) on total cost of ownership of EVs in Europe. Aside from a few exceptions, EVs are already either cheaper or comparable. This trend is only going to accelerate.

And that’s setting aside the driving experience. We first leased an EV 4 years ago and then replaced it by buying another last year. And our experience is like that of most EV owners – we will never go back.

Electric cars are better in every way – they accelerate better, they get better over time with software upgrades, and enable automatic driver-based customization that makes the overall experience. VC Fred Wilson said it eloquently in his post“Is it a computer or a car?”

Maybe a month later, the Tesla arrived and I drove it into the parking garage to show the garage attendant how to drive and charge the car. He sat behind the wheel while I described the features of the car and when I was done he said to me “Mr. Wilson, they have combined an iPhone with a car!

I love that story because never a truer word has been spoken.

I was thinking about that when I was recently describing how my new Rivian Truck handles off-road driving. It isn’t four-wheel drive, it isn’t all-wheel drive, it is any-wheel drive. There are four electric motors, one on each wheel, and depending on how the truck is performing, different amounts of power are delivered to each and every wheel. The software determines which wheels need what power and supplies it to that wheel in real-time.

Is the Tesla a car or a computer? Neither and a bit of both. Is the Rivian a truck or a computer? Neither and a bit of both.

When you rethink a system, like a car or a truck, as a computer first and foremost, amazing things become possible. Like over-the-air software upgrades which continue to add new features to our Tesla eight years after I drove it into the parking garage for the first time.

We have seen this story play out across many devices in our lives; phones, TVs, watches, thermostats, smoke alarms, light switches, etc, etc. It is an enormous shift in how things are designed and made and it is playing out right in front of us.

EVs are a big part of the story around the transformation of our energy grid. As more of the grid gets powered by renewables in the next decade, they help us deliver a double whammy – by moving our transportation energy needs away from Carbon along with our daily energy needs.

Seeing Ather Energy’s scooters in Chennai got me very excited. I am rooting for their success.