Aishwarya Ramesh

Why is EV maker Ather Energy talking about its Li-ion batteries in its latest ad?

The ad features Shreyas Seethapathy, a battery and motor engineer at Ather, enjoying a cup of ice cream on top of an oven.

Ather Energy’s new campaign has its battery designer sitting on top of an oven, where Lithium-ion batteries are baking. Shreyas Seethapathy is also enjoying a cup of ice cream, while the batteries are baking underneath him.

Bengaluru-based Ather’s in-house team decided to go for this creative treatment to demonstrate how safe the batteries are. The minute-long ad talks about how the battery performs well in all weather conditions.

It's hard to miss the digital flames in the background of the ad. The electric vehicle (EV) segment in India is a fairly new one, and is experiencing teething troubles. Recently, there were reports that Pure EV bikes, Boom Motors bikes, Jitendra EV bikes and Hero Electric bikes have malfunctioned and caught fire.

The root cause of the problem can be traced back to the Li-ion batteries that power these vehicles. Sometimes, these batteries overheat, malfunction - causing combustion and the vehicles to blow up. Even though petrol currently costs over Rs 100 per litre, people have voiced concerns about how safe the bikes are and may not opt to buy one, just yet.

“We noticed that the consumers were getting a little apprehensive about the category itself. Since we are one of the companies building the category right now, we thought it was our duty to address these concerns,” says Nilay Chandra, director of marketing and charging infrastructure at Ather.

He adds that in the past, the company has not gone out of its way to speak about these aspects of owning an electric bike.

Nilay Chandra
Nilay Chandra

“We’ve never done a campaign on reliability or safety, because we thought it was the minimum threshold that any serious company coming with a long-term intent into this category, would take care of.”

In addition to catching fire, there are other ways EVs have been malfunctioning. Last month, an old man was involved in an accident when an Ola EV bike suddenly went into reverse.

In July 2021, Ola had asked people to pay Rs 499 and pre-book the bike, but there were multiple delays in deliveries as well. In its marketing efforts, Ola S1 Pro bikes are advertised to guarantee a ‘smooth ride’, irrespective of the weather, but the marketing doesn’t do much to guarantee how safe the bikes are.

Also Read: Ola Electric under fire for faulty bikes

Chandra says that the campaign intentionally took a content marketing approach in order to drive home the message and increase brand visibility.

To dispel further scepticism about the category, he explains that Ather’s experience centres play a role in helping the consumers understand the vehicles better.

“People spend a minimum of 45 minutes at our experience centres. We educate people about the category and make them understand our product better.”

Ather has experience centres in Pune, Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

Chandra adds that many new players don’t understand battery technology fully. So, it was imperative for the campaign to make it look like the problems with EVs are uncommon in this category.

“When we launched, we didn’t have any competition. We could have claimed a range of, say, 117 km to get more consumers on board, but we communicated a range under 100 km. We wanted to get people into the category with the right expectations.”

Range is a concern among EV users, indeed. In an earlier interview, Tata Motors’ Vivek Srivatsa brought up the issue of ‘range anxiety’ as one of the biggest marketing challenges in the EV segment. It refers to a phenomenon where users are scared of being stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no charge in their vehicles and no access to a charging station.

Also Read: “'Range anxiety' is a challenge when it comes to marketing electric vehicles”: Vivek Srivatsa, Tata Motors

Chandra, in an earlier interview with afaqs!, also addressed this particular aspect of owning an EV. One of the biggest challenges as far as EVs go, is travel infrastructure.

Also Read: “Given the lack of innovation in the two-wheeler category, electric bikes have potential”: Nilay Chandra, Ather Energy

“The typical range that the scooters have these days is 80-100 km/hr on full charge. The average distance that a person travels in an urban landscape is 25-30 km. It’s like a phone, you can charge it and go. However, we understand that it’s important to give the consumers that assurance so they can believe our claim.”

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