Ola Electric scooter S1 ride review: Hyper charge into India's EV space
No other electric scooter, perhaps, has created as much buzz, as much hype and has managed to craft such a fan following before even officially hitting roads as the Ola S1 and Ola S1 Pro electric scooter. That it is for the first time ever that ride-hailing company Ola is launching a product of its own, and that too minus any brick and mortar store anywhere, is a remarkable achievement. But while creating a buzz, hyping a debut product and having a sizeable fan are important, the real test lies in how the product itself actually is, questions that have been doing the rounds for quite a while now. How does the Ola S1 really look? How does the Ola S1 perform in the real world? How durable is it? And what about the plethora of features that Ola is promising?
Electric vehicles are still in their infancy in India and the world over but hardly anyone is doubting the potential. At least Ola isn't. For all the talks of an electric revolution though, there is much, much that needs to be right for people at large to make the switch. Does the S1 Pro offer a compelling enough reason for this switch? There, another big question and the hunt for an answer took me to Bengaluru for the short yet vital ride experience of the debut Ola product. Read on:
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Ola S1 Pro looks and storage:
The Ola S1 and S1 Pro are more scooty than scooters, visually speaking. And lively at that. As many as 10 colour options are available on the S1 Pro and five on the lower variant. From the more reserved black, blue and bronze to the flashy pink, yellow and red, these scooters have hues that alone may make heads turn. And a cute-yet-modern face, might I add.
The head light unit, when lit, always reminds me of Wall-E from that Disney movie - Eve, not Wall-E. Look online and you'll know what I mean. But speaking in terms of practicality, the S1 has a long white throw and the high-beam option further adds to the illumination at the simple press of a dedicated button.
The large screen, the brain of the electric scooter, is absolutely gorgeous and controls most of the features - ride and non-ride - that the product has to offer. It is powered by an Android-based OS that has been developed by Ola in house and is mostly responsive to touch although I failed to register input a few times when the bike was drenched in Bengaluru rains.
Ola says the software on the test products are in beta and that customers can expect the polished version. Why this is a key selling point is that here is a screen that will put out map display, showcase user profile for customized rides, offer themes - Ola calls these Moods, help connect to phones using Bluetooth, and more.
Bluetooth pairing was near instant and listening to music from the dual speakers on the front was a novel experience. And if the battery runs low, there is a USB charging point as well. Plug in the phone and, as long as it is not larger than six inches, can be neatly tucked into the storage section.
There is also a hook on the inside of the front fork to hang shopping bags but the tunnel on the floorbed means additional bags between the feet would be a tricky balancing act. A flat floorbed would have been ideal.
The seats seemed wide enough to accommodate all physiques and the tap on the screen opens a very, very generous boot that can store two full-sized helmets.
Do note that there is no latch to open the boot and if the scooter's battery dies, one will have to reply on the app to take out whatever is required from under the seat - documents, house keys or anything else.
Ola S1 and S1 Pro specs:
The test units made available were the higher S1 Pro which, while more expensive, have some unique highlights. It is important to note here that both Ola S1 and S1 Pro offer the same peak motor power of 8.5 kW but it is the S1 Pro that is quicker by a fraction to 40 kmph, has a higher top speed, an additional ride mode and most importantly, a better per-charge range. Because of its bigger battery, it would also take longer to power the S1 Pro than S1. And as mentioned above, the S1 Pro is available in 10 shades as against S1's five.
An app would be common for both which allows for keyless access to the electric scooter, allow geo-fencing, live tracking and the likes.
|Ola S1 and S1 Pro key specs|
|Top speed||90 kmph||115 kmph|
|Acceleration (0 to 40 kmph)||3.6 seconds||3 seconds|
|Range||121 kms||181 kms|
|Ride modes||Normal, Sport||Normal, Sport, Hyper|
|Peak motor power||8.5 kW||8.5 kW|
I have a strong feeling that for most, the temptation to invest in S1 Pro would be high but it is also the more expensive version. And while every budget is different, the S1 could be a more practical bet while still offering much in terms of features and ride quality. That second bit is perhaps most crucial.
Ola S1 Pro ride impressions:
I had the S1 Pro in a controlled, gated community near the beautiful Nandi hills outside of Bengaluru. And I had it for around an hour. It is therefore important to clarify that this wasn't an outright test in real world conditions but I still had a fair few takeaways from my experience.
The first and obvious is just how obnoxiously powerful the S1 Pro is in the Hyper mode. And I use the word ‘obnoxious’ to mildly underline the sheer pace with which this electric scooter zaps ahead. Give it a clean, straight road and the S1 Pro leaps at the slightest throttle twist. And because it is, afterall, electric, there's eerie silence while sprinting ahead. But while Hyper is the apt name for this mode, the Sport mode is mighty, mighty fun too and should suffice the needs of the thrill seekers. In fact, just to calm things down, I rode the S1 Pro mostly in Sport mode and feel this would be the best option for a balance between range and performance.
In Normal mode, the S1 Pro also impressed and could be ideal for most rides in our packed Indian city traffic conditions. And regardless of which mode you may choose, the S1 Pro also fares well in terms of ride handling - heft when speeding, nimble on turns. The low center of gravity has a reassuring air about it which may mean even first-time scooter riders can have an easy learning graph.
There is not much that I can say yet on the suspension and as far as body durability is concerned, I will hold on to my views - one way or another - till I spend more time with the vehicle. But a thumbs up for the brakes which have decent bite to bring the electric scooter to a halt.
Ola S1 Pro overall impressions:
Ola has a strong product on offer and there is no doubting this. The S1 and S1 Pro make a mile-long list of promises and fare quite well on most counts.
Yes, the software may be in beta and have some glitches. Yes, a swappable battery option could have calmed range-related anxieties and yes, there may well be more affordable options in the market. But regardless of which variant you pick, if you do pick one, the Ola electric scooter promises to be extremely fun to ride and experience.