Introduction to the Ending
My first stint with electric scooters was last year when I rode the Ather 450X for a few days, and ‘was fascinated by it’ would be an understatement. The affair of riding EVs continued as the Ola S1 Pro entered the BikeWale garage and became my first long-termer. Fast forward to now, our S1 Pro is set to head back after clocking 5,800km in almost 10 months, which is a decent amount of exposure to give you a final verdict on whether you should buy it.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. How much money did I spend charging the scooter for all these kilometres? Well, considering its 3.9kWh battery returns 100km of range in one charge and the cost of 1kWh electricity is around Rs. 8 in Mumbai, the overall amount comes close to Rs. 1,809 for the entire distance. For reference, a 125cc scooter with an average fuel economy of 55kmpl would cost you at least Rs. 7,500 for fuel only. And then you must also take into account the consumable charges during the initial three free maintenance services and then some more as the kilometres on the odometer accumulate. Once you look at the running cost difference between an EV and an ICE two-wheeler, the latter feels like a bank breaker.
Things I Liked
Spending such a long time with the Ola S1 Pro made me appreciate its overall useability. To elaborate, it’s the performance, boot space, and some features. With 100km of juice in one go, the scooter only needed to be charged once every two days since my daily to and fro commute to the office is around 40km. Even when I encountered one of those long commute days, the battery had enough charge to be used the next day for another 30km (approximately) before the range anxiety crept in. Moreover, the scooter automatically switches to eco mode once the range slumps lower than 25km and the top speed gets locked at 43kmph. This allows an even depletion of the charge till the battery is completely drained.
Then comes an underrated aspect of the S1 Pro, its 36-litre boot storage. The rectangle-shaped cavity with a flat surface is an absolute boon for daily use! For my commute to the office and back home, it holds the charger, my entire backpack, and even a pair of extra shoes/rain gear — if need be. There was an instance when I dumped more than 20 magazines and still had some space left in the nooks and corners of the boot. Not to mention, there’s a utility hook at the front but the floorboard spine robs you of that space to place your belongings.
Now speaking of performance, the S1 Pro is commendably quick off the line, especially in the sport and hyper modes. Zipping past 100kmph (speedometer indicated) in the hyper mode is an absolute cakewalk for this e-scooter. However, the BMS allows you to ride it in this mode only for a few minutes before the system heats up. Once the temperatures go up, it’s an absolute no-brainer and you must ride in normal mode until the system cools down for the scooter to switch modes. The normal and sport modes get a top speed of 80kmph and 95kmph, respectively. And these speeds are adequate for your daily use.
Last but not least, the S1 Pro is mighty impressive on the features front. Amongst some of its gimmicks, like the riding modes and themes, are the navigation and cruise control. Both bits are two of my most used and favourite features. You can simply type in the location on the screen and the directions are highly accurate. The only shortcoming with the GPS is it takes a while to re-route, in case you deviate from the suggested directions. As for the cruise control, it comes in handy when there’s a large patch of the freeway with bare minimum traffic in the early morning. It maintains the set speed on flat surfaces and accelerates and brakes during a climb or descent. The smartphone connectivity also deserves a mention as you can easily lock and unlock the scooter with the Ola Electric app. The said feature saved our day when the boot switch (on the screen) was inaccessible and the only way to lock/unlock the seat was using the app.
Things I Disliked
As a product, the scooter is quite easy to live with. It offers immense practicality and has the feel-good factor too. But the Ola S1 Pro is flawed in some areas. From the software bugs to the fundamentals, it has a few chinks in its armour. As mentioned above, the boot malfunctioned once in the monsoon and even my phone was stored in it. So, considering the situation's urgency, I had to manually pull the seat up from the side, slide my hand inside, and reach for the phone. Now, this can possess as a safety threat since that’s the standard build quality of the scooter. There were other instances too when the cruise control and side-stand sensor operated in a rather inconsistent manner. And very recently, the scooter unlocked and was even in ride mode, but the TFT refused to display anything other than a blank screen.
When choosing a scooter as your commuting option, it needs to tick the comfort box. This is an area where Ola has sort of fumbled. Its seat is narrow at the front and lacks length. For reference, Suvil (the pillion) and I are pretty much of the same build, and as you can see, there’s barely any space between us on the seat. This gets uncomfortable just after a little while of riding. Plus, the cushioning is softer, so you’ll need room to move around or adjust on the scooter. But the lack of space here makes it more cumbersome.
The front suspension on the Ola S1 Pro is a little too soft and bottoms out on some of the most minor potholes/speed bumps. The braking also seemed a little off than before in just a few months of usage. Moreover, the bite has been oddly sharper and the rear tyre had also begun locking under slightly hard braking. This was not the case before as the progression and bite were very predictable.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, you can buy the Ola S1 Pro. But to give you a better perspective, it’s suited for young buyers, geeks, and office-goers who’d prefer something more than just a plain electric scooter. While you can use any model, be it petrol or electric, to move from point A to B, the S1 Pro would let you do it with peace of mind (low running cost). You can have fun while at it (if you fancy using the speakers and moods) and it offers a tad more convenience (large boot space) to store your luggage.
However, there are other options in the electric two-wheeler segment like the TVS iQube’s base and S models at a comparatively lower asking price. These come with OEM reliability and experience over the decades. Apart from that, there’s also the Bajaj Chetak and Ather 450X Gen 3, with a slightly higher asking price and better quality. But again, the range and overall performance of the aforementioned electric scooters are less than the Ola S1 Pro. Even the bragging rights, if that matters to you, are higher with the Ola scooter. While some of the features on the Ola aren’t a must-have, they do enhance the overall package and give the S1 Pro a slight edge over its competition. And if that’s a bet you are willing to take, then the S1 Pro could be an option rather than a sole choice.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi
OLA S1 Pro Left Front Three Quarter