Ola S1 Pro electric scooter test ride: First impressions

While the Ola electric scooter has huge potential, it needs to iron out the minor inconveniences and provide realistic delivery times.

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So today I finally had the time to experience the Ola S1 Pro. After reading reviews posted by BHPians, my expectations were quite low. I also had my doubts regarding the plastic chassis construction of the vehicle. Here are my observations; and the sequence of events that took place in the test ride campaign.

The event was organised at WEWORK Kondapur. Parking was bad as I had to park my Activa outside the building along with a bunch of other vehicles. This was kind of blocking traffic to a small extent. I had heard that there was paid parking available inside the building while we were leaving.

Once you enter the building, you are greeted by the Ola sales staff. You have to fill up a form and register yourself at the first counter. Registration is nothing but taking your name, mobile number and a photograph of your license. Once that is done, you are guided to the two black scooters behind the counter. They are not visible in this photograph. After registration, you are guided towards these two black scooters for a live demo of all the functions and features available in the scooter. Funnily for us, we were guided outside to the waiting area immediately after registration, thus skipping the demo. We took the demo after the test ride but left in the middle as another person had briefed the exact same stuff before the test ride near the waiting area.

I couldn’t click a lot of pictures, as there were a lot of people waiting and a lot of background noise was getting captured. The test ride was very short. 3-4 rounds around the office space; my estimation is 200m per round. They weren’t allowing people outside the office space, and the reason stated by them was that there is a huge traffic jam outside and customers going out are returning only after 30 minutes. And due to this, they had to bring in other vehicles from the parking. They offered an extra round for us though. I didn’t really feel like complaining about this, as there were indeed a lot of people waiting outside. But some of them did get a chance to take a spin outside the office space at the time we were doing ours.

Nevertheless, my friend wanted to do the test ride first. He sure loved the vehicle. He says he will pick this one instead of the Ather. Both of us have prebooked on the day Ola opened pre-bookings.

My buddy and I were the only ones who had paid Rs 499 and reserved the scooter. The majority of the folks who came to the event had paid Rs 20k and some of them even paid the full amount. This sure speaks about the trust Mr Bhavish Agarwal and Team Ola have built among citizens.

My buddy took 3-4 rounds and came back mighty impressed. He tried the normal mode in the first round, sport mode in the second and hyper in the third.

After him, it was my turn to have a spin on this Netherlands brainchild scooter with an Indian badge. I had very low expectations of this. My observations:

  • The side stand was very flimsy. This needs to be improved for sure on the production models.
  • Range: I remember seeing 130km in normal mode. Didn’t really focus on the range. Will do this next time when I get to ride it on the open road.
  • Indicators: I absolutely hated the indicator integration on this. EV makers, please take note of this. Stick to traditional indicator stalks. Firstly, there were so many buttons on each side you get confused to press which button for what function. Definitely confusing for a new person trying out the scooter for the first time. Maybe after some time, one might get used to it. My preference will be the traditional indicator stalk.
  • Horn: Typical electric scooter horn. Good for the purpose. Typical in the sense electric scooter horns sound a bit different compared to IC scooter horns. Ather, Ola and Pure Energy Horns were really different compared to Activa, Pep Plus and Access horns. Also, one thing that I had noticed was that the horn doesn’t work immediately after pressing. Takes half a second to work. Will take some time to get used to.
  • Headlight: Superb headlight at least from the looks of it. My eyes got blinded while others were taking a ride. I do not have any complaints in this area. Same with the taillight and number plate lights, super bright and functional. Even the indicators were well suited for the purpose.
  • Cruise Control: Didn’t get a chance to try this as it was a very short test ride.
  • Reverse: You have to twist the throttle on the other side to use reverse mode. This was integrated in a nice manner. The opposite side throttle play was very little, which is a good thing. You don’t have to twist the entire throttle to use reverse mode. But will take some time to get used to.
  • I also tried the three modes namely Normal, Sport and Hyper. Normal is useful for usual commuting duties, Sports is useful for those who are running late and Hyper is useful in your low days. Hyper mode is really addictive, If I end up buying this I might spend most of my time in Hyper mode itself. The pull is addictive, will definitely bring a smile to your face during your low times.
  • Brakes: Hugely impressed in this department. The scooter stops with no hesitation whatsoever. Inspires a lot of confidence. I however wished they provided ABS as well to further enhance confidence.
  • Tyres: Can’t really comment on this but I assume it will be more than enough for your usual commuting duties.
  • Handling and Ride: Even this is something that I can’t really comment on, as the road we did the test ride was smooth. It was a parking space, so will reserve my comments on this once I get to ride the scooter on the open road.
  • Charging: Honestly speaking, I felt that all of the sales guys were clueless about the charging network. When I asked them about the charger, they replied it comes with a portable charger; and when I asked them where it was, they replied in the cellar where other scooters were being charged. I however did get to see the charger somewhere else. Couldn’t click pictures due to the crowd. It was a white-coloured charger. Decently big in size. I have no idea about its charging speed and power consumption.
  • Build Quality: This is one area where I was pleasantly surprised. The build quality of the scooters was very good. One or two areas had a flimsy build and cheap materials used( charging port flap), but I strongly feel the production version will have this minor grievance sorted out. The paint quality was superb. I saw Black, Matt Black, Matt Grey, Matt Dark Blue and Sky Blue.
  • Power and Acceleration: Adequate for most, good for many. But I still prefer Ather’s warp mode.
  • Mirrors are far superior to Ather’s mirrors. They offer a good view of what’s behind.
  • Someone tried the Bluetooth speakers as well. When I wanted to try it out, that I was told only one scooter had that functionality and someone had taken it for a ride. Don’t know if it was true or utter salesboy laziness of connecting his phone to play audio.
  • The event was well organised. I hope they do give longer test rides in their next test ride events.
  • Seat: Huge and supremely comfortable. No complaints about here. I didn’t get to see the under-seat storage, but my buddy did get to see it and he said it was huge. Two helmets will be an easy fit.
  • Keyless entry is a bad idea. Ola should strongly consider offering physical keys.
  • Throttle cut off during acceleration is calibrated in a friendly manner. Might not be a problem once one gets used to it. However, I prefer to not have this feature if given a chance.

Some clicks of the scooter and me with it.

Overall, I feel Ola has huge potential to turn the market towards itself. IMO, they should iron out those minor inconveniences and give realistic delivery timelines and also establish their promised charging infra just in time.

I still stand by my opinion though:

  • Want a fast but practical electric scooter immediately? Go for the Ather.
  • Will do it with a slow speed electric scooter? Go for Pure Energy.
  • If you can wait, Ola sure is worth it.

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