The Oben Rorr aims to eat into the market share of 150-cc motorcycles. We verify that claim after a short ride on Nandi Hills.
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
With the increase in the number of electric scooters, a space has been created for electric motorcycles as well but we are yet to see any major players set foot in this segment. The good people at Oben who have experience in the realms of electricals and electronics have decided to tap into this market using the Rorr. Their timing is impeccable because they do not have to compete with any of the major motorcycle manufacturers in the country and their main rivals are start-ups too. This Bengaluru-based company invited us to their town to have a go astride the Rorr and here is how that went.
With the Rorr, Oben are aiming to attract motorcyclists who are currently out shopping in the 150-cc segment. So the design of the motorcycle also mimics its combustion-engined contemporaries. The retro-modern naked appeal is easily channeled through the round headlamp, muscular frontal bodywork, dual-tone paint job and a minimalist tail. Concurrently, the lower half of the motorcycle cannot be mistaken for anything but an EV. A die-cast aluminium box occupies the space where an engine would have been and extends right back into what would have been the fuel tank area. During the presentation, Oben pointed out that this aluminium box was capable of preventing a blast if need be. Reassuring, considering the recent fatalities with EVs. This box holds the Rorr’s 4.4-kWh battery and it sits comfortably nestled within the manufacturer’s proprietary ‘ARX’ frame (similar to a trellis structure). The 17-inch wheels at either end complete the street-focussed design. While the styling is rather appealing, there is much to be desired in terms of build quality. From the paintwork to panels to individual components, the Rorr could use a once-over to meet the standards that one would expect from a production model.
The lack of an engine, gearbox and exhaust system gives the Rorr remarkable ground clearance and at first sight it may appear that this is a rather tall motorcycle. However, I can confidently say that the saddle height is reasonable enough and it is complemented by a comfortable riding position that should make this motorcycle quite popular among those who need to spend long hours in the saddle. The Rorr weighs 130 kg and it is easy to manoeuvre, particularly at slow speeds. The handlebar touches the panels at both extremes of its rotation and this limits the motorcycle’s turning radius. Raising the handlebar and adding a stopper or redesigning the bodywork to have recesses could solve this problem.
The instrument cluster is easily the first thing that needs to be replaced. Not only is it difficult to read in daylight but the graphics and layout on this digital set-up robs the Rorr off the premium tag it may be looking for. During my short ride, it also reset a few times without warning. Rough edges in the software that need polishing maybe?
The 10kW-motor that powers the Oben Rorr is mounted near the swingarm pivot and is hidden under the bodywork. One can only see the belt that leads to the massive pulley at the rear wheel. This set-up promises a maximum of 60 Nm and it lives up to expectations. Off the line, the Rorr is a quick machine and it reaches city speeds with ease, almost at a par with most 150-cc motorcycles, if not faster. There are three riding modes and in order of performance, they are Eco, City and Havoc. Eco is best for range and also has a usable amount of performance; making it an easy choice for days with high mileage. Meanwhile, Havoc gives you full access to the motor’s performance at the expense of range. As for City, I have no comments on that, the motorcycle promptly died every time it was selected.
There are many knock-off EVs in the market today that are not worth a penny. Primarily because they fail at the basics of being a motorcycle and are hence unsafe for use. On that front, I am happy to report that Oben have done their due diligence and developed a chassis that allows the Rorr to hold the road well. Feedback and feel needs improvement but otherwise, this motorcycle could easily do most things that an ICE motorcycle can. Around the corners of Nandi hills, the Rorr was fun and even exciting to ride. Suspended by a telescopic fork and a monoshock – both set up on the soft side – the Rorr was nicely composed while turning into a corner and held the intended line admirably without once feeling scary or out of its depth. The CEAT tyres only complement this character. The disc brakes at either end do a good job of shedding speed fast but the effects of CBS were not evident. With an open stretch of tarmac, the Rorr reached speeds in the vicinity of 100 km/h (indicated) as claimed but it is best enjoyed around the 70-80 km/h mark. Apart from inconsistent throttle response at the most unexpected times, the Rorr managed to live up to most of Oben’s claims and that is a great result for a new manufacturer.
Here is another interesting bit of information about the Rorr. The chemical content of its lithium-ion battery is not the same as most EVs in India. Instead of the NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt) battery that does duty in gadgets and most new EVs, the Rorr uses an LFP (Lithium Ferrous Phosphate) battery. LFP does not have an energy density as good as NMC and that is why for a given specification, an LFP battery will always be larger. Other than that, it is just as good for such usage. EV fires have been the talk of the town in recent times, so it might be reassuring to some that LFP batteries are not only more tolerant to abuse but also have a higher flame point (temperature at which thermal runaway occurs) than NMC batteries under identical conditions and usage. One disadvantage of LFP is that it usually takes longer to charge as compared to NMC but Oben claim to have solved that issue with their patented on-board charger technology. The Rorr is capable of charging from zero to 100 per cent within two hours and offers a maximum range of up to 150 km in Eco mode which drops to 100 km when Havoc is selected. While we did not have enough time to drain the battery completely, the rate of depletion and predicted range appeared to be consistent with the distance covered.
To sum it up, the Oben Rorr has its flaws, like all first-iteration products do but thankfully, most of its wrinkles can be easily ironed out by optimizing software and choosing a higher quality of materials. At its core, this is a nicely balanced motorcycle that has the potential to be a good city commuter and we look forward to conducting a proper road test to verify parameters including range and charging time. By the way, LFP batteries are easier (and less expensive) to make and recycle as well. This helps Oben to price the Rorr at a reasonable Rs 1.03 lakh (ex-showroom). While it is not yet the benchmark in the segment, there is a lot of potential in this new player.
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