We get our hands on the Ola S1 Pro for a thorough test in daily life conditions.
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Apurva Ambep
Riding along with music blasting from speakers is something I have enjoyed in the past astride some expensive machinery and at the time, I believed it was a luxury that was well out of reach for most people. That belief was turned on its head recently. Particularly because I had just got the chance to ride the EV sensation everyone has been talking about, the Ola S1 Pro, and it came equipped with its own sound system. Now that is a neat party trick to woo customers away from the competition which includes both petrol-powered scooters and electric ones as well. A smart move indeed.
Even without the twin 10W speakers, the S1 Pro has enough up its sleeve to charm most people at first sight. Available in bright or subtle colours, this scooter’s bodywork is simple, curvy and elegant. So when the designers threw in exposed wheels on the right-hand-side profile, it only seemed a natural addition. An LED headlamp should be a contrast here but somehow it blends into the whole retro-modern-future appeal, as does the touchscreen. The seven-inch display is as important to the S1 Pro as a key is to any other scooter because this EV does not require a physical key. A passcode is used to lock/unlock the scooter, just like a smartphone. If you are among those who have difficulty remembering ATM PINs, then this system is probably not for you. Personally, I found it rather convenient. Foolproof? Maybe not but convenient all the same. The console also relays a bevy of information in addition to the conventional fare of which navigation (MapMyIndia supported) and music controls were the most useful during my rides. The LED headlamp that looks like a modern Wall-E has great throw and illumination for riding at night and the other lighting units are also fitted seamlessly into the bodywork.
So far we have established that the Ola S1 Pro is a smartphone on wheels but there is more. Under the floorboard is a 3.97-kWh battery that supplies power to an 8.5-kW (11.6 hp) motor which then relays it to the rear wheel via a belt drive. This bit should not need much maintenance because it is completely sealed from the elements and it is also noticeably more silent than any of its EV rivals. The characteristic EV whine is subdued in the S1 Pro. Normal, Sport and Hyper modes offer increasingly positive levels of throttle response and acceleration but compensate for those gains with a proportionate depletion of charge. Sport is great for a quick and thrilling run about town and Hyper offers the most violent acceleration that the scooter is capable of — Ola claim that 0-40 km/h is dismissed in three seconds flat and the scooter tops out at 115 km/h. With a top speed of 80 km/h, a more usable rate of acceleration and feasible pace of charge depletion, Normal mode made the most sense for me. Particularly because I would need the 100-plus km range that it promised. The early morning ride had me use full throttle for a considerable amount of time along relatively empty roads that also had a few flyovers. The Ola made quick work of overtakes whenever necessary and scaled flyovers easily as well but the indicated range also depleted just as quickly. At that rate, the battery did not last long. Within a few hours of shooting, I had managed to drain the battery completely. At the end of the day, my no-holds-barred riding pattern and generous use of the Bluetooth-connected sound system got me 74 km of range. Of course, more mindful usage should easily return more range per charge. Couple of things I liked about this exercise was that the scooter prevents the absent-minded rider from depleting the battery too soon. For example, Hyper mode is not available below a certain state of charge and the S1 Pro automatically switches to Eco mode on the lower side of 20 per cent. In Eco, speed is limited to 40 km/h and the indicated range is most accurate even with throttle-wide-open usage. Also, I would like to add that we faced no heating issues during the time we spent with the scooter.
By the way, the Ola’s under-seat storage is accessed using the touchscreen. So once the scooter ran out of charge, I was not expecting to be able to access that space. Thankfully, Ola have covered this by leaving as much as three per cent battery life even after the motor shuts off to access the screen and other functions. Even so, the system glitched once during our test and we were not able to access the under-seat storage. It was easily fixed by a quick reset but it does show that the interface needs to be looked over once more. The storage area itself is impressive because it can easily accommodate two helmets or one full-face helmet and the charger. When using a standard charging socket, the S1 Pro charges from 0-100 per cent within six hours.
The structural integrity of the single-tube telescopic fork may seem questionable but there was no diversion from the expected performance during the time I rode the scooter. It is stable under hard braking and planted while going through corners. The ride quality is also up to the mark over most city roads but over bad surfaces, it is evident that the telescopic fork is significantly stiffer than the rear monoshock. The latter is set up well and travels through its working range without much resistance to return a plush ride. 12-inch wheels with 110/70 tyres provide ample grip around corners and are ably supported by the suspension. This translates to an experience that is not exactly sporty but enjoyable all the same. Braking is managed by discs at either end and they do a good job of shedding speed and come equipped with combined braking system.
At Rs 1.40 lakh (ex-showroom), the Ola S1 Pro seems fairly priced when compared to the competition and then there are the subsidies provided by FAME II. No EV is still ready to outrightly replace traditional transport across all parameters but as far as everyday commute is concerned, this could easily be a smooth, well-equipped and interesting alternative to a petrol-powered scooter. Evidence of which was further cemented when I was joined at a traffic light by a gentleman on a yellow Ola S1 Pro who was having a smashing time vibing to his tunes. He gave me a friendly nod before taking off from the signal like a bat out of hell. I suspect he may have been in Hyper mode.
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