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Ola S1 and S1 Pro vs Rivals: Which is the best electric scooter you can buy right now?

How well does the newly launched Ola S1 and S1 Pro fare against rivalling brands such as Ather and Simple One, and what does the customer need from a personal electric scooter?

August 17, 2021 / 04:47 PM IST
Ather, Ola and now Simple One are pushing the envelope when it comes to revolutionary innovation

Ather, Ola and now Simple One are pushing the envelope when it comes to revolutionary innovation

The Indian electric two-wheeler revolution is here. At least that’s what Ola Electric founder Bhavish Aggarwal affirmed while launching the much-awaited Ola S1 and S1 Pro on the 75th Indian Independence day. However, the Ola S1 and S2 weren’t the only electric scooters to be launched on the 15th of August.

Simple Energy, another Bengaluru-based start-up launched their first offering, the Simple One, although, to much less fanfare. This is because for an electric scooter to be a viable alternative to a petrol-powered one, it’s not just price parity but a number of factors that a brand needs to get right.

Also Read: Ola Electric S1 and S1 Pro e-scooters launched at Rs 99,999: All You Need to Know

This includes battery technology, speed, weight, charging ecosystem and software efficacy. In this regard, it’s only Ather, Ola and now Simple One pushing the envelope when it comes to revolutionary innovation. The rest, including the Bajaj Chetak, Okinawa Praise Pro and the like, are left trailing behind.

Design

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Design is the most relative of all criteria, so it’s best not to dwell on which one of these scooters is the best looking. While the Ather scooters certainly are sharp-edged and futuristic looking, the Ola scooters offer a more seamless design with a variety of truly vibrant colours.

In comparison, the Chetak appears derivative, and not disruptive which is what a new-age e-scooter needs to be. The idea behind a good electric scooter design is to serve as an antidote to the staid and purely functional design of commuter scooters.

The considerably cheaper Okinawa Praise Pro remains unnecessarily busy-looking and is unlikely to be selected for its design. In terms of the overall design and finish, it’s a toss-up between the sharp-edged aggression of Ather and Simple One or the smooth surfaced, vibrant look of the Ola.

Performance

While the Simple One claims to have a 4.9 kWh battery, the largest in the segment, it isn’t the fastest scooter. This is because the Ola S1 Pro has a max speed of 115kph, while the Simple One, while quicker on paper than the S1 Pro, goes up to only 105kph.

Also Read: Simple One: The Rs 1.1 lakh electric scooter from a 2-year-old start up

Top speed, however, should not be the chief determining factor of an electric scooter’s superiority as city riding conditions rarely allow for high-speed riding conditions. While the Simple One’s claimed acceleration figure is the quickest, both the Ola S1 Pro and the Ather 450X (top-end products for both brands) are fairly quick, and with all the torque being deployed immediately.

Infrastructure

This is really what is the make or break category for electric scooters. While some brands are focussing on building an extensive ecosystem of fast chargers and dedicated charging stations, others are counting on conveniences like portable batteries to have stronger appeal.

In terms of a charging ecosystem, Ather has the lead, having already set up 128 public fast-charging stations in 18 cities. Furthermore, these stations or Ather Grids can be used by two and four-wheelers (for free until the end of September 2021).

Ola vs the rest

Ola’s charging ecosystem is yet to materialise. The brand plans to set up 1 lakh charging stations in the next five years, earmarking 5,000 charging stations across 100 cities in the first year of operation alone. This includes dedicated ‘Hyperchargers” which can give the scooter battery 50% charge in 18 minutes, while a full charge via AC charging will take between 5-6 hours.

In terms of sheer scale, Ola appears to be more equipped to deliver a greater number of scooters. The brand is in the process of setting up a 500-acre facility, which, once finished, will be capable of producing 10 million vehicles a year.

At present, it’s been built to produce 1 million scooters. Ather Energy which has opened its second manufacturing plant, this time in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, currently has a production capacity of 1.1 lakh scooters a year only. While Ola has mentioned that the chip shortage might factor into their production plans, at present they are more than capable of meeting the demand.

While Simple Electric claims to be “aiming for 300 charging stations” it’s presently counting on portable batteries to do the trick, much like Okinawa – an early entrant in the EV game, which has since fallen behind in terms of performance and sophistication. Both Ather Energy and Ola Electric heads believe that portable batteries reduce overall range, increase wear and tear and are logistically unsound as a makeshift solution in the absence of wide charging infrastructure.

Range and Utility

While the Simple One’s claimed range puts it miles ahead, with Ola serving as a distant second, all claimed ranges are yet to be put to the test; the rest aren’t anywhere close to offering the kind of range these two brands can.

The Ather 450 Plus and X both offer a perfectly manageable range for an inner-city commute, but in terms of bigger numbers, they might have to reconsider the scooter’s battery size. Another advantage that lies with the Ola scooters is a reverse mode and a hill-hold feature, both of which are absent in the competition. It can also be accessed via a passcode, or a phone app, negating the need for a key fob, giving you one less item to carry while leaving home.

Also Read: Ather Energy CEO sees massive EV demand, says Ola electric scooter helped grow awareness

In terms of features, the Ola S1 and S1 Pro get voice-activated controls, SatNav, multiple rider profiles and speakers that can play music. The Ather 450X in comparison has on-board SatNav, over-the-air updates and music that can be linked to the phone via Bluetooth. However, it doesn't have any speakers.

The Simple One is a 4G enabled scooter, much like the Ather 450X. In addition to this, it also has a touch-enabled 7-inch screen, geofencing, remote telemetry, music and call control, document storage and tyre pressure monitor.

Despite all products having considerably sophisticated software, the MoveOS from Ola wins this round, much like the rest of the scooter for having features that prove most usable in the city.
Parth Charan is a Mumbai-based writer who’s written extensively on cars for over seven years.

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