Solo Ride to Wai at the Foothills of Mahabaleshwar
Here is a photo blog of my solo ride to Wai and back to Pune. The captions on each photo will tell the story of each pic.
Some interesting observations on my highway ride are
- The entire journey from my home to Mapro Food Park in Wai is around as 88 km.
- The strategy was to only use Normal Mode. No use of Eco, Sports or Hyper mode.
- And whenever possible try to use the Cruise Control feature and go at a constant speed of 45 kmph. While returning i upped that cruise control speed to 55 kmph as i got some confidence!
- That strategy worked awesome. For almost 70% of the journey, i was able to chill without worrying about the throttle. Cruise Control is an amazing feature for long highway rides.
- The Khandala-Pargaon ghat was very easily accomplished using just Normal mode. I did not experience any heating issues and did not need the feel for Sports mode.
- I reached Wai with SOC of 38% remaining. So 90 km done and i still had around 55 km remaining. Point to be noted, we climb or gain altitude when going from Pune.
- The OLA is just a joy to ride! Such a smooth ride thought! And the music feature is such an under appreciated feature in these mountain rides!
- When returning i got back to Pune with SOC of 44% remaining. So 90 km done and i still had around 64 km remaining. This shows you get a lower efficiency when you gain altitude.
- There was free 2-wheeler charging at MAPRO Food Park. Perfect!
After completing 6 months and completing 3000 km, Alien is performing very well with no major visible issues. However it is recommended to get your scooter checked every 6 months even if there are no issues. This is very important! When i went there, the OLA Service personnel were shocked that i was there even if there is nothing wrong with Alien! But the manager there was helpful and the scooter was wheeled in to the backside and a service engineer removed the Motor Controller unit and refitted it. Apparently cleaning dust from there is important. Also they went through a set of checklist to test/tighten mechanical fittings. The battery pack was quickly diagnosed using their bluetooth based mobile app. All is well. They did not do a full water wash of the scooter. But that is fine.
Also it is good to see Hypercharger stations setup at the service centers. With the volume of scooters rising in Pune and other cities, OLA will need to create multiple such service centers. This will lead to more expenses for OLA and there is hardly any revenue made with EV service compared to petrol scooter service. But good service will lead to more loyal customers and more sales of scooters and accessories. So investment in service infrastructure is a must!
Monsoon trip to Khandala
I went on a trip to Khandala some 60 km away on Alien along with some friends who also own a yellow S1 Pro called 'Daisy'! We reached there with 55% SOC remaining. We charged at the 'Smoky Mountain Community Point' at Khandala! We walked to the quaint Khandala station and also checked out the viewpoint head. We charged upto 75% for return journey.
While coming back there was non stop rain - The S1 Pro performed flawlessly. I expected issues with the screen and water. No such problems.
Cruise Control + Music in this atmosphere = 🤩
Testing MoveOS 2.0 Features
- Eco Mode
Eco Mode is a new mode introduced with MoveOS 2.0, that can be enabled if the SOC is > 15%. If you want a chill ride experience, with speeds of 40 kmph and gradual acceleration then this is the mode for you. Be warned, the acceleration is very limited. People have got 180-200+ km using the eco mode. It is perfect for hyper-miling.
I only switch to Eco Mode when i'm stuck in crazy traffic. I'm a normal mode rider!
- Cruise Control
Whenever you have a stretch of empty road on a highway, instead of twisting the throttle and keeping your wrist engaged, tap on the cruise control button on the OLA S1 Pro and the scooter will continue at the current speed. I like this feature. Helps you relax and your hand will thank you after the ride! The implementation of this feature is very well done, IMO. When cruise control is active and you suddenly encounter a flyover or a hill, the controller compensates for the elevation change and pulls in more power from the battery to maintain the cruising speed that was set earlier. Similarly when you go downhill, the controller gets the scooter to brake, thus ensuring you maintain the cruising speed. It's an intelligent implementation and i really like it. To get out of cruise mode, just tap on the brake. I did not experience any bugs so far. Here are some pics i took as i was testing!
You need to connect to the dedicated bluetooth music connection, once done you can play your music on the phone and the output will be on the OLA S1 Pro speakers. Don't expect incredible quality. The treble is okay, bass is non existent, but you can't expect much with speakers of this size.
There are buttons on the right side on the handle bar, that enables you to manipulate the music.
- Play/Pause Music
- Increase/Decrease volume
- Long press volume buttons to play Next/Previous song.
I tested this by using the Apple Music app on the iPhone 12 Mini. The controls work as described, for example when you long press the increase volume button, the next song from my playlist in Apple music is loaded and played. I always set the volume to a low setting, as i don't want to disturb people on the road. There are some minor annoyances. If the phone receives a notification, the volume automatically sets itself to high and suddenly you feel like an idiot when the song blasts full volume and u get stares from people! The solution is to turn on 'Focus'/'Do not disturb' mode on your phone. Then you can play your music at low volume for a long time with no issues. Also the last played song will automatically start playing when you restart your scooter.
Now, i will tell you why this is a genius feature and not a gimmick. The music/speaker feature on the OLA S1 Pro is awesome because
- Music at low volume while riding can break the monotony on a long ride. Perfect for those 11:30 pm rides back home.
- Who does not like some Pink Flyod when you chilling near a lake?
- Serious applications while camping!
Music is a genius feature. Whoever thought about this at Ola Electric, take a bow!
- Navigation & Maps
- Mobile App
The mobile app is very useful. But still limited in functionality and features. There are no extensive stats about each ride. Nothing tells me how i rode, the efficiency, speeds, averages. I like to geek out with such info. But it is lacking. The ability to lock and unlock the scooter works very well. One day, i was carrying two coconut waters and i could somehow reach my phone, open the boot using the app and place the coconuts. Small things made easy with tech. Keyless entry is an awesome feature! The mobile app also sends a push notification when charging is complete. Overall, it works well. But a lot more needs to be added.
The regen is more aggressive now with this update. Once the SOC is less than 75%, you can sense regen getting activated. There is more bite to it now. When you let go the throttle, the scooter stops rapidly. Also reverse twist works very well! I'm happy they made it more aggressive but activating regen only at 75% sucks as most of the time, i'm at high states of charge and miss out on regen. I have communicated this to the development team at Ola Electric. We hope they can activate regen at 95% SOC, that way people will only have to learn one style of riding.
All in all, MoveOS 2.0 is a great OTA update that has added lot of cool features that really differentiates the scooter from others.
Over The Air Updates (OTA)
At last we got the notification for software update for the final release of MoveOS 2.0! The software update took about 20 mins. The system restarts twice just like how it happens with macOS or iOS. All in all a very smooth process. Even the mobile app says that update is happening, which is cool. Once the update finished, i went on a 30 km ride and there were no issues.
Software updates are best part of owning a real EV. You get new features and bug fixes even after the scooter is purchased. This keeps improving the scooter.
MOVEOS 2.0 beta2 Software Update Event - Pune
MOVEOS 2.0 beta2 Software Update Event - Mumbai
I was asked to attend the event organized by OLA Electric in Mumbai. I was hesitant to travel to Mumbai for a software update and a short ride. I told them i would prefer attending the Pune event as they are organizing multiple events in multiple cities. Then the OLA management team called me and really wanted me to visit. They would ship my scooter to Mumbai and then update the software. I would then be able to join them on a ride. Reluctantly, i agreed. I would have preferred the more environment friendly thing to do, which was to ride the OLA scooter to Mumbai. But i just did not have time and all of this was happening in a short space of time. I will someday definitely do a Mumbai ride :)
The event was on the Saturday May 14th. The OLA Electric delivery team visited my home 2 days before, packed Alien and were ready to move it to Mumbai. I spoke to the delivery guys. They were telling me that there are nearly 20 deliveries happening in Pune city every day. They seem to be super busy. The packing and the scooter placement was done in a professional manner. They were inviting 100 S1 Pro owners to get their scooters updated with the MOVEOS 2.0 beta2 software. Almost all of them were owners based out of Mumbai. So i will be the odd man out.
S1 Pro 1.0.16 software version climbs ramps!
I was wearing the PluginIndia - 'We drive electric, so can you' T-Shirt, so many people approached me and were asking about Atulji and Raphae! I told them, I'm a nobody and a simple EV owner and those guys are the real stars!
Ola Electric also gave us the 'Mission Electric' & '#ENDICEAGE' T-shirt. Here are pics of the T-Shirt. It would have been more classier to avoid the OLA badging, but still i like the idea - End ICE Age!
Simple breakfast of fruits, fruit juice for me and we were then lead to the auditorium with a stage. At the auditorium, there was a presentation and slides on how OLA scooter owners are riding 1 million km per day and are saving 20,000 liters of petrol every day and not emitting so much CO2 into our cities. The person also spoke about the future factory and how they are empowering women there. The interesting part for me was when the software guy came on stage (pardon me, I'm terrible at remembering names!). He spoke about the features of MOVE OS beta 2. In this beta version, we will get the following features
- Brand new OLA Electric mobile app, where you can do the following
- lock and unlock the scooter
- open the trunk
- check the lock or unlock status of the scooter
- check the range remaining
- connect to your scooter using bluetooth
- read the latest updated manual
- check out the SOC% and range estimation in Eco, Normal, Sport and Hyper modes.
- name your scooter. Of course i named it, Alien!
- Navigation and Maps
- Search for location
- Route Preview
- Turn by Turn Navigation
- Cruise Control
- Eco Mode
- Bluetooth Connections
- Essentially there are two bluetooth connections to be made. Look for OLAS1 bluetooth connection in your phone settings.
- There is another bluetooth connection that needs to be made with your phone to play music. Ensure your Ola Electric scooter is turned on, Go to your phone and search for <Scooter Name>_Music. In my case 'Alien_Music'. You can find this in the bluetooth settings on your phone. Accept the pair request on the scooter's screen and you are connected.
- Both have to be connected to the scooter. Bluetooth has to be turned on your phone always.
- Play Music
- Use your mobile and any audio from your phone will now play via your scooter!
After the presentation on MOVEOS, we had to go down to the hotel lawns, where more than 100 OLA scooters of the owners were parked and ready. MOVEOS 2.0 beta2 was loaded and there were many OLA brand champions ready to explain the features and answer our queries. The atmosphere here was electric! Everyone happy, playing music and some dancing! Bhavish was walking and saying hello to every owner. He was very approachable, that way. People were taking selfies and generally having a blast!
I also met the technical guy who gave the demo of MOVEOS on stage. I frankly told him, i cannot trust your BMS as many people are experiencing stalls, sudden SOC drops etc. He said the SOC drop issue has been fixed in MOVEOS 2.0. I also asked him if we can confidently discharge the scooter's battery below 10%. He says this is totally possible in this version of the software. The BMS has been tuned in this release. He also says there are WhatsApp groups with Beta testers and the development team will continue taking feedback. I hope to someday do some tests and really go below 10% and find out for myself. But it was nice to speak to a technical person at OLA Electric for a change.
We then had to drive for around 8-9 km to Carter Road, a posh area of Mumbai facing the Arabian Sea. This gave me an opportunity to test the maps and navigation feature. I tried searching for Raphae's home in Santacruz and it found it. I tried few more businesses and they were found. I was concerned that Map My India maps which is used in MOVEOS, wont have as many businesses listed compared to Google Maps. But looks like the database is quiet extensive. Once you tap on the 'Start' button, it does take time to acquire the GPS signal and once done, it navigates to the destination. The navigation was steady, the roads inside the map were easily visible while riding in the day time. There is a nice overlay of the current speed. There is a well designed box on the left, which gives you the directions and tells you when to make turns, with important stats like time remaining and distance for the next turn. Very cool and simple UX layout. I really like! We did take a wrong turn and the map automatically reroutes and resets the navigation. Once, i had to stop and get the scooter to parking mode. Then when i resumed the ride, the map screen exited and i had to search for my destination and restart the navigation. Maybe this is a bug, I'm not sure. But overall the maps function beautifully and i really enjoyed testing it while riding to Bandra.
Eco Mode is a cool feature. You have extremely limited acceleration and the top speed is 42 kmph. The idea is to get maximum range. I like it. Its a zen way of riding! I did a full eco mode run while returning. Total Zen! Also i feel they have tuned the Ride mode now. There is greater power now which helps in better acceleration. I will need to test it more.
At Carter Social at Bandra, more than 70 owners huddled around Bhavish for a very informal QnA. I like how cozy and personal the interaction was. He made jokes and was approachable. But when he spoke bout his EV vision he was very passionate and serious. Here are some observations.
- Now that production is sorted, I have a feeling Bhavish understands the two biggest challenges - Service and Software. He repeatedly kept saying, that his major focus areas were Service and Software. Service is becoming a challenge, the local teams are now stretched thin as the numbers are growing. There has to be enhanced investment and focus on service. I think, Bhavish understand this and he is on it. I would have preferred to also get the head of service and the senior service staff for such events. Ultimately service heads should speak to customers regularly and hearing from service heads is also important. Let's hope we will see a significant improvement in service infrastructure soon.
- Mr Rakesh's question on service was not answered well. I felt Bhavish did not take the question seriously. Maybe he wanted to keep things lighthearted. But it would have been good to get some sort of thoughtful response on a serious issue. We hope Bhavish lays out his vision for service on a blog or on the website.
- Bhavish did speak about cell manufacturing and the impact this will have on all OLA products. I feel, the cost advantage will be tremendous and they can easily undercut competitors.
- He also spoke about electric cars. His target is an aspirational car at an affordable price. Less than 10 lakhs. His target is to launch the car by 2024. He was saying car RnD usually takes 4-5 years but at OLA they do things differently. But he is speeding all of this by hiring experienced team in UK. Many ex Jaguar & Land Rover employees are working at OLA Electric, UK and they are building the platform, components of the car. He was absolutely certain that making luxury cars like Tesla is not his ambition. His aim is mass market at large scale. I personally think, building a car is no joke and he better he take his time.
- He kept emphasizing how EV's are far superior compared to Petrol vehicles. There was emphasis on #ENDICEAGE! I loved that!
All in all a fantastic event and really nice to meet fellow EV owners. I hope to test the features of MOVEOS 2.0 beta2 soon and share it all here!
Clarion Call! Mission Electric. Reject Petrol!
Focus is on Service and Software
I have an electric cycle, which is an eAdicct conversion kit added to a Schnell 26 inch cycle. I use my eBike for basic groceries and my morning workouts in the Balewadi stadium, although these days i hardly use the electric motor and end up just taking my cycle. I used to be excited by those electric cycles back in 2016/17. But i have realized, if you don't use them for regular commutes, it's better to just get a quality normal cycle from a top brand like Giant, Bianchi or a Trek. Pedeleze recently released an eBike with torque based pedal assist sensor. That did seem promising. But there is a big question mark with service from these eBike startups. So I doubt i will get an eBike in the future. I have lost interest in them. Quality light weight normal cycles are the way to go.
I don't have a car. Don't need one. I work from home. Unless you have a large family, a car is an overkill. My minimalist lifestyle wont allow for such luxuries. I got an electric car - the Mahindra e2o, back in 2013. I did not need a car. I could have managed with my cycle and public transport. But the main reason i got it was to be part of the global Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution and support the awesome guy - Chetan Maini. I sold my electric car after 8 years to a wonderful new owner. The car was amazing. Loved it to bits. It was such an ice breaker and conversation starter. I would have loved to keep using it. But the only reason i sold it was because i did not want to support Mahindra anymore. When a company does not care about electric cars and don't have an EV vision, there is no point in being a customer. Do read my blog, where i talk about the same in greater detail. It's the principles, that matter.
Is your vehicle OEM really passionate about EV's? If the answer is yes, then you should support those companies. Does your OEM make ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles and launches EV's only as a compliance vehicle or a PR stunt? Avoid buying EV's from such companies. Ultimately Big ICE car manufacturer's can't continue to be anti EV. If they do, they will loose market share. I'm looking at you Maruti who are the worst car company in India and they hate EV's.
Also car manufacturers are not launching affordable electric cars. That pisses me off. I'm a simple wage slave, not a rich industrialist who has made tons of money by exploiting workers. Nor am I, a corporate slave earning huge money, climbing the corporate ladder. I won't throw 15-20 lakhs on a car. I will only buy a small electric car that costs less than Rs 6-7 lakhs. All these car makers can easily sell a small hatchback that goes 150-200 km and sell it for Rs 7-8 lakhs. But they are still worried about their ICE car business. All it takes, is one startup like Strom or OLA electric to launch a small electric hatchback at affordable rates. That will get these BIG ICE OEM's to launch affordable EV's. I believe that will happen in few years.
The revolution has already started in the scooter world though. Electric Scooter prices are competitive compared to petrol scooters. No wonder you see huge demand for OLA electric scooters. While ICE vehicle 2 wheeler sales are slowing down, EV's are consistently growing at 20–25% month over month. This is a cause for celebration as there is more fresh air in our cities and fewer oil imports for India. The traditional scooter players like TVS, Hero, Honda, Suzuki, Vespa have yet to launch electric scooters. They can't play the 'let's delay EV launch' game anymore. Startups like Ather and OLA will eat into their market share if they don't have an EV vision.
The EV revolution has started and is unstoppable. Once you ride or drive an EV, you wont go back to ICE vehicles. Many people will realize this and demand more EV's.
- No one wants air pollution in our cities.
- No one wants to pay more than 100 rupees to go 10 km (car) or 50 km (2 wheeler), when u can use an EV with insanely low running costs and save money from day 1!
- No one wants to get a headache listening to disgusting ICE engine sounds.
- No one wants to feel vibrations while riding. They want a smooth acceleration. EV's offer superior ride quality.
I sold my electric car to a lovely family.
If you are buying a petrol scooter in 2022, don't!
Why the OLA Scooter?
I can't use a cycle everywhere. So i need a motorized means of transport. I booked the OLA Scooter back in September 2021. At that time my EV options where
Ultimately for me, it was between Ather 450X and OLA S1 Pro. But i would make my decision only after test riding both. I have tried the Ather. It's a fantastic product from a wonderful startup. I would have loved to see a less powerful Ather 150X with a 3 kW motor, 120 km range sold at around 1 lakh Ex Showroom. I'm still waiting, even after telling them in the open house in 2020. Ather is offering a 2.9 kWh battery pack with real world range of around 80 km at a price of ₹ 1,56,136. OLA gives me a 3.9 kWh battery pack with range of around 120 km at a lesser cost. Also i don't care for sporty designs. The Ather has a very sporty design that did not appeal to me. I like quirky designs. Something 'hatke'. The OLA's alien design and bright colors spoke to me more. Also i felt the OLA's ride and stability was superior compared the 450X. Finally, Ather did not implement regenerative braking. The OLA team nailed this feature. I will talk about regen braking feature in the OLA scooter later. But let me tell you, it works beautifully and according to me is the killer feature in the OLA S1 Pro!
Atulji kept telling me to buy Ather and not go for OLA. After reading some articles and speaking to people, he felt OLA Electric is a mess and wont deliver. After meeting Bhavish, and riding the scooter, i think he has changed his mind. He now likes the OLA more! I stuck to my conviction. You need to listen to your intuition and not go with intellectual chatter that can blind you sometimes.
But i agree with him that we need to do a factory tour of OLA's future factory to understand how the manufacturing is happening. (15/04/2022 update - We did visit the factory and Atulji gives a guided tour)
We met Bhavish, the founder of OLA electric.
I felt, the team is honest and are really trying to make a change.
So i paid the initial amount of ₹ 20,499 in September 2021. I paid the remaining amount in November 2021. With the generous subsidies by the government of India and the state of Maharashtra, i got the OLA S1 electric scooter for an amazing rate of around ₹ 85,000. Hard core capitalists wont agree with subsidies, but i feel sunrise industries which will benefit society like EV's, have to be supported and when the government subsidized dirty diesel for so many years, it's fair to support EV's for few years.
Now many people don't like making payments using an app. I had no issues, but with OLA's dealer-less model, i guess we need to get used to his kind of a thing. Talking about dealer-less model, i kinda like it, provided OLA maintains a knowledgeable service team and focusses on customer service. I have used electric scooters sold by dealers, and you getting good quality service depends on your luck. There are good knowledgeable EV dealers out there. But i have also seen many dealers who are only interested in sales and not interested in solving customer issues. So a professional service team by a company that manufacturers the vehicle seems interesting. But i wonder how will OLA sustain this model? From the information i have, OLA Electric are hiring multiple teams in major cities and towns who will handle service. They seem to be using the facilities of their sister business, OLA Cars which can help in sharing costs. But spending thousands of rupees lugging scooters in petrol guzzling vans to service stations will be an expensive affair. For now OLA is ready to invest in the service infrastructure. In the medium and long run, will they have the same appetite to keep improving service infrastructure as more and more scooters are delivered to customers? That remains to be seen.
Communication & Delivery
Apparently from the date the scooter leaves the factory, it may take 10 to 30 days to reach you. It all depends on the RTO, registration process and the local team not F'ing things up. On Feb 28th 2002, i got a message saying the scooter has left the factory. They are using a third party company to handle registration details. I got a call from them on March 6th for some OTP verification and the next day the person came home to verify my original documents. On March 8th, they called me saying my scooter was ready for delivery. I was in a PluginIndia shoot with Abhishek who had arrived from Mumbai. So i asked my parents to receive the scooter. I gave my parents some basic test cases to be checked in front of the delivery agent.
- Check if display is coming on.
- Ride scooter for short distance and check brakes.
- Check for any scratches or panel body issues.
- Check for any panel gaps.
- Shutdown the scooter, the touchscreen display should go off.
- Restart the scooter, the touchscreen display should come on.
- Test the left, right indicators - you should see lights.
- Finally ask the brand champion to put the scooter on charging. Check the display - it should say 'scooter charging'. This is very important. As soon as you get the delivery, just put it on charging. Since it left the factory, the battery pack must have never got charged for more than 20 days. You never know if the local teams bother about maintaining charge in these scooters. And we don't know when the cells of the battery pack were last balanced. So it is very important to just put the scooter on charge. Let it sit for 8 to 10 hours and get the cells all nice and balanced.
My delivery went without any hitches. Essentially i just booked the scooter and forgot about it. That is the way to go. I have seen people who open the OLA app everyday and check the status, get frustrated, go on twitter and complain. What is the point? Why stress yourself over delivery? Take it easy. Thousands of owners are getting their scooters. You will get it too. Although if you have any questions or doubts to be clarified then it's very difficult to get speak to someone from OLA. Their email support system sucks. You get copy-paste replies. They really need to improve their support system.
The delivery process at OLA still needs to be improved. I have heard interesting stories from other owners, where the scooter has arrived at city godown and it took more than 25 days to get it delivered.
But the person who delivered the scooter to me, asked me to contact him anytime in case of any issues. You have a brand champion and a city service head. Save their numbers for any service or any queries. They also gave a RSA number to contact in case of stalls or any issues on the road.
Next morning, i visited my friend Akshay who also got a yellow OLA scooter. He runs multiple scooter dealerships - TVS, Ampere, Batt:RE. He pointed out some manufacturing issues. Nothing major. Essentially we found few panel gaps and inconsistencies. Like on one side of the scooter,, there are no issues and on the other side, we can clearly see the panels are not fit properly. These are easily visible to the naked eye. The QC process at the manufacturing site needs improvement, that is for sure. However, I'm not worried about these. The next time the scooter goes to the service center, i will ask the team to check these issues.
I got the OLA S1 but after using it for few days, i decided to upgrade to S1 Pro. Essentially both S1 and S1 Pro owners get the same hardware. It's just that S1 owners are locked out of the pro features by software. The process is easy. Just pay 30k, contact your brand champion and they send a service technician to unlock the pro features. The service technician arrived and by using a special command, got into diagnostic mode. Then he connected his phone to the scooter via bluetooth and ran a command. Once the scooter was 'rebooted', i now had 135 km per charge! Very easy and very hackable i think!
I think the extra range on the S1 Pro is useful. For example, i went on a 55 km ride to the other side of the city and still had 80 km remaining, which is very good. For normal city uses, you wont ever have to worry about range if you plan charging. Spoke to the tech guy. Apparently they have hired more than 15 people to support customers from Pune and nearby cities. He went to the Krishangiri,TN factory and got technical training on the scooter. Nice to see. He seemed happy. But it is upto OLA to create a good working environment for the support staff.
When you twist the throttle, the scooter takes a while to get going. The power and torque delivery is very gradual. There are no jerks or sudden surprises. We tested another electric scooter sometime back called the BGauss B8. Although that scooter had an amazing Bosch motor, the initial jerky acceleration put me off. I like the way the OLA team has tuned the controller here. This kind of conservative design also ensures you get better range as most energy is consumed when taking off from 0 kmph.
There are three modes in the OLA S1 Pro
The horizontal shocks makes the ride very comfortable. Small potholes or bad roads don't bother you anymore. The suspension is incredible. I did multiple 50+ km rides and i did not feel tired or have any back issues. The seating position ensures you have a comfortable ride. The scooter has a firm feel to it. There is no springy suspension here, which we have observed in some electric scooter brands. Ride comfort is superb, much better than the Ather thanks to the wider and more comfortable seats. Mirrors were also much bigger, easier to adjust and useful than the ones on the Ather.
The motor has a single stage reduction and thus makes lesser sounds when accelerating compared to the Ather which has a 2 stage belt reduction. But you do hear the pleasant whine of the electric motor. You do listen to different types of motor sounds. Every time you accelerate, decelerate, apply brakes or let go of the throttle, you do get some audible feedback from the motor. Very cool sounding motor indeed. Much better than crappy ICE Scooter engine sounds.
Now the best feature of the OLA Scooter is their implementation of Regenerative braking or regen.
There are 3 modes of regen
- Braking Regen
When u brake, some of the kinetic energy is sent to the battery and the scooter comes to a halt.
- Coast Regen
When you let go of the throttle, you can sense the motor becoming a generator and you can feel there is slight resistance while the scooter slows down.
- Forced Regen
You twist the throttle, 10 degrees in the reverse direction and the regen gets more aggressive. There is more resistance and you get to stop faster.
Now regen kicks in only when the SOC is < 80%. So every time my scooter is fully charged, the riding experience during first 20% sucks as there is no regen. But once regen gets activated, the experience totally changes and that is just a wow moment. I love it.
After finishing my Sunday morning meditation, cycling and running, I took Alien 👽 on a 50 km ride. Here are some pics and stats.
- Distance - 50 km
- Modes - Normal 90% : Sports 10%
- SOC Remaining - 63%
- Efficiency - 28.86 wH/km
- Highway/City Mix - 80% highway and 20% City
I like the efficiency of the ride, although i wish i could get that down to 25 wH/km. I wish we have widgets that shows the efficiency like we have in the Ather. I'm waiting for the April software update. Moods, widgets, MOVE OS, maps. Will definitely add to the experience.
Akshay got his S1 Pro and we went to the Pet Area of Pune, where you can get whatever you want! Nanapet has many auto trader shops and we got the following accessories
- Numberplate protector
- Matt black sticker near footboard
- Seat Cover
A fun day in pet area. Two yellow OLA scooters drew a lot of attention. People ask all sorts of questions and its a good opportunity to provide some EV education. Hopefully more people will ditch their oil habit and make that switch. Plant the EV seed in people's mind's and it will germinate. That is how you do it.
Summer has started here in Pune. At 2 PM, the temperature was 38 degrees C. Dry hot air hitting your face as you ride. The battery temperature was 29 degrees at home. By the time I reached Amanora Park town after a 30 km ride, it was 38 degrees. In such heat, it's always better to look to park in shade under trees. Try to always give an opportunity to cool the battery whenever you can.
I had to meet the Lesics YouTube channel team for a special collaboration video we are working on. So I went on a 55 km ride from Pashan to Amanora Town and back.
Here are some pics and stats.
- Distance - 55 km
- Modes - Normal 100%
- SOC Remaining - 58%
- Efficiency - 29.78 wH/km
- Highway/City Mix - 100% City
The efficiency seems to have gone up slightly compared to my Sunday ride. In-spite of this being a no highway, 100% city ride. The afternoon heat must have played a role. I did get a software error when I was in Amanora. The scooter suddenly flashed a message - "Scooter Issue. Please restart". There was a green button asking me to restart. Once I restarted the system rebooted and all was fine. These are the kind of strange unexplained software quirks we will have to live with. But there were no other issues apart from the message.
While coming home, For 5 km, there was bumper to bumper traffic from Shivajinagar to SB road entrance. I did not even touch the brake even once. Always used regen to slow down or stop.
Riding with regen was such a glorious experience!
I'm listening to the chatter on OLA owners groups and many people are noticing sudden State of Charge (SOC) drops. While riding people are suddenly observing battery SOC drop to 0%. Most of the time this is caused due to improper charging habits. Every battery has a Battery Management System(BMS) that monitors the voltages of each cell of the battery pack and ensures every cell is healthy and are balanced. Even if one cell has a low voltage compared to other cells, you can experience unpredictable behaviors like SOC% drops or sudden range decrease.
What can do you do keep the cells balanced?
- Charge the scooter for 10+ hours at least once or twice a week. This gives the time to ensure all the cells voltages are balanced.
- Try to charge upto 100% whenever you can. Don't stop at 80% or 90%
- Let the battery cool down before charging it. After a ride, let it sit for a while and then put it on charge.
OLA is not doing a good job talking about the technology in the battery pack. They need to create guides on what are the recommended charging habits, how to ensure good health of the battery and more. Let's hope we get some guides on these important topics.
For the first 2 weeks, I'm charging the scooter every night, for 8-10 hours. I don't want to take a chance and have imbalanced cells. Also i'm not going below 40% SOC. I hope this will enable the BMS to calibrate itself and take care of the cells better. After 2 weeks, I plan to have 12 hour overnight charging at least once a week.
If you are getting delivery of the OLA scooter, you should follow this practice. Stay tuned. I shall update this blog on how the scooter behaves in the coming months.
Here are some of my concerns on issues that i may face in the near term.
- We have no idea how the scooter will behave in the summer heat. I for once wont be taking any chances. I will stick to normal mode, will always park in the shade and will accelerate gently on hot days. Finally, I will always charge at night. Also don't charge as soon as you get back, let the batteries cool down.
- Software worries. This 1.0.8 version of software is fairly stable. Any new updates can introduce new bugs. We are totally at the mercy of the coders at OLA :). Bhavish announced that at the end of April, we will get a new update. So I will be very cautious when new software updates are dropped.
- Side stand worries. While it looks good, it surely is not meant for Indian roads. Its okay on flat roads, but it feels very risky on uneven roads and on hills. And if it fails, the scooter will fall and panels will crack. So i hope OLA sells the main stand accessory ASAP.
- Unpredictable behaviors. Yep, I have been there with my e2o electric car. The more software we have in an EV, the more chances of things going wrong. So I expect all kinds of software bugs while riding, while charging, while parking. I wont be surprised. I also expect that these will flare up anytime and I may have to tow the scooter to the service station. We have seen this happen to few OLA owners. So I'm mentally prepared. Bring it on!
- Don't change regen! As you know, I love how Regen works right now. Future software updates will definitely change this. It is guaranteed to happen. I wish Regen kicks in at 95% SOC and not at 80% SOC. I hope we can customize this. I also wish for an ECO mode with even more aggressive regen. Regen is the best feature of the scooter and I hope the OLA software/drivetrain team does not tinker with this too much. Just give us more customization options.
After riding for around 30 mins on a Sunday morning, when the outside temperature was 35 degrees C, we tried to measure the temperature of the controller and the motor.
And it was hot. More than 40 degrees C. This does not appear to be a good sign. The placement of the controller is baffling all of us. It is situated near the wheel and the motor. We have never seen the controller placed so near the ground. The wheel is throwing a lot of hot air to the controller causing to get really hot. Will that cause long term effects? Will the electronics get damaged due to heat and will result in frequent controller board change? This remains to be seen.
That is not encouraging at all. It's been 3 months since OLA started delivering their scooters and we already have a fire incident. I have been communicating with the OLA management and I have blogged about it in a separate article. Here is in the link. Here i just want to talk about the community sentiment. Many owner's of the OLA scooter are panicking and are scared to use their OLA's. They are worried about parking their OLA near ice vehicles. I wont blame them. The company has done a terrible job in educating their customers on the best practices on charging, riding in heat and more. For example, the owners community had to themselves figure out that the battery pack needed special 12 hour charging for optimal cell balancing. This practice has stopped SOC drops in the community. We have been asking OLA for such guides for many months and have not received any.
For all OLA S1 Pro or S1 owners worried about battery fires, I would say this
- The battery of a scooter wont catch fire when parking or when idle. There is no need to worry.
- Understand why Lithium-Ion cells get stressed. These cells don't like heat. Rapid charging causes heat in the pack. Avoid visiting those hyper chargers unless it is an emergency. Rapid discharge at high C rates (when using hyper mode), generates heat.
- When you get home, wait for few hours and then put your EV for charging.
- Always park in the shade. Just make it a habit. Even if it means you have to walk for 15 mins :)
- In peak summer use gentle acceleration, avoid speeding.
- Don't charge your scooter in the hot sun. Make it a habit to charge overnight, when the weather is cooler.
- Do everything you can to avoid this build up of heat. Your EV will be fine.
- Ensure your home charge point has earthing. Invest in a 20 amp rated RCCB for extra protection. RCCB, will protect the charger and electronics from damages due to earth leakage current. Voltage problems don't exist now a days. There was a time when the voltages went down as low as 150V instead of 220V. Those days you required a stabilizer. But nowdays transformers in modern apartments are good enough. An RCCB and an earth protected socket is good enough. Any electrician can set it up. Get a 20Amp rated RCCB and a 15 amp socket.
I gave Alien to Atulji and Abhishek for a week for their testing. These guys are experienced electric scooter riders, so it's good to have their views. The video has been released. Atulji went on a 120 km ride on a single day to a friends factory at Shirwal some 60 km from Pune. He went on a doubles ride with his friend. He really enjoyed the suspension and ride comfort. Never felt any back pain or discomfort. Abhishek tested hyper mode and is convinced to buy the OLA! Let the video do the talking!
Also, welcome to the newest member of the PluginIndia team - Sia. She is a livewire and helps us in B-Roll shots!