Motorcycles

Will the remarkable Ola S1 be the most important motorcycle of the 21st century?

Will the remarkable Ola S1 be ...
Could this audacious electric scooter be the Honda Cub of the 21st Century? Ola is betting big on the S1
Could this audacious electric scooter be the Honda Cub of the 21st Century? Ola is betting big on the S1
View 9 Images
Could this audacious electric scooter be the Honda Cub of the 21st Century? Ola is betting big on the S1
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Could this audacious electric scooter be the Honda Cub of the 21st Century? Ola is betting big on the S1
Oh, you got a red one? Hilarious!
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Oh, you got a red one? Hilarious!
Low center of gravity for sprightly handling
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Low center of gravity for sprightly handling
The S1 will out-perform scooters up to 125cc, while delivering a huge range of smart connected features
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The S1 will out-perform scooters up to 125cc, while delivering a huge range of smart connected features
Ola's Futurefactory, now under construction, will be the world's largest motorcycle manufacturing plant, capable of building 10 million bikes a year
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Ola's Futurefactory, now under construction, will be the world's largest motorcycle manufacturing plant, capable of building 10 million bikes a year
The S1's highy customizable digital touchscreen dash offers a monstrous range of features, some of which you'd be happy to get in a car
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The S1's highy customizable digital touchscreen dash offers a monstrous range of features, some of which you'd be happy to get in a car
A range of "moods" lets you change the look, feel and even sound of the Ola bikes as you see fit
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A range of "moods" lets you change the look, feel and even sound of the Ola bikes as you see fit
The S1 has built-in navigation, live weather updates and even a sound system
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The S1 has built-in navigation, live weather updates and even a sound system
The standard dash can be augmented with a range of widgets, designed to match each mood, offering a wide range of handy information and controls
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The standard dash can be augmented with a range of widgets, designed to match each mood, offering a wide range of handy information and controls
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India's Ola Electric is mounting a huge assault on the motorcycle market with the clever, cheap, high-tech S1 scooter. Talk about volume; Ola's building the world's biggest motorcycle "Futurefactory," capable of producing 10 million bikes a year.

Put another way, that's a bike every two seconds. Put yet another way, when this 500-acre, carbon-negative, 10 production line, 3,000-plus robot behemoth starts manufacturing at full capacity, it will be making more than one-seventh as many motorcycles as the entire global industry does today.

There are ambitious plays, and then there's this kind of thing. It could be genius, staking India's claim as the world authority in high-volume, all-market electric vehicles. It could be pure hubristic megalomania.

The Ola Futurefactory vision!

Either way, if your goal is to instantly carve yourself out a massive 15 percent share of the world's motorcycle market, you'd better bring your A game on the product side and make buyers an offer they simply can't refuse. And in that regard, folks, Ola is swingin' for the fences.

Ola is launching with one scooter, in two models. The S1, and the S1 Pro. We'll concentrate on the Pro model here, as it's got the full kitchen sink worth of features, as well as the best performance and range.

In a basic sense, these are simple, clean-looking, belt-drive electric scoots with 36 liters of storage under the seat – enough to fit a helmet. Suspension is single-sided at the front and rear, and so are the disc brakes; tire changes should be super simple. Ola attempts to protect key moving parts from the dust, grit and grime of developing-world dirt roads with plastic covers over the drive system and front suspension; the rear suspension should be reasonably well protected itself where it sits on top of the drive unit.

Low center of gravity for sprightly handling
Low center of gravity for sprightly handling

Performance-wise, the S1 Pro can probably best be compared to a 135cc 4-stroke. Its 8.5 kW (11.4 horsepower), 58 Nm (43 lb-ft) electric motor will get you to 40 km/h (25 mph) in 3 seconds, 60 km/h (37 mph) in 5 seconds, and all the way to a top speed of 115 km/h (71 mph) given time and encouragement. This is indeed feisty for the enormous commuter markets Ola is targeting.

Range is likewise pretty impressive, maxing out at 181 km (112 miles) – although Ola's website doesn't say whether that's NEDC, WLTP, or pulled out of its backside. Financial Express reports the S1 Pro gets there with a 3.97 kWh battery, which charges overnight in six and a half hours on a wall plug, or fills half its battery in 18 minutes at a fast charge facility.

So far, so practical. But Ola has packed in a delightful pile of fruit that will separate the S1 from anything else out there. It starts with the bike's brain, a 1.8 GHz octacore processor with 3 GB of RAM, Bluetooth Low-Energy, WiFi and LTE connectivity, GPS and a 7-inch touch screen.

The S1 has built-in navigation, live weather updates and even a sound system
The S1 has built-in navigation, live weather updates and even a sound system

So, you get a very pretty full-color dash interface that's customizable to a ludicrous degree. You can pick between a range of dynamically changing "moods" to personalize the look of the dash, the way it functions and even the sound the bike makes as you ride. You can set widgets (each designed to fit the moods) on your screen to give you one-touch access to everything from performance metrics to live weather and wind updates, the built-in turn by turn navigation and one-touch media management for whatever you've got playing on your connected smartphone.

It looks and sounds terrific – and it can all be customized for several riders if it's a shared bike – but it doesn't end there. There's also keyless ignition and locking, which will greet you with a "hi (your name)/bye (your name)" audio message I'd be eager to abuse. It'll sense your presence when your smartphone's within a few feet, or can be unlocked through the screen.

Ola takes advantage of the S1's brain to provide tamper and theft alarms, location tracking and the ability to do things like turn the lights on, lock/unlock the bike, pop the trunk, or set performance or geofencing limits through a smartphone app. If somebody calls or texts while you're riding, and you don't want to talk, it'll give you some one-touch potted responses to send back like "I'm on my way," "running a little late," or even a live-tracked map blip so they can watch your location as you ride.

The standard dash can be augmented with a range of widgets, designed to match each mood, offering a wide range of handy information and controls
The standard dash can be augmented with a range of widgets, designed to match each mood, offering a wide range of handy information and controls

There's also voice-control through a "Hey Ola" assistant using AI speech recognition and a multi-mic noise-cancelling array. I'm not aware of any other motorcycle attempting this thus far. The bike talks back to you – and plays music and other audio – through its own built-in speaker system. Heck, you can even make phone calls through it if you don't have a headset. It's the kind of thing cars have had for years now – but this is a freakin' scooter.

A predictive maintenance system will tell you if you ever need to get a mechanic involved, and Ola won't ask you to ride your bike in for a service. Instead, you'll book it through the app, and the technician will visit you at home to do the work. Oh, and there's reverse mode to get out of tight parking spots and a hill hold feature so you don't roll back taking off on an incline. And cruise control! We love cruise control, however out of place it might look on a commute-scoot.

So the S1 Pro boasts impressive performance and practicality for its class, plus a range of next-gen smart features that are hitherto unmatched in the motorcycle world. Better still, much of it actually looks useful, and it's probably the sort of thing we'll be expecting from two-wheelers within five years. This is indeed a pioneering machine.

The S1 will out-perform scooters up to 125cc, while delivering a huge range of smart connected features
The S1 will out-perform scooters up to 125cc, while delivering a huge range of smart connected features

And the price? The S1 Pro's retail price will be 129,999 Indian rupees, equating to US$1,750. State subsidies will bring that substantially lower in some areas of India.

The standard S1 costs 99,999 rupees, or US$1,345. It's a little slower, topping out at 90 km/h (56 mph), and its 2.98 kWh battery gives you more like 121 km (75 miles) of range. It doesn't get the voice control, the cruise control, hill hold or the top "hyper" riding mode.

The top selling scoot in India today is fairly representative of what floods the roads throughout Asia and the developing world. The Honda Activa 6G is a 110cc, 7.8 horsepower, 8.8 Nm, cheap 'n' cheerful single-cylinder scoot. It sells for around 69,000 rupees (US$930) and tops out at 85 km/h (53 mph) flat stick.

Oh, you got a red one? Hilarious!
Oh, you got a red one? Hilarious!

So Ola is definitely still asking riders to pay a premium to go electric. But it's not a huge premium – indeed, it's about equal to India's average monthly salary of 31,900 rupees. Both the S1 and S1 Pro will soundly out-perform the Honda, while offering next-gen digital style, smarts and connectivity, and virtually never needing maintenance. And to anyone living in a developed country, this thing looks like an absolute steal at those prices.

Ola is calling for India to ban combustion bikes from sale as soon as 2025, and trying to gee the country up to be a global leader in electrification. The former is unlikely, and the latter will be an uphill battle against China, where electric scooter uptake hit the big time nearly a decade ago. NIU alone, for context, sold 412,809 electric scooters in just the first six months of 2021.

But the product looks terrific, the price is great, the company is shooting for the moon with construction already well underway on its enormous Futurefactory ... And who knows? You might just be looking at the 21st Century's electric Honda Cub right here – a bike which sold a hundred million units in the 59 years between 1958 and 2017. At full capacity, Ola plans to produce a hundred million S1s every decade. Good lord.

Check out the launch video below.

Introducing the Ola Scooter!

Source: Ola

View gallery - 9 images
21 comments
21 comments
Hans Otto Kroeger
I hope this will be a success. I want one of them!
From Paraguay (South America)
nick101
Sounds great. There are a few 'premium' touches though, that, if things go wrong, would cause you considerable grief. My smartphone is currently in the shop due to it's inability to function, good thing I have a spare! Would the 'smart' module on this scooter be likewise swappable? That would be nice. Another thing is top speed, I've owned a couple of gas powered scooters, one 50cc and one 150cc , the first topped out at 70kph the second at 90kph +, neither felt particularly safe at those speeds, the larger one was terrifying at highway speeds, and the smaller felt about right at 60kph. Those tiny wheels also make highway debris a recipe for disaster. Slow down!
Woody
Will the OLA S! Pro be available in the USA? When? How do I reach OLA for ordering? Thanks much, woody dugan, Milwaukee
ThomasYoung
Sounds too good to be true. Will this be the 2 wheeled version of the Yugo? Hope not.
BlueOak
Slick package, slick presentation. Simple product configuration. Interesting the initial focus is on the Indian market but the presentation is in English.

One wonders how long it will take for the OLA S1 to reach the US.
Adrian Akau
India has no facilities to produce lithium batteries nor is the government of India interested in doing so. Therefore, all lithium batteries must be imported. Secondly, the export tax is bound to be very high so the prices given may not reflect the true cost of the product. Finally, the shipping charges must be considered as India is half way around the world.
WB
prototypes are easy.. mass productions is 1000x harder. Sounds like a lot of hot air.. and whenever I hear that they want to pass honda or x well don't walk away, run!
SIGMA3572-gizmo@YAHOO.COM
1.) India doesn't have a reliable electricity network.
2.) You saw their assembly line - does that look like "a bike every two-second"?
3.) Where are the batteries coming from?
Erg
Loz. Are we going to get this in Oz?
ppeter
Looks quite tempting, the first electric scooter I see that makes me consider switching away from a gasoline powered one. I'd probably go for the cheaper version though. In my area (rural Germany meantime), a car is the base of transportation, a scooter is mainly a good weather commuter (about 1/2 of the commuting days of the year, the weather is nice enough to spare the nature 1/2 of the pollution that the car creates), but also a commuting backup for the other half of commuting days (when the car needs repair, in emergency I can ride through snow to work on a scooter, it's just not fun at all). And for such a secondary vehicle, that just complements the main one, the differences in range and speed don't seem to justify spending 30% more money (and the differences other than range and speed don't matter at all).
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