Bhavish Aggarwal, the 35-year-old founder of ride-hailing unicorn Ola can’t stop grinning as he takes out his first electric scooter, the S1, for a ride around the company headquarters in Bengaluru. “You will have to ride it to believe how amazing it feels,” he says, as he zooms past for a second round around the campus.
Ola Electric was carved out of ride-hailing firm Ola in 2017 and became a unicorn two years later—backed by Tiger Global, Matrix Partners, and SoftBank. On Sunday, the company finally launched its much-awaited e-scooter in two variants—the S1 and the S1 Pro. Ola S1, with a range of 121 km on a single charge is priced at ₹99,999 while Ola S1 Pro costs ₹1,29,999 and is capable of giving a 181 km range. They can both cover 0-4 km in around three seconds and come in 10 colour variants. The battery is powered by a 8.5 kW motor and has a life of seven to eight years. It can attain 50% charge in less than 18 minutes. While swappable battery is not available for this model, Aggarwal hasn’t ruled out the possibility of having one in the future variants. Ola S1 can attain a top speed of 90 km/h and the S1 Pro can reach upto 115 km/h. Generally, an ICE (internal combustion engine) city-speed vehicle can reach 80-85 km/h.
“This is the best scooter ever made, and not just the best e-scooter. Our technology is leading by a few years when it comes to our competition. We’re looking at it as a technology company,” says Bhavish Aggarwal, who is also the ride-hailing company’s chairman and group CEO. Ola’s scooters also have a new operating system—Move OS—that takes care of all over-the-air soft updates, navigation, personalisation of audio, parental controls, proximity lock/unlock, and digital keys (since the product has done away with physical keys).
The scooter is based on the design of Etergo, a Dutch EV company Ola Electric acquired last year. Except the design, everything else, such as batteries, motors, motor controllers, and the software to power the e-scooters have been reengineered. “While the design is similar, we have reimagined everything else for the Indian market. We want to build in India for the world. Rather than asking for tax cuts, import subsidies etc., this is the right time to invest in India. This is not about the government anymore; entrepreneurs have to do it,” Aggarwal says.
The company opened its electric scooter up for pre-booking on July 15 and received 1 lakh reservations within the first 24 hours. The deliveries will start in October. Right now the challenge for Aggarwal is to keep up with the upcoming demand at its ₹2,400-crore mega factory in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. At its full capacity of 10 million units by next two years, Ola’s ‘Future Factory’ will roll out one electric scooter (e-scooter) every two seconds. Once completed, the 500-acre factory—the world’s largest two-wheeler plant—will account for 15% of the world’s two-wheeler production.
“We’ll soon reach 2 million production capacity and are already at 1 million,” he argues.
Aggarwal is also working to set up an exclusive charging infrastructure for his customers and aims to build 5000 charging stations in 100 cities. When it comes to after-sales service, it will be an at-home facility requiring one-third of the maintenance of an ICE vehicle, Aggarwal says.
In a highly fragmented EV industry, Ola will be competing with legacy players like Bajaj Auto, TVS Motor, and Hero Electric, as well as new-age startups like Ather Energy, Okinawa Autotech, and Ampere Vehicles. But with a planned production capacity of half the size of India’s entire ICE two-wheeler market, Ola wants to take on them all. Today, India sells only around 150,000 electric two-wheelers a firm. McKinsey forecasts sales of 4.5 million to 5 million units, or 25%-30% of the market, in FY25. “Why can’t we aim to achieve all of two-wheeler sales to EVs by 2025? Why can’t India become the hub of global EV manufacturing? People have a wrong perception that startups are all about cash burn, in my opinion, it’s all about speed and innovation,” Aggarwal points out.