02 Sep 2021 | 02:25 PM

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India's Ola Electric recently launched a new series of electric scooters, the S1 and the S1 Pro. Priced starting from INR 99,999 ($1,347), the S1 and S1 Pro are currently among the cheapest electric scooters in India. The Ola Electric scooters are expected to go up against rivals like TVS and Bajaj, two of the biggest two-wheeler companies in the world. The scooters were launched on 15th August, which is also India's Independence Day. Ola Electric is led by Bhavish Agarwal, who also owns Ola Cabs, the largest ride-sharing startup in India. Ola Electric, also called Ola Electric Mobility Private Limited, is jointly funded by venture capital giants Softbank Group and Tiger Global Management. 

At the launch conference, Bhavish Agarwal, CEO of Ola Electric, said," By 2025, all two-wheelers sold in India should be electric, that's my mission." At a pre-event conference, he said he wanted India to become a global leader in EVs."  

The Scooters 

The Ola Electric scooters come in two states of tune. The basic S1, which starts from INR 99,999 ($1,347), is powered by a 2.98kWh Li-ion battery. The more expensive S1 Pro has a 3.97kWh battery. These batteries are the largest fitted to any Indian electric two-wheeler so far. In comparison, Hero Electric-backed Ather sells the 450X with a 2.9kWh battery. And those cost nearly INR 150,000 ($1,955). Despite having a larger battery, the S1 Pro costs INR 129,999 ($1,753). These prices are inclusive of the national EV policy subsidies (FAME-II). The S1 and S1 Pro will become even cheaper after state subsidies. In India's capital city, Delhi, the S1 would cost INR 85,000 ($1,145); and an even lower INR 79,000 ($1,065) in Gujarat. Ola Electric is also offering an EMI plan that starts from INR 2,999 ($40).  


The state subsidies and financing plans alone make the S1 and S1 Pro among the most attractive two-wheelers in India's price-sensitive auto market right now. India has historically always been a price-sensitive market, which is why pricing a scooter below $1,000 is revolutionary — and that's before the government subsidies are dialled in. You see, India has something called the FAME - Faster Adoption for Electric Mobility policy, which has earmarked attractive benefits for all EV players. The FAME-II, which came into force in 2017, has accelerated EV adoption by supporting manufacturers, parts suppliers, and customers alike. One example is the registration fee waiver if you purchase an electric vehicle. Another is income tax exemption on auto loans used to buy an EV.   

The Ola Hypercharger 

But what about that sinking feeling, also called range anxiety? Well, Bhavish Aggarwal has a plan for that, too. Within months of the online launch in 2020, the scooter received over 100,000 bookings across 1,000 cities. The company recognized that a nationwide charging network would have to be set up for the electric scooter to succeed in India. And that's precisely what they're setting out to do. The company, based in Bengaluru, has been working for a long time on this.  

While the scooters can be charged at home using a regular wall socket, the Ola Hypercharger Network has spread to over 400 Indian cities. With over 100,000 charging points in all, the charging network is such that it's within 75 km of most metro centres in India. The charging points have been set up near office complexes, residential areas, and most commercial centres. Ola scooter owners can locate the factory using the onboard navigation system or via a mobile app.  

The Ola Futurefactory  

The biggest story, however, is the gigantic manufacturing facility Ola Electric. It's called the Future factory, and it's in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Costing a whopping $330 million, the 43-acre plant has over 2 million square feet of working space staffed by 3,000 robots. Once it ramps up to total production, the Future Factory will have ten production lines capable of creating one scooter every two seconds. In all, the factory will crank out 10 million scooters every year by 2022 — or 15% of all-electric two-wheelers made globally by 2022.  

The CEO says 

In an interview, Aggarwal said, 

" We are building the world’s largest two-wheeler factory which will have 15 per cent of the world’s two-wheeler production with the production of 10m scooters or one scooter every 10 seconds. This scale is the only way we can bring the electric revolution here fast and make electric two-wheelers accessible to everybody. With our Future Factory, we will also usher in a new modern era of Industry 4.0. The past paradigms of manufacturing were built in China, but the future of manufacturing will be written here in India. 

Almost 80 per cent of the vehicles sold in India are two-wheelers. We sell around 20 million two-wheelers a year and yet only 12% of our population owns a two-wheeler. As we develop as a nation, we need to ensure many more people get access to a two-wheeler. But we can’t make them gasoline two-wheelers. We need to ensure they are electric two-wheelers.” 

He continued to say,

" Our goal at Ola has been to build products which are both sustainable and also revolutionary compared to what exists in the market. We have designed the scooter that has the best design, performance and technology. Quite simply, it’s the best scooter ever built – the Ola S1 – and it will change what you ever expect from a vehicle." 

Why it's big?

Indians bought 238,000 electric vehicles in 2021, according to a report by the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV). While the demand for electric cars was higher, electric scooters and three-wheelers were lower than last year — but that's because electric two-wheelers no longer need to be registered in India. But this is a small drop in the ocean compared to the 24-million-strong fleet of gasoline and diesel-powered passenger vehicles sold every year in India. In stark comparison, 9,87,828 conventionally-powered two-wheelers were sold in June 2021 alone.  

India needs electric vehicles — and it required them five years ago. Indian cities count among the most polluted cities in the world. The country is the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the world's highest consumer of coal, and will see some of the highest rises in sea levels, according to the Sixth Assessment Report released by the Intergovernmental Report for Climate Change. But, because it's also the second most populated country and among the world's top five largest auto markets, the demand potential for EVs is also astronomical. This logically would mean that India has an influential role to play in balancing global carbon levels.  

A 100% EV adoption in the EU and North America will do us good, but nowhere near as much as an India riding on a 100% EV adoption drive. 

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BY Adreesh Ghoshal