Ola Electric recently launched two competitively priced e-scooters with performance parameters that look impressive. The company’s CEO has also announced plans for an electric car by 2023. Can it succeed in the hyper-competitive market where global behemoths are also vying for the same prize? The coming quarters have the answers.
India’s ambitions of emerging as the global hub of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing got a significant boost on Sunday when Ola Electric, the EV-making arm of the eponymous ride hailing company, unveiled two e-scooters, the Ola S1 and the Ola S1 Pro. The company will start delivering these e-scooters from 1,000 Indian cities and towns from October.
As India Global Business had pointed out on March 10 this year, this is by far the biggest instance of Start-up India meeting Make in India. The company’s factory in Tamil Nadu, covering an area of 500 acres, has come up in record time. Once it starts running at full capacity by the middle of next year, it will produce 10 million e-scooters a year, i.e., one EV every 2 seconds. At 100 per cent capacity utilisation, the OlaFuture Factory will account for 15 per cent of global two-wheeler capacity.
This is easily the first instance of any Indian company offering a mass-produced EV that is competitively priced vis-à-vis petrol variants. If it succeeds in the marketplace, these e-scooters could go a long way in helping India meet its climate change goals and also cement its position as an early adopter of this technology.
Ola to launch cars by 2023
Ola CEO Bhavish Agarwal is, however, not resting on his laurels yet. Within five days of launching his e-scooters, he announced the launch of electric four-wheelers by 2023.
In an interaction on Twitter, a user asked him if he owns an electric, petrol or diesel car. “Never owned a car till 2 months ago. Now a hybrid. Next one will be electric in 2023. Ola's electric car,” was Agarwal’s response.
He, however, did not provide any further details about his plans to enter the electric car segment, which is currently still in its infancy in India.
Scooters are competitively priced after subsidies
The two scooters will cost $1,344 and $1,748, respectively. In India, since many states subsidise the sale and use of e-vehicles, these Ola e-scooters will actually be cheaper than regular petrol scooters in some of them. For example, in Gujarat and Delhi, the Ola S1 will cost $1,075 and $1,144, respectively.
The two e-scooters, which will be available in a wide range of bright and muted colours as well as three difference finishes – matt, satin and glossy – will come with a range of 181 km. They will have a top speed of 115 kmph and will be able to accelerate from 0-40 kmph in 3 seconds. They also have 3.97kWh of battery capacity. If these claimed performance parameters hold, then the Ola scooters will be far ahead of their rivals not only in the EV space but also in some cases when compared to petrol scooters.
Interestingly, the Ola S1 has no physical key and can only be started with a digital key paired with the owner’s phone. This means it will automatically unlock when the owner is near and lock up when he/she walks away.
Ola Electric is Agarwal’s second start-up after Ola Cabs, which competes with Uber in India and several other markets across the world. The EV company, set up four years ago, counts Softbank, Tiger Global Management Besides and South Korean automobile majors Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motor Corporation as investors. The company is already valued at more than a billion dollars.
Another step towards Atma Nirbhar Bharat
In keeping with the Prime Minister’s vision of an Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) that is at the forefront of sustainable development, the two-wheelers will be indigenously designed.
“It’s a vehicle we’ve engineered ground-up so India can get a seat at the world EV table," Agarwal said in an interview earlier this year, adding that domestic firms “have the smarts and energy to leapfrog into the future of EV”.
Pretty much in the same manner he took on global ride hailing behemoth Uber and succeeded, Agarwal is betting his future on a market that is already overcrowded with global giants such as Toyota Motor Corporation, Daimler Benz, Tesla and a host of other international and domestic rivals.
So far, he has delivered on his promise of producing e-scooters that meet – and exceed – market expectations. But can he beat off the stiff competition from deep pocketed rivals who will leave no stone unturned to win the EV race?
That will be the next chapter in this enthralling battle.