We ride four highly compelling electric scooters from India's top EV OEMs to help you make a better purchase.
From Indian start-ups to well-established two-wheeler manufacturers, everyone is fighting for a share of the burgeoning e-scooter market, as more and more people adopt these new modes of transport. As of today, the Ather 450X, Ola S1 Pro, TVS iQube and Bajaj Chetak are the best electric scooters one can buy, but choosing the best one among them turned out to be quite a challenge.
EV scooter comparison: the test
We rode these scooters for around 1,000km across Mumbai over the course of a week and put them through a typical e-scooter rider’s use cases. From commuting to the office, or stuffing your shopping bag in the boot to dealing with range anxiety. And through it all, we found that each scooter has an edge over the other.
So, here’s what we think will suit your needs, based on certain parameters that you’d consider as part of your buying decisions.
EV scooter comparison: performance
The Ather 450X and Ola S1 Pro are e-scooters from two of the most well-known Indian EV start-ups. Their approach to making an e-scooter centred on performance is clearly evident in the size of their electric motors and batteries.
The Ola S1 Pro is the most powerful e-scooter here and makes 58Nm. Needless to say, it is the quickest to cross 60kph and even 80kph, with quite a margin over the others. Even its top speed, at a Vbox verified 99.8kph, is much higher than the Ather, which tops out at a GPS rated 80kph. Indicated top speed is 115kph for the Ola and 90kph for the Ather.
Ola’s TFT screen is crisp and navigation is accurate.
Suffice it to say, if you are interested in higher speeds, the Ola S1 Pro is unbeatable. That said, its initial acceleration from 0-30kph is a little dull and not as quick as the Ather. But what’s more annoying is the way in which the S1 Pro cuts the power the moment you touch the brakes. That can put you in a bad situation while negotiating heavy, slow-moving traffic, while taking a U-turn or starting on a steep incline. The Chetak also does this, but not as aggressively as the Ola and you rarely notice it on the Bajaj.
Another issue with the Ola is that the new ‘Eco’ mode restricts the acceleration to a pace that is borderline dangerous when surrounded by fast moving big city traffic, and, makes it impossible to climb steep gradients. The other three scooters are perfectly usable in their Eco modes, but with the Ola, we’d recommend you go at least one mode higher, to Normal mode.
Google Maps on the Ather is slow to load at times.
In the case of the Ather 450X, Eco mode is quite usable even when the battery percentage falls below 10 percent. The scooter will also climb flyovers at such a low state of charge, albeit up to 40kph. Switch the Ather to ‘Ride’ mode and you’ll find that it offers enough performance for daily commutes. ‘Sport’ and ‘Warp’ are obviously for those willing to sacrifice battery range for performance and as our test results show, the Ather is the second quickest scooter here. More importantly, the 450X’s heat management is so good, you can ride it in ‘Warp’ mode for as long as the battery’s state of charge (SoC) is above 20 percent. It also has the best accelerator response and feedback out of all.
Clearly then, the Ather and Ola are going to satiate the needs of those looking for a performance-oriented e-scooter.
On the contrary, the TVS iQube and Bajaj Chetak are aimed at those who want a comfortable, easy-to-ride city commuter, but one that is still reasonably quick. And in that regard, the TVS is a step above the Bajaj.
Accelerating from standstill, the iQube S gets up to 40kph quickly, but also in a manner that won’t overwhelm the rider. That’s something those new to EVs will like. Eco mode caps the speed to 50kph, which is the typical pace in most cities, while Power mode allows you to hit an indicated 80kph. The ability to hold these speeds means the iQube doesn’t feel out of place on a faster flowing highway as well. What will take some getting used to on the iQube is its aggressive motor regen when you shut the throttle. We think it’s a little too strong and doesn’t feel very natural, although this is something the company can address in a software update.
In comparison, the Chetak’s 69kph indicated top speed feels a little compromised on Mumbai’s wider, quicker roads like the Eastern and Western Express Highways that cut across the city. Instead, the Chetak focuses on offering adequate performance in the city. And while it is the slowest to get to 40kph or even 60kph, the difference in time taken to get there in comparison to the TVS isn’t much.
Chetak’s LCD display is cluttered and hard to read under direct sunlight.
What all of us also appreciated is that the Chetak switches automatically from Eco to Sport mode if you twist the accelerator grip past the halfway mark. So, say in situations where you want to pull a quick overtake while climbing a flyover, there is no need to hunt for the mode switch and demand more performance, as you’d have to in the other scooters here.
EV scooter comparison: seating comfort
The moment you hop on the saddle of the Chetak, you appreciate its wide and well-contoured seat. The floorboard is spacious enough to accommodate my size-11 boots and it is also set at an appropriate height in relation to the handlebar. The rider’s triangle is absolutely spot on, and it is a similar case with the TVS iQube as well. In fact, the iQube has the best seat for two-up riding. The decades of two-wheeler manufacturing experience that TVS and Bajaj have garnered has certainly helped them nail the ergonomics on their respective scooters.
From the way one is seated on the scooter to the way it rides and handles, the iQube offers the most seamless transition for those looking to make the switch from a regular ICE scooter to their first EV.
In the case of the Ola and Ather, their relative inexperience and obvious packaging constraints, with regards to the dimensions of their scooters, translate to compromises with ergonomics. The Ather is the least comfortable of the lot by some margin, with the smallest seat and a high-set floorboard resulting in a cramped riding position, especially for riders taller than 5ft 10in. The Ola S1 Pro is definitely comfier than the 450X, with a flat, long seat and the tall handlebar helping matters. However, in this company, you can tell that the Ola’s floorboard is a little too tall and its curved shape restricts room to place your feet comfortably. Moreover, it’s the only scooter here that has a large spine in the middle of the floorboard and that compromises your ability to store a bag or other items at your feet. That, however, is made up for by the huge boot that the Ola S1 Pro provides.
EV scooter comparison: storage space
The benefit of fitting the batteries in the floor of the S1 Pro is clearly seen in its massive 36-litre boot space. Even with the charger inside it, there’s ample room for your laptop, office bags or groceries. The boot will also swallow two half-face helmets, albeit without carrying the charger. The Ather 450X has the second biggest boot, at 22 litres, which is sufficient to carry daily essentials. However, carrying the portable charger inside does limit the available cargo volume. Similarly, the iQube’s 17-litre trunk is just about adequate to ferry a few items, with its large portable charger in it.
36-litre boot is the largest in this quartet.
As for the Bajaj Chetak, the way the company has packaged the battery and onboard charger hampers boot space. While it has the third largest trunk, at 18 litres, the cavity is shallow. On the plus side, the Chetak’s the only one with a glovebox and it also has the most compact charger that can neatly fit in here.
large charger occupies majority of the 22-litre boot space.
So, it’s a point here and a point there for each scooter, when it comes to practicality and comfort. But what about those who want a scooter that’s exciting to ride?
EV scooter comparison: ride and handling
The Ather 450X is hands down the best handling scooter in this quartet. The combination of its light weight, short wheelbase, communicative chassis and the fatter, grippier tyres on this Gen 3 avatar are what instill confidence in the rider. Whether it’s flicking your way through traffic or having a blast around a corner, the Ather is a whole lot of fun.
On the flipside, the 450X’s stiff suspension set-up, though great for handling, isn’t good for tackling Mumbai’s poor roads. At low speeds, the ride is relatively harsh, with the small seat adding to the discomfort. There’s an improvement in the ride quality as speeds rise, but those who place comfort as a top priority should avoid this scooter.
The Ola S1 Pro, on the other hand, rides much better with its single sided telescopic front and monoshock suspension setup. It deals with bumpy roads quite effectively while keeping the scooter planted around undulating corners. The fact that it has the widest tyres here also aids handling to an extent. The front suspension does feel a bit firm and juddery over bumps, and there’s also a sense of nervousness that arises every time you hit a big pothole after those few cases of suspension failure were shared online.
The Bajaj Chetak has a firm yet nice and absorbent ride, ironing out small undulations and swallowing larger hits as well. There’s also a sense of compliance that all of us liked. What we didn’t was that the Chetak’s handlebar felt a little heavy at low speeds. But as you turn up the pace, the scooter feels stable and planted around corners.
The TVS iQube strikes a nice balance between ride and handling. Its telescopic fork has a soft set-up compared to the preload-adjustable twin-shocks at the rear. While the front end allows the scooter to soak up a lot of bumps and potholes, it also bottoms out a little too easily over bigger bumps. As for handling, it is quite predictable, especially once you get used to the sensation of an electric motor attached to the rear wheel.
The brakes on all scooters are effective, despite the TVS and Bajaj being the ones making do with a drum at the rear. However, inexperienced riders will find the Ather’s brakes to be quite sharp. Since the Ather as well as the other scooters here don’t have ABS, braking on slippery, wet roads requires one to be cautious.
EV scooter comparison: range
The way we tested these scooters for range was to run them from full till the batteries were completely dead, in Eco and Sport modes. In both cases, we rode keeping a slightly higher pace than the average two-wheeler traffic around us, but never going slower or significantly faster. In Eco mode, we kept the speeds capped at about 45kph and in Sport mode that rose to 55kph. If you ride excessively slowly, you can get better range than we did, and similarly, if you ride aggressively, you can get much lower numbers than you see here.
It’s an obvious fact that the bigger the battery, the better the range. Which is why the Ola S1 Pro has a clear advantage over the rest, running the farthest on a single charge. In Normal mode, it covered 127km, while in Eco, it ran for 130km. That’s way below the claimed range for Eco mode and we assume it's because we had to ride with the accelerator twisted fully open the whole time to make up for the weak performance and safely keep pace with traffic.
Only scooter currently with an active fast charging network.
The Ather 450X, with its bigger battery in its Gen 3 form, was able to eke out an impressive 115km in Eco mode, which is a big improvement from the Gen 2 model. Even in Sport mode, it managed to cover 98.2km.
The TVS iQube, meanwhile, covers 107.2km in Eco and 96km in Power, while the Bajaj Chetak’s battery ran out of juice after covering 104.5km in Eco. What one must note is that the performance and top speed of each scooter reduces significantly as SoC drops below 5 percent. As the battery drops, the Chetak and Ola drop their performance sooner than the others, while the Bajaj won’t allow you to ride in Sport mode below 30 percent SoC. The Ola also drops its indicated range figure faster than you’d expect, once the battery level gets low.
So, despite the fact that the Chetak and iQube have similar-looking range numbers, the Bajaj restricts its performance sooner to achieve that. The Ather remains the scooter with the most accurate range indicator here and you can trust it blindly. We also liked that it can still hold a decent 35-40kph right till it dies.
As for fast-charging capabilities, the Ather and Ola are the only ones that can be hooked to proprietary fast chargers. However, unlike the Ather’s ever-growing fast-charging network that’s currently active, Ola’s network is still in its set-up phase. The fast-charging facility for the S1 Pro will be activated with the launch of the Move OS3 software update, which is expected to roll out by Diwali 2022.
EV scooter comparison: styling
If this was a beauty contest, the metal-bodied (the only one here) Bajaj Chetak would walk away with the prize. Its swooping body panels, round headlight, paint quality and finish levels are a clear step above the rest. Some may rightly argue that the design is a little too close for comfort to the Vespa Elettrica, and they’d be right. Yes, you can also bring up the counter argument of the Chetak’s history, but given the global powerhouse that Bajaj currently is, this highly impressive scooter certainly did deserve its own unique look. Nevertheless, we all did agree that the Chetak’s clean design was our favourite and it also happened to draw the most attention of the lot.
Spacious seat is best for two-up rides.
The TVS’ design is rather conventional, with straight lines and largely flat surfaces comprising the bodywork. It, in fact, looks so simple, that it easily blends with the scores of ICE scooters on our roads. That’s until you notice the electric badge on the side panels or the green number plate. For those who don’t want a flashy scooter, the iQube is great to fly under the radar. That, however, isn’t happening when you are astride the Ather 450X or the S1 Pro. Both feature unconventional scooter designs and the Ather looks particularly cool and futuristic, despite being the oldest design here. While the Ola looks good from pretty much all angles, its build quality needs to improve for the price it now commands.
EV scooter comparison: features
Being the most new-age and technologically advanced scooters on the market, you would expect each of these scooters to be packed with features, and in that department, they don’t disappoint.
Firstly, all scooters feature Bluetooth connectivity, music controls and hook up to their proprietary mobile apps. They also have all-LED lights.
Projector headlights have good throw and spread.
The S1 Pro has a rather crisp touchscreen display, with plenty of information and controls for various functions. It is also the only scooter here that doesn’t have a key, requiring a passcode instead to unlock and activate the scooter. The cruise control feature is quite useful if you intend to ride over long distances on the highway, but the on-board speakers to play music is a feature that’s unique in this segment.
The Ather 450X is the other scooter here with a touchscreen display and we found it to be the most intuitive of the lot. It recently received a 2GB RAM upgrade that has improved responsiveness; however, the onboard Google Maps still takes a while to load.
The iQube S' new display is larger and crisper than before and using the iQube app, one can get calls, SMS alerts, Instagram notifications, control music being played via a headset and more. What irritated us is that the screen changes its colour and graphics when you roll off the throttle and the motor goes into regen. This makes the screen flicker constantly in heavy traffic where you are on and off the accelerator which can get quite disturbing, especially at night. Switching the display to night mode helps, but this is something you have to manually do.
Lastly, it’s the Chetak that has the most basic-looking LCD display. It is quite information-heavy and difficult to read in bright daylight. That said, features like hill hold, keyless start-stop, and electronic boot release add to the premiumness, and we find its keyless system easier and more secure to use than the Ola’s.
EV scooter comparison: issues
All these electric scooters are heavily dependent on software to run optimally, and we found that three out of four of them have had some glitches or the other.
With the move to the…err..Move OS2 software update, the number of glitches we’ve faced with the S1 Pro have reduced but have not been eliminated. The electronic seat lock system now repeatedly thinks that the boot is open even when it is shut. This means the TFT display won’t let you actually open the boot and the only way to get around this is to conduct a hard reset of the operating system. On two separate occasions, our long-term Ola had also depleted its battery and refused to recharge after being left dormant for a couple of weeks. That was before the new Move OS software was installed, and we’re now monitoring how the scooter handles long periods of inactivity. So far, there has been no problem.
The TVS’ display once had an anomaly, wherein it showed a higher range in Power mode instead of Eco. Restarting the scooter fixed this. The park assist button to engage reverse had also gotten sticky after exposure to the rain. However, the big surprise was when the scooter shut down suddenly while on the move on our first day with it and wouldn’t restart. After it was trailered away, we were told that a software bug was said to have caused the issue. It hasn’t happened since, so hopefully it’s a one-off incident.
New TFT display is bigger than the one on the first iQube.
The Bajaj Chetak test scooter we’d initially got showed an earthing fault and wouldn’t charge, despite hooking it up to multiple ports. It looks like the issue might have been with water getting into the charging socket, although we’re not sure how that happened. The replacement scooter, however, was fine, except for the glove box, which wouldn’t easily open when the charger wasn’t stored inside.
Which brings us to the Ather 450X. Whether it is this test unit or the Gen 2 Ather 450X long termer I’m currently riding, the scooter has run glitch-free. That just showcases how well-engineered the product is and also highlights the head start Ather has had over the other three.
EV scooter comparison: verdict
Let’s start with the Ola S1 Pro because, on paper, this is a highly impressive scooter. Whether it is the features, performance, boot space, battery .range, this scooter trumps the rest of them.
What really holds you back from putting full faith in Ola is the poor reputation it has garnered. The company's social media is flooded with unhappy customers venting their frustration because of various issues, from registration issues, to minor electronic glitches to major vehicular problems. The scooter has also gotten a lot more expensive since it was launched and it now costs Rs 1.52 lakh, on road in Mumbai. All of this probably explains why sales have dropped significantly over the last three months, and only went up again after the company started to offer significant discounts and launch the cheaper S1 scooter with less performance and range. It would appear that Ola has quite an uphill task when it comes to winning back widespread customer confidence.
The Rs 1.47 lakh Chetak is more expensive than the iQube, but it is a fantastic city scooter and it feels the most high-quality and special. If you are willing to make a compromise with it having the lowest range and top speed, this is a very easy scooter for us to recommend.
That brings us down to the most expensive and the most affordable scooters in this group.
The Ather 450X is easily the most fun to ride scooter here, and it scores big points in terms of its proven reliability, exceptionally trustworthy range indicator and improved range. At Rs 1.56 lakh (on road, Mumbai), it is the most expensive here, but as a well-engineered product, it justifies the price. The one thing that drags it down is the compromises you have to deal with in terms of its uncomfortable suspension and ergonomics, especially for tall riders. At the end of the day, these are urban runabouts and comfort is a very important factor.
Therefore, if you want a practical, comfortable EV from a reputable company with good performance and range, the TVS iQube S is a no-brainer. We’d like to see some improvements to its motor regen and TFT display, but that is forgivable, considering that it is the most affordable scooter here by a huge margin, at Rs 1.26 lakh (on-road, Mumbai, including the Rs 9,450 portable charger). In the rapidly evolving electric scooter market, these factors are enough to make the iQube S our pick at the moment.
Ather 450X vs Ola S1 Pro vs TVS iQube S vs Bajaj Chetak video review