Seven of the Top 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India. Four of these seven are in Delhi NCR. Let that sink in. As a Delhiite, I am concerned and so should you be. Pollution kills more than six lakh people in India every year. Road accidents kill about 1.5 lakh people. Yes, we are more likely to die from the fumes coming out of the exhaust pipes of our vehicles than from crashing into them.
We have reviewed two electric scooters in the past, the Oma Star Li and the Okinawa Ridge. This time, we wanted to see if an electric scooter is a viable option for daily use compared to a petrol powered scooter and see if E-Scooters can help in making our cities more breathable.
How much do conventional scooters pollute?
Some numbers. Let’s take the most popular Petrol Scooter – Honda Activa. The BS IV version of Honda Activa gives a mileage of about 50 km/l. That translates into 46 gms of CO2 per km. So if a Honda Activa is used for 1000 kms every month, the CO2 emissions from a single scooter would be 46 kgs. Let’s keep this number in mind.
How Does The Hero Electric Optima Perform?
The E-Scooter’s hub motor delivers 550W as continuous power and 1200W as peak power. That translates to about 0.7 hp of continuous power and 1.6 bhp of peak power. You must be wondering what these numbers translate into. What it means is that when the e-scooter is cruising along on a flat road, even at maximum speed, the motor delivers continuous power, but when you start from a standstill or are going up a climb, the motor delivers its peak power. The Hero Electric Optima weighs about 73 kgs, which is much less than a petrol scooter. The Li-ion battery weighs about 7 kgs and the claimed range is of 70 kms. We did test the range and we’ll tell you all about it. Read on…
What Does The Hero Electric Optima Look Like?
It does look a lot like any other conventional petrol scooters out there and the one we had looked good in the matte red paint. The quality of the plastics on the outside was good. Though, on the inside – when you open the seat, things could have been better. The battery compartment cover was a little flimsy and wouldn’t close properly. The edges were rough and the quality of the outside wasn’t carried to the inside.
The Optima is equipped with a basic digital console which is surrounded by lots of chrome. The console displays the speed, battery level, battery voltage, has an odometer and a trip meter. Basic it sure is, but it is quirky too. As soon as you turn the ignition on, it displays the odometer, but only for five secs, and then, it switches to the trip meter which resets every time the Optima is turned on. There is no switch to toggle between the trip meter and the odometer. It makes keeping a track of range extremely difficult. We think adding a tiny switch which allows toggling between the trip and odometer, along with having ‘Range Left’ being displayed instead of battery level and voltage would’ve made life easy.
How Good Is The Hero Electric Optima For Daily Use?
Let us put it this way – I did not touch my conventionally powered motorcycle for commuting purposes for the time I had the E-Scooter. Not only is it super easy to ride, but it is also adequately peppy, especially for short rides. Yes, it might not be winning any races, but despite the top speed being just 35 kmph, the commuting time between two points is almost the same compared to a regular two-wheeler.
You see, in traffic, top speed does not matter. What does matter is how quickly you can get through the maze. Thanks to its light weight and proportions, the Optima can slide into tight spaces with ease. Once the lights turn green, the little punter accelerates quickly, given the fact that electric motors provide maximum torque from the word ‘Go’. On an empty stretch of road (a rarity in cities these days), a lot of traffic does get past you, but you do catch up at either the next traffic lights or when the bunch gets stuck in a jam. The ride is completely vibration and noise-free, which reduces the stress of commuting. However, for being too light, it does feel too effervescent and not so settled on uneven surfaces. Other than that, the ride is smooth with its telescopic front suspension, box swing arm and dual springs at the back. The huge storage space under the seat can fit a full-face helmet or a lot of other stuff and the little hook in the front comes in handy while grocery shopping.
What about brakes? For the kind of speeds, the Optima is capable of, the brakes felt pretty good and unlike other electric scooters we’ve ridden in the past, they don’t feel mushy at the lever.
Can The Hero Electric Optima Climb A Flyover?
This is the question asked by buyers of E-scooters often. Yes, it does. Of course, you have to use the entire travel of that throttle, but it does climb. I have some steep gradients around where I live, but it did well on those sections.
What About Range and Charging
The claimed range of the E-scooter is 70 kms. To test it, we had a spare battery. The plugged-in battery ran out of juice after 47 kms of riding in mixed traffic conditions. We believe it would easily deliver a range of 50 kms+ with some more efficient riding. However, keeping a track of how much distance you have done since the last charge is really difficult because of the instrument cluster. The battery indicator is unpredictable. It will show full charge but as soon the scooter is using full power, the battery indicator shows no battery. Stop, and the battery level is back to full. We think displaying ‘Range available’ would be much better and useful for the rider. While charging, an indicator on the charger turns green when the battery is fully charged. While the range isn’t too bad for local use or for short trips, it might not be enough if the one-way commuting distance is more than 20 kms.
Running Costs and CO2 Emissions
This is the raison d’être for Electric Scooters to exist from the consumer perspective. No matter what people claim, but the adoption of clean fuels is dependent on whether it saves money or not. Let’s face it. The reason most people don’t mind spending time in a queue to refill a cylinder of CNG is due to the cost advantage and not to save the planet. The Hero Optima takes about 1.5 units of electricity to charge fully. Taking an average of Rs 5 / unit for electricity cost, it would cost about Rs. 7.5 to charge the battery fully. With a Range of 50 kms, it costs 15 paise per km. Since this is an E-scooter, maintenance costs compared to a petrol scooter would be much less.
The battery pack comes with a 3-year warranty and a life of 5 years. A new battery pack costs Rs. 26,000 (though they don’t sell one separately right now). We assume the battery would be good for about 1,000 charge cycles. That means, 50,000 kms for Rs 26,000 in battery replacement cost which is about 50 paise per km. So overall running cost would be 65 paise per km which includes replacement of the most expensive component – the battery. Still less than the Rs. 1.5 per km cost just for fuel for a petrol scooter. Travelling 1,000 kms in a month would save Rs. 900 just in fuel costs and much more, with maintenance being much lower. Now, let’s get back to the core problem of pollution we started with. Some of you might be thinking that even with electric vehicles, charging them will consume electricity from the grid, where it is produced by burning conventional fuel. So what’s the point?
Producing one unit of electric energy in India generates about 900 gms of electricity. That number will only drop further as cleaner generating sources join the Grid. If the E-scooter Hero Optima is ridden 1,000 kms every month, it will produce about 27 kgs Of CO2 per month. Compare that to 47 kgs of CO2 from a petrol scooter. Also, the power plants are usually located away from the cities, keeping the air that most would breathe, clean.
The biggest disadvantage is definitely the limited range it has. So while it might be great for smaller and predictable routes, the range will seem limited if one has to head somewhere after office hours or for an unexpected trip. However, carrying the charger will give that flexibility. Since it plugs into any conventional 5A socket, charging it wouldn’t be a problem as long as one can find a normal 5 Amp socket. Total Charging time is 4 hours which isn’t much, though fast charging, where 60% of charging can happen in less than an hour makes it much more practical for daily use. Another issue is the display console. It always leaves you wondering how much range is left. The other thing is that while the total commute time is about the same most of the times, it does feel slow in case you have to go somewhere in a hurry.
How Is The Overall Experience?
We were stopped not once, but twice by people inquiring whether the E-Scooter was good enough for their spouse or to drop kids to school. Well, apart from the cost advantage, it is a no-brainer if all you need a scooter for is to get odd jobs done. Besides that, you will have to be an early adopter if you wish to replace an electric scooter with something conventionally powered. Because there will be some planning you will have to do if the usability will be frequent. For example, you cannot just make a sudden plan to ride somewhere and realise that you’ve forgotten to charge the battery.
There are a lot of buyers of petrol scooters who use it for short runs and for local use. E-Scooters like the Hero Electric Optima are a perfect alternative for such use. They are easy to ride, the running costs are low and these vehicles are definitely cleaner than conventional two-wheelers. Get this, about 60 lakh scooters get sold in India every year. Let’s say, even if 10% of those Scooters sold are replaced with E-scooters, that would reduce the C02 emissions by 1.44 Lakh Metric Tons! That’s the amount of C02 1.44 lakh trees will absorb in 40 years! We hope that fact is enough to make you stop and think.