Ola Electric Mobility, whose stated aim is to build 15 per cent of the world’s electric mopeds this year, is facing a backlash from owners following a series of tech issues. Most strikingly, at least three people have reported their bikes suddenly attempting to reverse at high speed when they haven’t expected.
Ola has built a 500-acre factory in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to manufacture e-mopeds. The firm says this facility will eventually boast a maximum annual production capacity of 10 million units.
The S1 and S1 Pro e-mopeds were launched in October last year with 300,000 vehicles sold in the first two days.
However, a technical hitch that led to the opening of sales being pushed back a week hinted at issues to come.
The Economic Times reports that Ola recalled 1,441 S1 Pro mopeds last month following reports of them catching fire.
The company said at the time that a preliminary assessment had revealed the incident was an isolated one and that the recall was simply a "pre-emptive measure."
However, there have since been at least three reports of incidents resulting from Ola mopeds suddenly switching into reverse.
One owner told Rest of World that he’d stopped at a set of lights and pulled his moped back a bit to create more space between himself and the car in front. This apparently triggered the vehicle’s reverse mode, which began operating at full throttle, sending him flying.
“It’s a potential killer, man,” he said. “That defect was a potential killer.”
Another owner said his 65-year-old father had been hospitalised when the same thing happened while he was trying to park the moped.
On top of this, there have been various reports of touchscreen panel problems and software bugs.
Compounding these issues, Ola’s direct-to-consumer model means owners don’t have a local dealer to turn to when something goes wrong. This appears to have resulted in several colourful public protests. One frustrated owner deliberately set his e-moped on fire, while another had a donkey tow his through town after covering it with signs reading, “Beware of this fraudulent company, Ola.”
The level of customer complaints has been sufficient for India’s Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) to raise the issue with federal transport authorities.
FADA president, Vinkesh Gulati, says he believes that in the rush to make its ‘future factory’ Ola has, “really not done the research and development which was needed for the products.”