The problem with having a preconceived notion is that you could be right or wrong. If you are right, you'd go about telling the world just how right you were. But when you are wrong, you have no choice but eat humble pie. I had a perception about electric scooters being boring and impractical, but then came along the Okinawa Ridge.
The Ridge is well finished and feels as large and comfy as a traditional scooter
Most electric scooters in India appear a bit downmarket with iffy quality plastics and build. The Okinawa blows that perception to smithereens. The Ridge, at first glance, looks like a scaled-down Honda Dio. The front apron has a sharp rake and it houses the headlamp. The turn indicators are situated in the bikini fairing under a neat wraparound, clear lens. There are a few stickers that do their bit, but frankly, I feel it would have looked great even without them. The paint quality and finish is impressive, doubly so for an electric scooter.
Dual rear shocks provide acceptable ride quality on par with the average scooter
Digital display is easy to read and offers relevant data
The charging point resides where the baggage hook usually sits
Also commendable is the Okinawa's fit and finish. There are no yawning panel gaps and even the switchgear does not feel cut-price. The Okinawa Ridge is also pretty well-equipped. It gets alloy wheels with tubeless tyres, a big safety positive. The scooter also has telescopic forks and twin shocks.
The Ridge has a digital instrument panel that displays the battery charge status, odometer, riding time, and speed both as digits as well as a bar that wraps around the top half of the cluster. The Ridge's Maserati-like key fob features an anti-theft system as well as a keyless start - you double press the lightning bolt button. This switches on the motor and you are ready to go.
The Ridge has storage behind the front apron and underneath the seat that's sufficient to store knick-knacks. However, a large charging adapter takes up some of that storage space and it only fits under the seat.
Underneath the plastic body is an 800W electric motor powered by a 60V/24Ah valve-regulated lead acid (vRLA) battery. A pressure-release valve expels hydrogen that usually builds up during overcharge. The valve relieves the owner of the task of switching off the plug once the battery is fully charged.
The company claims the scooter will charge in 4-6 hours. However, we noticed that it takes about 7 hours to charge up to 100 per cent. The real problem isn't the time though. That would be the lack of charging infrastructure. Our office, luckily, has a socket in the parking where I charged the Ridge. At home, though, there's no changing point where I usually park my two-wheelers. The only solution I could think of was to use an extension board, and that won't work for people in high-rise buildings.
The moment you get on, you notice that the seat height and floorboard are quite low, but the ergonomics are similar to a conventional scooter. The floorboard is long and wide, and offers generous legroom. When I switched on the ignition, I was expecting some sort of indication that the scooter is ready to roll. I tried looking for a starter button, like in a conventional scooter but as I found out in a couple of minutes, all I had to do was twist the throttle grip to get going.
It felt very strange in the beginning, to be honest. There is no vibration or sound at 'idle' and rolling on the throttle provides an instant forward surge that requires a few minutes to get used to. Eco and Sport modes regulate the power going to the rear wheel, and they make a perceptible difference.
Storage space is generous but the charger will take some room
The electric motor provides sufficiently strong surge for real-world commuting
In Eco, speed builds gradually up to a restricted limit of 35kmph. That's enough for short runs. I, however, refrained from using this mode on congested city roads as throttle response is dull and speeds rise slowly, which means quick and safe overtakes were quite a challenge.
In most situations, I would stick with the Sport mode. All that instant torque propels the Ridge quite rapidly to an indicated 55kmph - pretty much the speed that any regular scooter manages in the city. I kept up with conventional scooters and motorcycles easily between traffic lights. Overtaking was easy as the scooter gathers pace quickly from 40-50kmph. That said, the throttle response is a bit jerky - it's more like an on-off switch.
Okinawa says the Ridge can cover up to 80km on a single charge. That may be true for all-Eco mode riding. But I chose to remain in Sports mode. And I'll admit that I was anxious about running out of charge and being stranded, and I would blame the iffy battery charge indicator for this.
After the first 40km, the gauge dropped by a bar, I had three bars left. But then on, it seemed to have a mind of its own. It would suddenly drop to two bars, and at times even to just one. The three bars would appear again.
This inconsistency was worrying and an inaccurate gauge is the last thing you want on an electric scooter.
After covering 57km, the scooter finally ran out of juice. That, bear in mind, is with full throttle almost all the time and my 90+kg weight. A lighter hand (and body) should see the range improve. But 57km isn't bad at all. It is something I can certainly live with on a day-to-day basis. For someone who has a 30-40km round trip or wants an electric scooter to travel short distances, the Ridge has more than enough range.
I did notice that once the battery drops to the last bar, the scooter responds quite slowly to throttle inputs and the top speed falls to about 25-35kmph. At this stage, the scooter struggles to climb flyovers too. I remember watching the speedo drop to 10kmph on one occasion, and I had to stick as far to the left of the road as possible. So, riding in congested areas when the battery is about to die is best avoided.
What I was really surprised to notice was the stability and ride quality. It does thud through potholes and broken stretches, but it's a similar feeling that you get on-board regular scooters like the Honda Activa. The Ridge also remains planted at all times, and the grip offered from the 3.00x10 Ralson Blister tyres is sufficient, even on Mumbai's slippery, concrete roads.
Okinawa is a Jaipur-based business house with multiple manufacturing interests, including trailers. For the scooters, Okinawa has 24 dealers at present and plans to expand to more than 100 by the end of 2017. The target is to open 450 dealers in three years.
As is the case with any machine, the Ridge requires periodic maintenance. Okinawa offers three free services at 500km, 2,000km and 4,000km. Thereafter it's paid services at intervals of 2000km. Technicians will inspect the electrical system, including the battery. They'll also check the state of the drum brakes and tyres, and replace if required. The company offers a warranty of 2 years and 18 months on the motor, controller and the charger.
Like in any other battery-operated device, the Ridge's battery too has a limited lifespan. The company claims that the battery can last up to 2-2.5 years based on the charging cycles and usage conditions. It will cost you Rs 10,000 to replace the battery.
The Okinawa Ridge is an electric scooter that's both fun and practical. It's built well, has realistic battery range, reasonable turn of speed as well as the ride and handling of a regular scooter. The Ridge only consumes 3 units of electricity per full charge - roughly Rs 12 per charge! At Rs 43,702 (ex-Delhi), the Okinawa Ridge is a usable and economical runabout.
Images: Ishaan Bhataiya & Anis Shaikh