Until now, electric scooters have been the poor relations of the two-wheeled world. They look bad, they go slow, and they have to be charged up every few miles. But the US-made Vectrix is a leap forward. It is the world’s first truly high-performance electric scooter, with GTi acceleration and full-size comfort. A Daily Telegraph reviewer has ridden one; it works and he says you can put your deposit down now.
Compare a typical 400cc petrol bike with the new Vectrix electric bike
Retail Price: Petrol £4,800 Vectrix £5,500
Fuel Cost: Petrol £1422 Vectrix £120
Road Tax: Petrol £240 Vectrix Exempt
Maintenance Petrol £1120 Vectrix £380
4 Year cost @ 5000 miles pa: Petrol£7582 Vectrix £5500
Less Clean Vehicle Grant: Petrol n/a Vectrix £300
4 Year cost @ 5000 miles pa: Petrol£7582 Vectrix £5200
The Telegraph Review
At first, the figures don’t look promising – the brushless electric motor puts out 26bhp, but has to cope with an all-up weight of nearly 200kg. However, the Vectrix has a secret weapon — torque. Not only does it offer 48lb ft (nearly twice that of a 400cc petrol scooter) but this is on tap from virtually zero rpm.
You know that motoring cliche about being “pushed forward by a giant unseen hand”? That’s what riding the Vectrix feels like. Whack open the throttle and you get a rush of acceleration, accompanied by no more than a faint whine until wind noise takes over – it’s all the more dramatic for having no petrol engine revving its little heart out. Vectrix claims 0-50mph acceleration in 6.8 seconds, which feels about right — it’s certainly faster than a 400cc petrol scooter. But only up to a point, because the Vectrix is limited to a top speed of 62mph. “You could do 100mph,” says Alex Bamberg of ZEV, the UK importer, “but it would destroy the range.” Still, the Vectrix is fast enough to feel safe in 50mph limits and will out-accelerate most cars away from traffic lights. I even ventured on to the M3, where the machine didn’t feel out of its depth.
There are plenty of side benefits to the electric drivetrain. Regenerative braking means that shutting the throttle channels some power back into the batteries — the effect is like a firm application of the brakes. Do that at standstill, and the scooter creeps backwards, making parking a doddle.
The bank of Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries weighs 80kg, but they’re mounted low, so the Vectrix is stable and handles well, backed up by decent Pirelli tyres and disc brakes at both ends. Battery life has long been the bugbear of electric vehicles, but Bamberg estimates a range of 70-80 miles (less if you use that top speed) and battery life is claimed to be about 50,000 miles. A full recharge takes two hours.
The batteries will cost £2,000 to replace, and the Vectrix comes in at £5,500, minus a probable Energy Savings Trust grant of £500. So it’s not cheap, but with minimal maintenance costs, and electricity working out at less than a halfpenny a mile, it should make economic sense over time, especially for commuters. The police, courier firms and the Royal Mail have expressed interest.
Vectrix is taking orders now, for delivery in August. In fact, it has already sold one, to museum administrator Alan Langmaid, who rode the same pre-production bike I did. “It’s fantastic,” he told me, “a real alternative to a petrol scooter.”
For more information on the Vectrix scooter, in the US go to www.http://www.vectrixusa.com. In the UK contact Zero Emission Vehicles; tel 01962 777600 or go to www.zevltd.com.