I love its sleek, silent, ghost-like way of travelling, but wonder if the future belongs to those rich enough to afford the high purchase price.
The future’s electric, or so Gordon Brown would have us believe. But can the Vectrix electric scooter really compete with a nifty, thrifty Honda 50?
Alastair Walker weighs up our future commuting options.
The Vectrix scooter really surprised me. I expected something heavier than a touring bike, dog slow and devoid of any fun factor. But in reality, the Vectrix is easy to handle, features a useful reverse gear for parking and looks well built too. One charge from a domestic three pin plug, costing around 20p will power it for some 65-ish miles, and as an electric vehicle it’s congestion charge free – at present.
Now the downside. Saving the planet is gonna cost you nearly seven grand for this electric scooter. Yes, £6930 on the road is the price of the Vectrix and I think that’s the reason it will struggle to compete with a 125cc four stroke petrol scooter for most commuters. A typical 125 scooter/bike costs from £1600 and can return over 100mpg – it will take many years of commuting on a Vectrix before the owner saves a penny. The savings are even greater if you choose a moped like the Honda Cub 50, which has been selling successfully for 50 years or so, and is arguably the most indestructible two-wheeled device ever built.
Fact is, I cannot see the streets of Beijing, Dehli or Mexico City thronging with complex, expensive machines like the Vectrix and that is where the battle to save the Earth’s precious oil-based resources will be won or lost. Let’s be blunt here, a handful of celebrities and camp graphic designers in Soho choosing the Vectrix to commute around London makes not one iota of difference to our global climate, when some 200 million smoky old cars, two-stroke scooters or buzzy Honda 50s parp around the developing world.
That’s a shame, because the Vectrix is an accomplished first stab at electric scootering. It should be part of our overall transport mix. It has a comfortable saddle for two people, Brembo brakes, a maintenance free engine, low service costs during its ten year/50,000 mile lifespan and can partially re-charge its battery on the move, via a dynamo type throttle-closure mechanism. Instead of using the brakes, you simply shut the throttle firmly and the `regen’ technology starts feeding a charge to your batteries, and slows you down – very clever.
At 230kgs dry, I thought the Vectrix would be too heavy for novice riders, but the battery weight is set very low. If you can handle moving it off the sidestand, then you’ll be fine riding it slowly, feet-up, in town as well. Very well balanced and once going the throttle action is ultra smooth, no jerkiness at all. 0-50mph takes around 7 seconds, which is about as fast as a 125cc bike or scooter, but there’s no gearchanging, so it feels rapid enough. You can ride the Vectrix on a provisional 125cc class learner licence, but it needs more skill to master than something like a Suzuki Address 125 for example.
If you do need to stop suddenly because an ipod-wearing pedestrian has stepped out in front of you, then the Brembo brakes will pull the Vectrix up sharply, and with real feel at the levers. Superb braking power. The headlight, indicators etc all worked well too, which is impressive given that everything is battery powered on this baby. Details like the mirrors, pillion grabrail and cubby hole storage space at the front of the Vectrix show that there’s been some proper design put into this machine.
See you at the next recharging post Mabel
I didn’t get the chance to run the Vectrix battery down flat, but they claim the range is about 60 miles. OK in London, where re-charge points are sprouting up, but useless for someone like me who might wish to commute to the NEC to take some motorbike pics. Re-charging takes at least 2.5 hours, so long journeys could theoretically take days – bit like the old coach `n’ horses system in the 18th Century.
The Vectrix is made in Poland and designed in the USA, with some Italian bits in there as well – I am guessing it will be the auto gearing mechanism. The entire machine is classy, practical with storage space underseat and near the steering column, plus well equipped. You can charge your phone on the move too.
I love its sleek, silent, ghost-like way of travelling, but wonder if the future belongs to those rich enough to afford the high purchase price. Maybe when Honda get around to making something like this it will cost £4000 rather than £7000, which would make an electric scooter a genuine alternative to a small motorcycle or used car.
More at www.vectrix.co.uk
Get Vectrix motorbike insurance for the Electric Maxi Scooter 2008.
|ENGINE||Brushless DC type.|
|GEARS||Co-axial, integrated rear wheel mounted.|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Twin Sachs shocks|
|WHEELS/TYRES||120/70 14in front, 140/60 13 in rear.|
|RRP||£6930 OTR (July 2008)|