E-Scooter Hunting - Part 2
By Eric Feron
The search continues
The disappointment of the Scootelec's weak power (see Part I) was not sufficient to stop me from wanting to acquire a mega-cool electric motor-scooter. Back in London, I have redirected my interests towards the USA built Esarati 300 (http://www.esarati.com/prod01.htm) or its awesome bigger brother the 400 "Blackhawk" (http://www.esarati.com/prod02.htm). Their claimed performance are impressive, but I still have to go for a test ride ! I did not make it to the Birmingham International Motorcycle show in November where I was due to meet the Esarati team, visiting from the USA. Since then, no news from them... I would still have to import it from the USA with all of the administrative hassle that this represents.
The Lectra VR24 (http://www.motorbike.org/) is not really an option for me, because it looks like a motorbike and will not protect my day to day corporate clothing from the rain. I would have to turn myself into a biker to ride this thing to work everyday, and the last thing I want to do is extract my tall body from a full leather suit and boots every day in front of a scuffling pack of colleagues and staff. I could live through this getting off a noisy speed racing Ducati, or oil spitting Norton, but not off an... electric motorbike!
The MP3 enabled China E-bike http://www.china-ebike.com/bt7.htm is nowhere to be found really (we are now well passed the delivery date announced on their web-site and there is no sign of it actually existing), and I must confess that I do hold a prejudice against Chinese built implements. I cannot wait to be proven wrong and forced to ignore my ill placed feelings, but it will remain at the bottom of my list for now.
But the fat lady has not sung yet
Now, today at lunch, inside the Old Spitalfield market in London, of all places, I spotted a display by Aprilia, the well known Italian moped and motorbike manufacturer. Well, unexpectedly, there was a funny thing there : a Italvel Day, electric Scooter http://www.italvel.com/. I had never heard of them before (so if nothing else it show I still have a lot to learn) . With unhidden agitation, I called 0800 159259 and landed myself a promise for a call back with the indication of where to test ride the beast in London !!! Is this a sign from the God of scooter riders?
Tales of my electric attempts to my old teen-age friends have gained me some substantial status mileage. Most of them are family men now and keen on environmental issues. Their knobbly wheels have long been sold and they are all on the look out for the latest cool new media developments. They wait for me to go ahead with the electric scoot and may follow one dayŠ So, I am back in the pack, somehow. It feels good.
A bit of cottage analysis
In the end, it seems to me that Peugeot made a wild marketing bet and eventually only played an advertising trick with the Scootelec, an image stunt. They promoted teh Scootelec loudly when the machine came to the market a few years ago, with media coverage and public displays, conferences in inner cities etc. But the electric 50cc did not immediately appeal to the younger crowd, primary users of 50cc scooters in Europe. Teens are hungry for status, noise and power. The Scootelec¹s power and speed are street legal for teenage use and cannot be fiddled with, unlike ALL other scoots. 20 years ago, I would not have put my savings into that machine or any other that I could not have extracted more power and noise from.
As an adult, I also want more power, to pull my heaving body and to get away from cars when they squeeze me in. I also need more room, for my legs, and to store my attaché case. Finally, I need to be able to fit add-ons, may they be of cosmetic or practical importance (weather protection). These features are not available.
To be able to comment more on the technical qualities of the Scootelec, I would need to know more about electric engines, batteries and all these things. I suspect that my quest for the ultimate transportation craft will give me this knowledge. But at this stage, the Scootelec might be a technological breakthrough, may be nothing more than the firm's leveraging of its knowledge of power drills and other domestic appliances (oh boy, please do not tell my friends that I was riding a boosted screw driver...). Nevertheless, despite the fact that my expectations are not met by the Scootelec, I feel quite energized by this test ride and I hope that Peugeot will soon come up with an upgraded version of the Scootelec, that could compete with a thermic 125cc.
Beside status and practicality, money matters hardly play in favour of the electric scooter either. The Scootelec is a lot more expensive than its thermic counterpart in the UK. It is almost competitive in France. Road tax is to be paid (in the UK), and insurance is the same as for a 125cc (read outrageously expensive). Savings on petrol, even in expensive petrol countries like the UK or France (around USD 4 per gallon) are rather non-significant on a yearly budget in the end. I spend about £25 a month (USD 50) on petrol on my Vespa in daily use. I have no idea how my electricity bill would increase by recharging my electric scooter and first I would need to rent a private garage with access to electricity... So, I doubt I would be saving anything at all. All of this is not looking too good.
And vanity does win in the end
It is now clear that my riding an electric scooter one day will not be the result of a reasonnable thought process lead by the search for a rational solution to my transport needs. It will hardly be my way to contribute to a cleaner atmosphere either given the relatively negligeable amounts of gases that I would not emit to lead my urbanly mobile life... A drop in the ocean really. No, me riding an electric scooter will definitely and shamelessly be a way to make a statement to the world, to satisfy yet another ego trip, to be ahead of my pack.
Some links for the Scootelec:
http://www.scooterspeugeot.com/ (click on "produits" and "electric scooter")
PS all tips and comments welcome
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