It was one of those unseasonably warm autumn mornings and I had to dodge the showers for my test run on what might be a future commuter, being a 100% electric 125cc engine type scooter from the Far East. The lads at Motech in Newcastle were asking me to test ride this because I had previously test ridden a Vespa Ellectrica which was equivalent to a 50 cc scooter in the past. They told me this was a nippy scooter with not one, but two batteries under the seat!
The scooter was all in black and looked very well made. My version had a commuter screen on and it is like a Honda C90 Cub step-through but of course has no gears as it is 100% electric. The seat is wide and comfortable and the tubular chassis is shown so the bodywork is not as complete as some commuter bikes. I noticed a very big back brake (see later).
Paul and his son Neil showed me around the scooter. It has a very simple and easy to read TFT display which shows the charging both on a bar graph and the percentage of the two batteries, side-by-side. Paul has been using it to commute to and from South Shields and tells me he gets two return journeys, therefore somewhere in the region of just under 50 miles, using full power before he needs to recharge it.
It has three speeds – 1 through to 3 on a right thumb slide button and I was advised to put it into 2, which covers speeds 1 and 2, for the battery usage. When I got out on an open road to switch then to 3 as this uses more power up from the batteries.
I gingerly moved off with the weird feeling of no noise whatsoever apart from a barely discernible whirr and of course instant power and no gears. However, within about 400 yards I had the hang of it. It’s pretty nippy away from a standing start around town and beating everyone at the start of the traffic lights was really easy. It keeps up with all urban traffic in the 30 mph zones. Very easy to filter as it’s a narrow scooter and you can get right to the front of those ‘pesky’ traffic queues without difficulty. It would suit a top box for commuting.
I decided to test out the urban efficiency of it and took all of the urban roads rather than using the Coast Road as I decided to go from Newcastle to North Shields Fish Quay. I thought of a maritime photo opportunity and I could visit one of the eateries down on North Shields Fish Quay.
I had no problems getting there. Really easy to park and I decided to park with my front wheel into the curb to use the reverse gear! My eyes alighted on a handwritten sign at the western end of the Fish Quay in what I then found out to be the Loading Bay of Tynemouth Select Cars sales rooms. Inside it has a beautiful chrome and aluminium iconic American Airstream trailer with Mediterranean food and particularly fried pizzas inside served by Bryan and Anthony. There was funky seating and wall graphics and Jungle Coffee, being served by Chloe. Upstairs is the well-attended Salt Market Social Club which you urban hipsters will all know about, looking out onto the Tyne. The Loading Bay is open Wednesday to Sunday from lunchtime onwards.
I ordered the Mediterranean veg pizza from Med Head, and it was really light and tasty with a flat white from Jungle Coffee. Bryan told me that they used to attend all the festivals but are there now and I would strongly advise you to get down there and sample the food and coffee – fantastic.
All too soon it was time to wend my way back. I decided to try out the Coast Road. Paul told me that he was able to get 58 mph out of the scooter on full chat on mode 3. I switched into 3 and could feel the speed building up but someone pulled in front of me at 57 mph so I couldn’t beat Paul’s record. You can notice a difference when you go in to speed 3 in terms of how much the battery runs down, but this particular model can be either bought with one or two batteries. Paul tells me there’s a three-point plug and it charges within a few hours and having read some of the other reviews it is extremely cheap (8p for a two battery full charge?). There is no vehicle excise duty on this scooter as well.
The scooter, being all electric, has no engine braking so when you roll off the throttle you keep going! I did get used to that and interestingly the back brake, which is huge, brought the scooter to a quicker halt than the front brake in my view. Of course, you have to balance those for safety but the “engine” is of course the battery being directly above the rear wheel with a short connection hence the large back brake over the wheel.
There’s a USB port to charge your mobile on the go and the handy screen kept away the showers. We had a committee meeting back at Motech to work out reverse and it was simply a button on the handlebars. You have to hold it in as a safety feature and then it worked fine. Paul’s advice was to buy the one battery version which is cheaper if your commutes are not as long. A fisherman at the Quay wanted to know all about the scooter and he was amazed at how big the batteries were and that they were easily lifted out for charging off the bike as well.
To paraphrase the Phoenix nights catchphrase – electric scooters – they’re the future!? I think you have to check this electric drive alternative to make your own decision. My research is telling me that new petrol bikes will be banned in the UK from 2035 which is part of the government’s Transportation De-carbonisation Plan, despite the fact that small commuter bikes take up so little room on our roads. I am told that to encourage riders and drivers to switch to electric
power, the government has earmarked an additional £582 million for plug-in car, van, taxi motorcycle financial incentives to reduce the cost of zero emission vehicles. Now, where is that garlic pizza!
Mark Hipkin is a Partner/ Head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department. He welcomes your e-mails or calls on the law (or your biking experiences) at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 2533509.