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Vectrix Electric Maxi-Scooter
By Thomas Groussin
Electric-powered two-wheelers certainly seem to be on the verge of advancing from the prototype stage to wide-scale commercialisation. Take the first electric "maxi-scooter" presented by American manufacturer Vectrix at the Milan Show. Our test ride proved perfectly conclusive.
It doesn't yet have any other name than "electric maxi-scooter", but this is all that really distinguishes it from any of the numerous models over 250 cc that every year share the booming two-wheel "individual mobility" market.
Visually, the new electric scooter by Vectrix looks like any other scooter. Its front is reminiscent of a Honda Silver Wing 600, the rear brings to mind a Malaguti Spidermax 500. It has the immense seat typical of those luxurious machines, and the wheels are relatively large in diameter (14 inch at the front and 13 at the rear).
The trim of the display models on the stand at the Milan Show seemed to us to be perfectly in accord with current requirements.
There is no doubt, in these circumstances, that Vectrix will be able to honour its promise of commercialising this maxi-scooter from the end of 2006 in Italy and England. Because this electric scooter is not just another prototype, but well and truly intended for immediate launch.
© Vectrix"Clean" and high-performance
This maxi-scooter draws its energy from NiMH batteries (125 volts, 3.7 kW/h) which power a permanent-magnet "Brushless"-type motor, placed directly on the rear wheel, in a superb aluminium swing arm. Like all electric two-wheelers, it emits no pollutants and operates in almost total silence.
Its novelty comes from its performance, Vectrix announcing figures above those of 400 cc petrol-engine scooters. For example, it does 0 to 80 kph (50 mph) in 6.8 seconds! In any case, the little test run we carried out in Milan shows that performance is not in doubt. Accompanied by the hiss typical of this type of machinery, acceleration is powerful, with torque immediately available at low revs (maximum torque: 6.5 kg-m at 3,500 rpm!).
The maximum output delivered by the electric motor is 27 hp at 3,000 rpm (9.5 hp continuous output). Consequently, this maxi-scooter will be reserved for motorcycle licence holders. The top speed is announced at approximately 100 kph (62 mph).
The electric motor is concealed in this aluminium swing arm.
© VectrixRange of 100 km, recharge in two hours
In deceleration phase, the Vectrix system (protected by six patents filed worldwide) automatically recharges the batteries, making it possible to increase their range by around 10%. Moreover, the very powerful engine brake dispenses with using the brakes to slow down. Lastly, this system offers the benefit of a reverse gear intended to facilitate parking.
Battery range should be in the region of 100 km (62 miles), with a recharge time of two hours (80%). Vectrix asserts that these batteries will have a life of 10 years, based on 8,000 km (5,000 miles) per year.
© VectrixAs precise and practical as a petrol scooter
The batteries lie at the centre of a robust aluminium frame, in the central tunnel. Great attention has been paid to the entire chassis, as witnessed by the list of suppliers (Marzocchi fork, Sachs shock absorbers, Brembo brakes.).
The machine is relatively heavy (210 kg in roadworthy condition) and its long wheelbase seems to favour stability. The very low centre of gravity does, however, preserve manoeuvrability, whilst weight distribution seems very even.
Beneath the seat, there is sufficient space to store a full-face helmet once you reach your destination. The dashboard contains all the usual information, including a battery status indicator and estimated remaining range, all presented in digital form.
© VectrixImmediately available, but at a high price
Produced in the United States (New Bedford) and Poland (Wroclaw), the Vectrix maxi-scooter should be available from the end of 2006 in Italy and England, and from early 2007 in France and in Europe, where the company is still seeking distributors.
There remains the selling price. In Milan, Vectrix told us it would be around 11,000 euros (OTR price in the UK is £6,930), which is much more than for current 400 or 500 cc scooters. However, you have to allow for the possibility of government aid with respect to this type of powered vehicle, and take into consideration the low cost of use (-25% over 4 years, according to Vectrix) and maintenance (-70%). The manufacturer's warranty will last two years (four years in the UK).
In the end, this electric maxi-scooter will probably not cause any immediate upset on the European market, but one has to acknowledge that Vectrix has managed to take a clear lead with this visibly highly promising technology.
© VectrixThree-wheel version on the cards
On the stand at Milan, Vectrix was also presenting this three-wheel prototype, whose front axle operates very much like that of the Piaggio MP3. It is scheduled for launch in 2008.
Vectrix is also working on finalising a hybrid model, integrating a fuel cell to increase overall range to 250 km (155 miles).
Web site: www.vectrix.com
Peace Out, <img src="http://tinyurl.com/ysafbn">