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Petrol Not Included! - A Vectrix Electric Scooter


By: James Green | Published 21 February 2008, 00:53 | Views: 32,086 | tags: bike reviews, reviews, scooters, motorcycles, vectrix, electric vehicles, london, video
Today’s the day, my first proper test-ride for londonbikers.com. Yet I can’t seem to get too excited. Maybe that is because I’m to test the UK’s first serious electric scooter, the Vectrix. Marketed as the first true zero emissions scooter combined with the performance to match, if not shame its traditional petrol competition. Every electric scooter I've seen seems to look like a child's bike and crawls about five miles at a similar speed with cyclist whizzing past. I have even seen one with push bike forks and v-brakes... nice.

First Impressions

The time has come, the van is here, and my excitement holds no bound. The Vectrix has arrived. I struggle to contain my excitement as the man from Vectrix unloads the van. I look in disbelief as the scooter that is being pulled out is vast...not a toy then, but a serious attempt. I give the Vectrix a quick walk around, it’s big, on par with any maxi scooter around, picture a T-Max or X8 and the weights are similar. I take notice of the quality components, Brembo brakes with steel braided hoses are standard, as are the Marzocchi front forks mated to Sachs rear shocks. A quick straddle shows that much work has gone into the design. The weight is held nice and low, certainly from the hefty battery and provides a nice neutral feel to the Vectrix. Three chrome clocks stare at me, and as the key is switched to ‘on’ they spring to life with the usual show that all bikes and scooters have today. On the left clock, an LCD message pops up ‘ready’, I pull the rear brake as instructed followed by the front (a Vectrix safety system) ‘GO’. I sit there waiting for some kind of noise, nothing not a peep. The Vectrix experience is about to begin.

As I pull away for the first time, the ‘whirr’ of the electric motor starts up, slowly followed by a smile spreading across my face. Now the performance is touted as being somewhere in the region of a 250cc or 400cc scooter, and as the Vectrix and I start snaking home through London’s streets, it’s clear that it’s hard to compare petrol to electric. Simply put, the electric motor puts out its power in a way that only the petrol competition would dream of. It’s a big fat juicy linear spread of torque. It does not accelerate as quickly as some of the competition can with figures quoted as 0-50 in 6.8sec, but hold the throttle constant at around 30mph and the wind the throttle back, and it surges forward with and eagerness to please. That whirring soundtrack raising its tone to a wonderful turbine whine, mixed with its unique modern design, I can’t help comparing it to something from the classic computer film, Tron. My daydream is quickly shattered as the roar of wind noise drowns out everything else. My face is taking a slight battering from the wind coming off the screen, so I engage the DAaRT system and immediately start giggling.

Regenerative Braking

DAaRT is a new patented system by Vectrix. Simply put if you roll the throttle forward whilst stationary it will engage reverse. You WILL do this a lot. Now more important, if the DAaRT system is engaged whilst in motion it will engage the Vectrix’s Ace card, its patented regenerative braking system. To people who have ridden twins they will recognise the feeling of engine braking being applied, and the strength that it is applied is dependent on how far forward you roll the throttle; you can apply just a smidge or roll it into max. Nothing locks up, the suspension remains poised, you just simply slow down...there is also a new meatier whine, hence the child like giggling, even pedestrians nearby are looking bemused by the sound, unaware its coming from the big red maxi-scooter with ‘electric’ written down the side. A bonus from this new toy’s umm feature is, that it will also recharge the battery by about 10%, and on an electric scooter believe me, everything you can do to extend battery life you will use.

Why do I say that? Well firstly when you look at the clocks of the Vectrix it throws its information out to you very simply. The middle clock is like all the other’s out there, simple easy to read letting you know just how naughty your being in London’s streets. However, the real killer is the reading found from the left clock. Its shows you a simple ETA reading, handy I thought. When I picked up the Vectrix this read 44 miles, I was on my way to pick the other half up and as I whirred through Camberwell, I thought I would adjust the clock. It was correct when I got the scooter, but the usual pressing of buttons prior to reading the handbook had quickly changed that! A few buttons pressed, the time put back and at the whopping cost of 22 miles! A deep cold fear has now gripped me, how, where have my 22 mile gone? A glance to the right side clock show the battery metre. A simple device similar to the bars system used on your mobile phone. I’ve use 2 bars; I have plenty in reserve, a quick course of slow breathing to regain my composure.

On The Road

This is what all my early rides are like on the Vectrix. I’m not abusing the throttle too much, and regenerating for all its worth, and not just because it sounds great, but more importantly I don’t want to be stranded in London. But I have nothing to worry about. The short commute to Shaftsbury Avenue has not stretched the battery too much, and it has allowed me to notice its reaction on other road users. Which as no surprise is a mixture of bewilderment from the scooterist, and a look of contempt from other motorcyclist, I even hear an audible sniff from one such Bandit owner. Fortunately for me, a fluffed gear change by Mr. Bandit allowed me to use the torque to its maximum effectiveness to give me a hundred metres or so on him, I’m giving it everything, I want the Vectrix to do well here, and am rewarded by Mr. Bandit asking in disbelief if it really is 100% electric. Even more satisfying is the deep look of pain and suffering I subject one BMW GS owner to. I spotted his raised eyebrow as I pulled up to a bike bay, so in one easy motion his whole world is crushed as I reverse smoothly into the bay. He’s still standing there mouth open as I stroll away after stowing my helmet in the boot.

So far I’m warming to the Vectrix, its easy linear power is a joy to use in the city, and even a quick run on the A40 was a faultless display from the scooter. Plenty of poke for steady cruising and some left over for that last minute lunge into the fast moving outer lane. The riding position is very comfortable; I still hate the screen though. I can’t comfortably wear an open face helmet without a visor, but not a problem with a full face, if a tad blustery. Sitting up on the back-rest raises me out of this, so I guess I’m just shorter than the average American (yes Vectrix is American, the land of devoted petrol consumption). My initial impression from the Vectrix was that the seat was too hard, and the suspension a bit crude. However as the miles have added up this has changed. Okay the seat is still on the hard side, but not once did the cheeks complain. In fact I could quite happily ride the Vectrix all day, far longer than the battery will allow, even my back (getting old) was happy.

Handling 

Yes the suspension does feel a tad crude, but believe me, leave it alone. Don’t touch anything. Why? Well quite simply Vectrix have somehow come up with in my minds the best handling scooter on the market today. As my confidence grew, I was quite happy to throw the Vectrix around, revelling in its poise and the corner speed it is happy to carry. There are no bobbles, no bouncy ride and no ground clearance issues. Without a centre stand or exhaust the Vectrix simply leans and leans. Throw anything at the Vectrix and it is happy, a few laps of Hyde Park corner just reaffirmed what a gem the Vectrix is. Even the slow speed manoeuvrability is superb, a two up u-turn accomplished without the need put my feet down, and all done with room to spare at walking pace. 

You really can hustle the Vectrix around, using the DAaRT system to scrub some speed off into corners and powering through is great fun on the Vectrix, especially with the engine whirring away. However, heed my warning. Although the DAaRT system is very good, there are times when you need more braking force. The brakes are very powerful, and I admit I did lock the rear a few times fairly easily. So if you’re going to push a bit, cover the front brake and combine all 3 systems if needed. To be honest, the Vectrix I was using has done about 180 miles, and the front brakes are still bedding in! Just shows how good the regenerative system is.  Even two-up the Vectrix handles and powers better than most. The suspension simply taking no notice of the extra weight, with no noticeable difference at speed or slow speed manoeuvres. The best bit is the engine. Being electric, even two-up fully loaded with shopping the Vectrix just powers away happily whirring away, with the linear power meaning a very smooth ride for the pillion.

Practicality

Electric.... electric... electric.... Every time I pass a petrol station I have to remind myself of this. It’s become my new mantra, after years of riding petrol bikes it’s an automatic response, and one flying visit to my local had a group of builders entertained as I even went as far as switching off and opening the seat, ahh.  According to the bumph I should do about 68 miles on a full charge, with a two-hour charge giving it an 80% charge. How to charge it then?

Now I happen to live in a second floor flat with no garage, so in simple terms I need an extension cord. A quick run over to dad’s and I’m armed with 20m of cord, which is dully thrown out of the window at me so I can plug it in. The Vectrix’s charging point is a simple home-style three-point plug under the passenger seat. A very simple but nice touch is that the corners under the seat pop off to allow the seat to be locked down safe and the cable to run free out under the seat (important with our great dry climate).

Once plugged in nothing...then the dash flicks into life, and a low whirring sounds starts up from deep inside. The speedo spins round and slowly returns to zero as it charges meaning I can look out of the window to see how it’s coming along. I’m not even in a mood to be having to go out at 11pm to disconnect everything, and I’m sure the neighbours watched in fascination as this was repeatedly fairly often over the weekend. Okay it could be a problem if you’re in a hurry, and when popping to friends you do need to ask to use their electricity, but with the cost of a charge being something like 20p it considerably cheaper than the £6-8 petrol would cost. Say it with me slowly 20p!

Now that’s all well and good, but let’s say you have been a bit naughty in town, or you were late and forgot to charge it back up what would you do? Luckily due to the rise of four-wheeled electric vehicles in London there are actually 48 charging points in central London. Two of them are situated on street bays that are based in Wellington Street and Southampton Street near Covent Garden. To use these bays you will first need to register with the EcoMark club, who will supply you with a badge, newsletter and more importantly an electric key for access to the two bays charging points.

Now the other 46 charging points are located across a network of 13 Westminster car parks. So if you’re desperate, then a quick pop in for a charge could save your day. There are plans for even more bays, with the best bit being that they are FREE. Yup, not a penny to charge to you or me. Westminster especially is pushing for electric vehicles, and don’t forget as well as the free electricity they are happy to provide to you, you get all the parking privileges too. What would they be? Well, how about free parking during controlled hours on metre Pay & Display (up to maximum stay).  No more trying to find an empty bay in the West End, just find an empty metre and park up...for free. Now if we somehow are forced to pay for parking, a rumoured £1.50 a day, then free parking is sounding great.

Conclusion

And that’s the point here. Vectrix have taken the gamble and we could say are the first mainstream option to petrol for two wheels. They have spent 10 years refining their product, and it shows. It’s one of the most complete and accomplished scooters available today, more than something just to go to work on, that would be a waste as it is a pleasure to ride. One final ride home on the Vectrix saw me and my girlfriend take the long way home.  Enjoying the quietness as we ghosted across London late into the night, and when your alone it is quiet, not a peep, some wind noise off that screen, but for the passenger nothing.

However, here is the stumbling block. It’s not the fact it’s electric, it’s not the hassle of lugging 20m of cable everywhere I go. It’s the price. £6930 will get you a new Vectrix. Now that is a rather large hole to burn into your wallet. It’s around twice the price of your conventional maxi scooter.  Now I’m sure if going green and saving the planet is your thing, it will not hold you back (just ask Toyota) and from a corporate view, it should sell well. Yet for you and me it’s a big decision. Vectrix are adamant that it will pay for itself and save you money in the long run, and when you think about it, no more oil, oil filters, spark plugs, belts, rollers, batteries and of course petrol. It does all add up. A healthy two-year warranty, with the battery expected to last 10 years or 50,000 miles too.  
   
Then there is the fact that you can ride this on a CBT. That’s a lot of performance available on your ‘learner’ licence.

It’s a hard one to answer. I was very sad to see the Vectrix go, yes I still don’t like the screen but riding my own petrol scooter just reiterated how good the Vectrix is. For me it’s out of my price range, as my scooter is my second vehicle. But I hope it does well, simply due to the fact it’s such a pleasure to ride. Is this a glimpse of our future on two wheels? Possibly, but if this gets you thinking then test-ride it. You will be pleasantly surprised and just a little bit astonished.

Video Demonstration

We've filmed a quick demonstration of the Vectrix scooter. Click the link below to see it in HD quality:
» Vectrix Electric Scooter Demonstration

 

Technical Specifications:

 

Performance

Max Speed

62 mph / 100 km/h

Acceleration

0-50 mph (80 km/h) - 6.8 seconds
0-31 mph (50 km/h) - 3.6

Range

68 miles (110 km) @ 25 mph (40 km/h)
Simulated urban driving - 5 hours

Braking

Patented multi-function throttle (DAaRT™) provides regenerative braking and slow-speed reverse
Front and rear Brembo disc brakes

tyres

Pirelli: GTS23 120/70-14 (Front) and
GTS24 140/60 13 (Rear)

Fork

Marzocchi Telescopic Fork

Suspension

Sachs Twin Shocks

 

 

 

Battery

Battery Type

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)

Rated Battery Capacity

30 Ah, 3.7 kW-h

Rated Battery Voltage

125V

Charger

1.5kW on-board battery charger

Recharge Requirements

110V-220V (50/60Hz)

Recharge Time

2 hours (80% charge)

Battery Discharge Cycles

1,700 (80% charge)

Estimated Battery Life

10 years or 50,000 miles / 80,000 km

 

 

 

Motor & Gearbox

Motor Type

Brushless DC, radial air-gap motor

Peak Power

20 kW peak power at 3000 rpm

Max Current

275 Amps

Max Torque

65 Nm

Gearbox

Integrated rear-wheel mounted planetary gear drive

 

 

 

Electronics

Controller

DSP & IGBT based all-digital electronic control and motor drive system

Instrumentation

LCD’s display speed, odometer, battery charge,, estimated range, and system status

Communications

Controller Area Network (CAN)
Bluetooth wireless systems diagnostics and communication

 

 

 

Dimensions

Weight

462lb (210 kg)

Wheelbase

60" (1525 mm)

Seat Height

30" (770 mm)

Wheels

Front - 14"
Rear - 13"

Storage Capacity

Under seat storage for a full-faced helmet
Glove compartment

 

 

 

Other

Frame

Lightweight aluminium frame

Warranty

24 months ( +24 with Plug & Go)

Emissions

Zero


Related Galleries:

The Vectrix Electric Scooter Reviewed

Related Links:

Vectrix UK

Photos
click to zoom
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10 Comments

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Gazza | 21 February 2008, 10:18
Love the article...and love the video!! Very well mastered...I may actually trade the blade in to get one of these gems!!

Bomjam | 26 February 2008, 18:39
So how much is the road tax on these? This could be another bit of money saving.
You could always buy one of them cheap generator's out of Lidle's and strap it to a rack you could go where you like then.

babyJ | 28 February 2008, 12:57
Hi Bomjam, well its quite good on the money saving front

-Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) exempt!
-Owner may be able to claim back 100% purchase cost and VAT in first year if purchased for business use! (Awaiting clarification from HMRC)
-Cheaper insurance than petrol maxi scooters typically up to 50% cheaper

shamrock | 16 April 2008, 18:00
I have just been to test drive the first real competitor to the Vectrix at an electric dealers in ireland, same perfromance and same range and best of all half the price. The company Verde Autos quoted me €5,500 for the bike. I think they are onto a winner!!

Hands0n | 21 June 2008, 10:13
The Verde Autos Verde 3000 scooter is a close spec, but not quite the same - slightly less top speed (60mph when converted from Km/ph) and slightly less range. I do like the notion of the LiIon batteries rather than the Vectrix's NiMh - although there is probably no reason why you couldn't later change the Vectrix to LiIon. No mention of how long the Verde 3000 battery lasts, it may not be long as they quote a price of EUR 150 for a replacement.

I am arranging a trial ride of the Vectrix to see how it copes with my 25 mile each-way commute. I did the numbers, and with fuel predicted to rise 37% this next 12 months (and assuming the same going onwards), there is a saving on my existing motorcycle costs across 4 years to be made of £11,000 - and with a break-even of 1.6 years. That means that less than 2 years into ownership I'm riding free of charge!! :) Well, ok, thats stretching things a bit :)

Jay | 21 June 2008, 13:26
When you put it like that, it's obvious the electric scooter market should develop at a quicker rate. Let us know how the Verde 3000 goes.

2bikers | 18 February 2009, 18:38
do not get carried away, it is only a matter of time before Westminster council will charge electric scooters too for parking. do not trust them, they are just waiting for more and more poeple to buy them before charging for parking and the electricity.

ScottWilliams | 17 May 2010, 05:36
To reduce the cost of spending lots and lots of money on fuel to bike is painful and i am on the top of the world because i can save money by buying vertix .And for this the electric scooter market will develop in very faster pace.

gottohavone | 03 April 2011, 22:05
Who or where are the dealers in the uk can anybody help i am wanting one off these .

Ern | 28 June 2011, 16:02
As a scooter rider for many years it's tempting very tempting, but there are many buts, one thing that is an essential in my book is a centre stand, many times I've used the side stand for quickness on my piaggio only to walk off and hear it fall over becoz you have to be on level ground to put a bike the side stand and that's just one of many reasons why I like a centre stand. Also if piaggio give you a side stand it has engine cut out linked to it so you can't drive off with the stand down which could be catastrophic if it snagged something. They should lose the side stand and just give you a centre stand as piaggio are now doing on some of there models. Yeah you can't lean like a gp racer with a centre stand but you don't lean like them anyway on a bike like this, you come off pretty quick if you try it.
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