Mike Stevens | Nov 10, 2008 | 8 Comments

With fuel prices soaring and no relief in sight, electric vehicles certainly make a lot of sense.

Turn on the ignition, hold on the back brake and dab on the front. Despite the complete absence of noise or vibration, the flashing ‘GO’ indicator on the LCD instrument display says you’re ready to roll. Welcome to the Vectrix electric scooter – and welcome to the future.

When you’re zipping around town on a Vectrix, you can’t help but get the feeling you’re at the cutting edge of a transport revolution. It might take some years to gain momentum, but with fuel prices soaring and no long-term relief in prospect, electric vehicles make a lot of sense.

quote

CLEVER THINKING

Vectrix was founded in America in 1996, and came to Australia about 18 months ago. As Vectrix Sales Manager and co-owner Frank Papa says, it’s not quite right to think of it as a regular scooter as its brief is entirely different.

“I think of it as something like a power tool – like a cordless drill. I put it on charge, grab it when I need it, then put it back on charge again after it’s done its job,” he says.

It’s a good analogy. After a week of commuting day in, day out across Melbourne, it was clear the Vectrix was a superb commuting tool. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s incredibly satisfying to get around at a fraction of the usual cost, and lower your impact on the environment too.

gauge-cluster

The Vectrix is powered by a brushless DC radial air-gap motor. Vectrix Australia’s National Technical Manager, Paul Dawson, says it’s akin to motors that power devices such as escalators, with similar longevity. Auto electricians take note – you could well be the motor mechanics of the future!

Beneath lies a Nickel Metal Hydride battery with an estimated life of around 10 years or 80,000km, with a replacement cost of around $2000. However, there are very few moving parts in comparison with a regular scoot, so maintenance costs should be far less.

rear


ELECTRIC WIZARDRY

All this electric wizardry is slotted into a maxi scooter format weighing 210kg. Assembled in Poland, the Vectrix features Italian switchgear, Italian Brembo twin-piston brakes, a sizeable screen, classy instrumentation and quality, flush-fitting bodywork. In build quality alone, it’s up there with the best.

A recharge power cord is found under the pillion seat, where there’s space for a helmet and more. The cord plugs into an ordinary socket, and you can achieve an 80 per cent charge in around two hours.

Wind on the throttle from a standing start and you’ll be a little underwhelmed by its initial acceleration. It’s enough to keep pace with the cars, but that’s all. However, from around 40km/h the Vectrix streaks away to its top speed of 100km/h. All this is to the backdrop of a tram-like whine.

plug

The Marzocchi fork and Sachs rear shocks do an adequate job, and in general it handles well. The Brembo brakes are strong, but I didn’t actually use them much thanks to the scoot’s “regenerative” brakes.

Put simply, it’s possible twist the throttle a little bit past its closed position. At a standstill this puts the Vectrix in reverse – handy when parking – but when you’re on the move it harnesses impressive engine braking, which helps recharge the battery too. Vectrix claims this can extend the scoot’s range by up to 12 percent.

THE FUTURE

Its range is its biggest limiting factor. The company claims it can cover up to 90km, but with normal city use you can expect around 60km from a full charge. I got caught out on my first day with the Vectrix, not quite making it home – many thanks to Denis at Melbourne’s Best Western City Park hotel for the power point!

But after you’ve familiarized yourself with the scoot and its capabilities, there’s no excuse to ever get caught short.

The Vectrix costs $13,950 plus ORC. That’s a significant chunk of cash, but with today’s fuel costs it’ll start paying its way in a relatively short period of time.

front

It’s not for everyone. You’ll need easy access to a power point at your home and possibly your office, and you’ll need a bike licence to ride it. You’ll also need to be commuting regularly for your savings to offset the purchase price.

But if you can tick those boxes then the Vectrix is a superb commuting solution. And if you use one in Tasmania, for example, where you’ll be harnessing hydroelectric power, and you’ll effectively have a carbon footprint of zero. Even where coal is used to supply power, you’ll still be helping the environment. A smart way to go? You bet!

box-out

.

Gallery

.

Specs

Engine: Brushless DC radial air-gap
Power: 21kW at motor shaft (max. continuous 3.8kW)
Torque: 65Nm (max. continuous 23Nm)
Transmission: Coaxial planetary gear drive
Front brake: Brembo disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear brake: Brembo disc, twin-piston caliper
Front suspension: Marzocchi telescopic fork, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: Twin Sachs shocks, adjustable for preload
Seat height: 775mm
Claimed dry weight: 210kg
Price: $13,950 plus ORC
Colours: Red, blue, green or silver
Warranty: 24 months
Contact: (03) 9676 9133; www.vectrix.com.au
In the ballpark: In the ballpark: Nothing – yet…
Follow Mike Stevens on Google+