Vectrix Maxi-Scooter

A bit of my test riding.

Daniel and Tansy from British Motor Car Distributors, LTD brought a shiny blue Vectrix "scooter" to share with us at our recent Davis EV meeting on October 14, 2007. While it is called a "scooter" and is in fact configured like a scooter, it has the quality and performance of a high-end motorcycle.

After riding several spirited parking lot laps alone and without passengers, I can confidently say that I want one! If it were not for the fact that this vehicle would only replace bicycle miles for me, I would likely own one by the end of the week. I have owned and ridden a variety of different motorcycles (and scooters!) over the years, and none of them - regardless of cost - have been as smooth, responsive and as pleasant to pilot as the Vectrix. I searched pretty hard for corners that were cut, and came up empty. This thing is simply stellar in all aspects: design, build and performance. Considering all of this, I find the cost of $11,800 to be a bargain. This is no 25mph scooter that will struggle up hills and need regular maintenance. This is an EV can replace a gasoline car for many (most?) commuters who live in temperate climates. And like most EVs, will be largely maintenance-free. It is freeway capable, with a top speed of 62mph. And while I wouldn't suggest it for any long freeway jaunts, it would be the ideal urban commute vehicle for those who cannot or will not ride a human-powered bike - and who wish to arrive at their destination faster and smelling better. I figure it would cost a couple of dollars a week in "fuel" to commute on this bike. That would probably be over $10 on a gasoline motorcycle. And far more than that in any "car". Add in the maintenance savings, the insurance savings and the planet savings... and this is a slam-dunk commute vehicle. Imagine how easy your parking would be, if nothing else!

While I am personally not all that fond of the laid-back scooter riding position, I'll bet it will appeal to more customers than the sportier riding position that I prefer. While I feel somewhat goofy in the scooter position, I readily admit that this bike it very comfortable to ride.

Not only is the bike comfortable, it is amazingly simple to operate as well. No gears, no clutch... and the really neat trick - you also hardly ever need the brakes! I managed several controlled high-speed stops to zero mph, using nothing but regen (even with two passengers on board). If you pay attention, you only really need the brakes to hold the bike still after it has come to a stop. The regen will stop you every bit as rapidly as you'd want to normally stop. The "throttle" grip has a neutral position, and in this position (it returns here with a spring - on a normal motorcycle, this would be the closed throttle position) there is no power or regen - you are coasting. If you twist the throttle backwards against the spring, you have variable-rate regen. And again - that regen is plenty strong enough for most of your braking needs. It works seamlessly and effortlessly. Need more brakes? The levers are but a centimeter away from both hands. The other trick with that smart throttle grip is that once you are stopped, twisting the grip backwards offers up a variable, gentle reverse - to aid you in backing away from a declined road edge or such. Very handy feature on a bike that will out-weigh just about every rider. This throttle/regeneration/reverse system is called DAaRT.

From completely empty, it takes about three hours for a full charge at 120V. Details: It charges at just under 15 amps for about 3 hours and then levels the batteries at just under 5 amps for 2 hours. You can get about 85% of your charge in under two hours when starting from "empty." The bad news: It has 0.63 amps draw when it is plugged in but NOT charging. This adds up to about 6 KWH for a full charge or 6.5 KWH if you leave it plugged in till morning. An adapter is available to charge from 240V - this will cut the recharge time in half.

Official specs

The rear hub motor and planetary gear stuck directly to the drive wheel. No chain or belt driver. Just a few wires travel down the swing arm out of site. No grease, no adjustment, no maintenance. Going from stop to full throttle or full throttle to compression (regen in this case) is as smooth as can be - no drive line lash as in normal chain-drive bikes. Just liquid motorcycling goodness.

From the front here you can convince yourself that you're riding a motorcycle instead of a scooter. The other views give it away though. BTW, all signal lights except the main headlight are LED. Gets the Darell seal of approval for that alone!

The spaceman with Tansy.

Sally, the intrepid Flatlander reporter goes on a ride with me. In some countries, I think we'd be engaged after this activity. The tightness of the hug was directly proportional to the twist of the throttle. Yes, even with two up ,this thing MOVES.

Bike off, all gauges blank.

Bike in ready mode, but not in "GO" mode. Think of this as the "Aux" position. To get going from here, put the side stand up, hold the left brake lever and tap the right lever. You get a "GO" just to the right of the "ready" in the left gauge pod.

This is during the boot-up sequence. I wasn't actually taking a picture at 62mph. Here you can see the "GO" - as well as every other indicator - lit up. As you can tell, this bike isn't cobbled together with off-the-shelf components. Everything is purpose-buit, and integrated seamlessly.

And finally, the trunk space. There is eyeglass/phone storage up in the front fairing. But back here is the real space. Significant storage is found under the passenber seat - and this is where the 120V charger cord is kept as well.

Batteries low in the fram create a comfortingly low center of gravity.

DAaRT from the Vectrix site.

Other reviews:
LondonBikers (see video at bottom!)
LA Times
SF Chronicle
Stefano's page

What's next up for Vectrix? If all goes well, this electric Super bike that was shown at the Milan Auto Show in November, 2007. Photo credit: Charles Whalen.

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