August 27, 2018
PRODUCTION STARTS IN SPRING 2019
Back in November Vespa showed off an all electric concept scooter called the Elettrica at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan. Now today Vespa has announced they are taking this model to production, with the first examples rolling off the production line in September.
Production will be slow to start, but Vespa hopes to start deliveries in November. Interestingly, Vespa has announced that they are going to sell this model worldwide including the USA, with sales starting there in spring 2019. Thus it will become the first small electric scooter in North America from one of the major brands, as previous electrics from BMW and Vectrix have been larger maxiscooters.
Vespa has equipped the Elettrica with an engine that offers 4 kW peak power (5.4 horsepower) and 2 kW (2.7 horsepower) sustained. That might sound firmly in 50cc territory, but this scooter should be quick off the line because electric torque is instant and abundant. The Elettrica boasts an incredible 148 ft-lbs - more than any other scooter today. For reference, a Suzuki Burgman 650 offers a mere 46 ft-lbs. That specification seems hard to believe, but if true, should be a maniacal wheelie machine. Perhaps their spec is crank torque before it is reduced by the final gear ratios, but still it’s going to leap off the line.
Top speed is not announced, but I expect a peak velocity in the 40 - 45 mph range, similar to a typical 50cc. Anything higher would eat through the range much quicker and thus require more of the expensive batteries, but Vespa is hoping to keep this model semi-affordable. For the first year at least, the range is rated at 62 miles (100 km).
Vespa is also going to offer the scooter in a restricted “Eco” version that is likely being designed to meet e-Bike regulations to compete with the growing popularity of that niche. This approach seems misguided, as it’s hard to imagine there are a lot of folks wanting an e-Bike to save on insurance/registration costs, yet also willing to pay thousands more for a Vespa branded one. Then again, fewer young folks are getting drivers licences these days, and Vespa might make it easy to derestrict these models, so outlaw owners might get the best of both worlds.
A final version is the Elettrica X, which features a gas generator to extend the range. That sounds good, but I don’t think this version is a wise choice since you give up a lot of electric range (31 miles versus 60) and accept the added weight and hassle of a gas engine. Since Vespa seems to be putting together a city oriented machine, it’s hard to imagine that 60 miles won’t be enough so it seems best to just keep things simple and take the longer range model. A range extended version would made more sense if the top speed was high enough to be reasonable for road tripping, such that a gas generator would enable that compared to the slow charging times of the battery.
Charging times for the Elettrica are 4 hours, which is okay. That’s about as good as you can do on a normal plug, but you could do much faster at a DC fast charging station like electric cars use, if Vespa had designed for this. However with a urban top speed of 45 mph, you should have enough range to get you through the day anyways. Hopefully someday soon we’ll soon see updated versions that work with DC fast charging stations. Most likely we’ll see that once batteries are cheap enough to use in higher speed models.
Battery life is spec’d at about 35,000 miles (60,000 kms) or 10 years, which seems alright. A replacement would likely be cheap by that point in time anyways.
Three years ago I wrote about the coming tide of electric scooters. In that piece I suggested that a winning electric scooter would boats 45 mph top speed, 60 miles of range and a 20 minute charge time. Vespa looks like they’ve achieved two of these three criteria which should make for a compelling city scooter. Hopefully they can continue to improve those metrics while reducing the charging time to create a road trip worthy machine.
The cost of the Elettrica is unannounced, but Vespa says it will be similar to their other models. Since the Elettrica seems targeted at the 50cc niche, I’m expecting an MSRP around $4000 USD but they could surprise with a much higher price.
April 10, 2018
2019 PCX150 OFFERS NEW FRAME, BODYWORK AND LCD DISPLAY
Honda has announced a new generation of their popular PCX 150 for 2019, which will be arriving in the USA in July. The new PCX features a new frame, new body work, an updated motor, tweaks to the tires, brakes and suspension, and a nice LCD instrument panel. Honda claims the new PCX offers a premium feel and improved handling.
Most notably, the new 2019 PCX150 boasts a new frame and body work. On first glance, it looks similar to the previous model, but when you look closer it becomes clear that major changes have occurred. Indeed, all the body work is new. While the lines are a similar, they’ve been refreshed throughout to be a little more curvy, such as the rear flanks. Actually, the new body style has been taken from the electric version of the PCX that Honda unveiled this past November at the Tokyo Auto Show.
Honda says the new frame adds stability and saves a bit of weight but not much as it’s still steel. Also saving a little weight is the new 8 spoke rims, which look nice in a dark grey. In total, the 2019 PCX150 comes in 6 lbs lighter at 289 lbs wet weight.
While the core motor is carrying over for 2019, it has been heavily updated. It actually loses a little displacement because the bore has been reduced by 0.7mm, so displacement is now 149cc (from 153cc). However, top end power is said to be increased via a new freer flowing intake, air filter and exhaust. The new power specs are 13.3 HP at 8500 RPM and 10.3 ft-lbs of torque at 5000 RPM, which is actually identical to the power specs of the outgoing PCX except for a 0.1 decline in horsepower, so we’ll have to trust Honda that the power peak has been broadened.
The brakes and suspension are mostly carrying over. The brakes look to be identical for 2019, except for optional ABS on the front wheel (only) for an extra $300. The front suspension returns unchanged, while the rear suspension gets new springs, 0.2” more travel, and the shocks get mounted back a few inches for improved stability.
A big part of Honda’s claim of improved handling likes come from the tires, which grow wider for 2019. The front tire moves 10mm wider to 100/80-14 (from 90/90-14), while the rear tire becomes 20mm wider (120/70-14 instead of 100/90-14). That probably offsets Honda’s weight savings elsewhere, but should improve braking and handling.
In terms of features and amenities, Honda has eeked out an extra liter of under seat storage (now 28), and switched to a nice LCD instrument panel. Honda is also claiming the PCX has all LED lighting, but the outgoing model already had LED headlights and brake lights, so maybe it’s just the signals that have been updated.
The 2019 PCX150 is slated to arrive in USA showrooms in July. Pricing is up $100 for 2019 to $3699, unless you want that front wheel ABS for an additional $300.
Overseas they get numerous color options including the awesome matte black shown below, but colors in the USA are limited to just one option for 2019 - the “Bright Bronze Metallic” shown above. For full details on the PCX including prior generations, check out the PCX page.
November 11, 2017
NEW ELECTRICS AND A SMALL BMW
Each year the Japanese and European scooter manufacturers unveil new concept and production scooters at the Tokyo and Milan (EICMA) motorcycle shows. These shows occur at almost the same time, so it’s the peak time of year for scooter news.
Thankfully 2017 did not disappoint with interesting concept and production machines from a wide range of OEMs. Notable machines this year were electric scooters from Vespa and Honda that are actually headed on sale, new maxiscooters from BMW, SYM and Kymco, and some vintage nostalgia courtesy of Honda (CC110) and Lambretta (V-Special)
Vespa displayed an electric version of their Primavera last year called the Elettrica, but it was a non-functional concept. This year Vespa returned with a fully developed Elettrica they actually plan to start producing next year. Vespa is claiming they are going to sell this new scooter in many markets, so we’ll see where it winds up and if they’re serious.
The Elettrica puts out 4kW of peak power (5.35 horsepower) but can only do 2 kW on a sustained basis, so the power is comparable to a 50cc but the cruising speed probably isn’t quite there. Vespa hasn’t disclosed the battery size, but they did say the range is 100km (62 miles), so we expect that comes from a battery size around 5kWh.
Vespa has designed this scooter for faster speed “level 2” charging, but not ultra fast charging, so it still takes 4 hours at best (and probably 8-12 hours at home). If you’re worried about the range, Vespa is also going to produce a “range extended” version with an on-board gas generator to charge the batteries called the Elettrica X. Mostly likely this version will make an already expensive scooter even more pricey.
HONDA PCX ELECTRIC
Honda is also going to start producing a serious electric scooter. They revised their popular PCX design to come up an electric version that is uncreatively called…..the PCX Electric. Unfortunately Honda hasn’t started with a clean sheet design here, so they’ve had to stuff the batteries in under the seat which cuts the storage space.
Honda has actually teamed up with Yamaha on the battery side of this, so they’re using standardized and swappable batteries that are supposed to be compatible with a range of Honda and Yamaha machines in the years to come. We’ve been skeptical of battery swapping here in the past - particularly when it’s mandatory like Gogoro who disallows home charging - because people like to own all of their scooter. Having the option to swap is fine, as long as manufacturers work towards faster charging as well.
Honda hasn’t released any specs on the PCX Electric yet, but they do claim it’ll go on sale in Asia next year. They’re also prepping a hybrid version of the PCX, which is basically the regular PCX plus regenerative braking and a small battery to store the regenerated electrons. The PCX Hybrid cleverly uses the starter motor to deploy the regenerated power.
BMW unveiled a sweet looking and production ready new scooter called the C400X. Despite the C400X name, this adventure maxi-scooter is actually a 350cc. So it’s quite a bit smaller than BMW’s other C series models and hopefully quite a bit lower cost as well.
BMW has released all the specs for this machine, so we know it’s a 450 lbs, single cylinder scooter with a peak output of 34 horsepower @7500 RPM (that’s 4 HP more than the new Burgman 400) and an 86 mph top speed. The C400X also has standard ABS, traction control and dual 270mm disc brakes up front. Full info here.
The styling is reminiscent of the larger C series models, but it also has an adventure scooter look to it. BMW seems pretty serious with this model as they’ve already announced it will arrive in Canada and the USA in spring 2018.OTHER NEW SCOOTERS
A few other noteworthy scooters this year including the new Lambretta V-Special (above), which is being launched in 50cc, 125cc and 150cc sizes which is a SYM based scooter built in collaboration with the Lambretta Consortium. There’s also a nice looking 465cc maxi from SYM called the MaxSym TL and an interesting 550cc adventure scooter from Kymco called the AK550. Finally, Honda unveiled several new variants of their Cub at the Tokyo show, including the handsome CC110.