VESPA ELETTRICA HEADED TO USA

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. Vespa-Elettrica-2019-USA_front

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.

Vespa-Elettrica-2019-USA-side

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.

Vespa-Elettrica-2019-USA-dash

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.
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