First Ride: 2007 Vectrix Electric Scooter

Saving the planet $11,000 at a time.

2007 Vectrix Electric Scooter - First Ride

2007 Vectrix Electric Scooter - First Ride

Electricity isn’t just for powering your iPod anymore. A quick scan of the electric-powered-vehicle landscape reveals everything from battery-powered golf carts ferrying elder Americans around gated communities to the “Killacycle,” an electric dragbike that can go from 0-60 mph in under a second. Speed and power aren’t the electric vehicle’s Achilles heel anymore; affordability and range are.

Enter Vectrix, a new Rhode Island-based company trying to prove that electric-powered bikes are not only a viable mode of transportation, but also fun, affordable, user-friendly and capable of saving the environment from impending doom. Or at least make the consumer feel like he’s doing something to save the environment from impending doom.

In any case, its first consumer offering is the Vectrix electric scooter, retailing at $10,999. At first glance, the Vectrix looks much like its petrol-powered brethren, but the sum of its parts tells a different story.

Resting below the rider’s legs in an aluminum cradle is a small bank of nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries that powers the 27-hp brushless DC motor mounted in the aluminum swingarm’s rear hoop. The battery pack, weighing-in at approximately 185 pounds, is mounted low in the chassis to keep the rider on top of the center of gravity, which gives a nimble and controllable feel to the bike.

The drivetrain—we’re happy to report—has little drive lash. As electric-powered vehicles deliver 100 percent torque at zero rpm, e-bikes often wrench on their final drive, causing jerky power delivery. The Vectrix exhibits little of this, thanks to a couple of steps. First, the motor is actually attached to the rear hub itself, thus reducing the number of moving parts; second, the Vectrix’s software applies a progressive power curve to the torque delivery. It’s not as quick off the line as it might otherwise be, but definitely smooth.

A fully charged battery will get you about 68 miles of range, says Vectrix, under ideal conditions (straight and level, about 25 mph). In the real world of hills and traffic and brief full-speed blasts on the freeway, figure about 40 miles tops before you have to find a wall socket—and the last 10 miles will be in power-saving “limp-home” mode. Top speed on a full battery is electronically limited to an indicated 62 mph—it takes approximately 8 seconds to get there.

It’s in the slowing where the Vectrix really shows its advanced electronics. Rolling the twistgrip forward from its neutral position reverses the motor’s polarity and initiates “regenerative” braking, which slows the bike and recharges the batteries. Toward the end of the test, I rarely touched the Brembo brakes in an effort to get the maximum life out of a charge. Vectrix claims using regen can recoup as much as 12 percent of the charge.

The comfortable seat sits an average-sized rider below the top of the windscreen, safe from high-speed buffeting. There is more than enough room for two on the seat, but increased loads reduce battery life and result in shorter range.

While “early adopters” of new—and especially Green—technology are typically price-blind, at $11,000 the Vectrix isn’t inexpensive transportation. But, hey, no one said that saving the planet was going to be cheap.

Sound Off! What would it take to get you to buy an electric motorcycle.

Other than the regenerative throttle, controls are standard equipment.

Cool LED brakelights illuminate even when regenerative braking is applied.

A better look at the motor/drive train combo.

Vectrix Sport Motorcycle Concept debuted at the 2007 Milan EICMA show and promises big performance.

Cockpit is comfortable and boasts standard scooter fare: angular styling, sleek components and a glovebox to boot!

No footpegs to drag here; the first thing to make contact with tarmac is the lowest part of the fairing below the rider?s foot.

Charging cord comes directly out of the underseat storage compartment, which boasts plenty of room for a helmet?or maybe that spare fully charged NiMH battery you just have lying around.

Blue LCD gauges are user-friendly and very visible in low-light conditions.

The nickel-metal-hydride battery is good for approximately 1700 full charging cycles. Vectrix estimates that the average user should get approximately 10-15 years out of the battery. Good thing as current replacement bill is $4000!

Multiple fans control the heat that cycling batteries produce. The frame is constructed of aluminum and feels very rigid and responsive.

Brembo brakes bring you to a stop while Sachs rear shocks soak up the bumps.

A brushless DC motor mounts directly to the single-stage planetary gearbox on the rear wheel.

Battery levels are monitored by this LCD gauge.

Electronic Control System is the brain to the battery?s brawn. Electronics control the power delivery and reduce drive lash through proprietary software that curves power delivery much like a conventional fuel-powered engine.

As demonstrated here, sharp lean angles aren?t a problem. The low-slung battery pack keeps the CG low.

A 500-pound dry weight sounds heavy, but the Vectrix feels light and well-proportioned while operating.