Published on August 24th, 2009 | by Jo Borrás
Electric Lambretta? Brilliant!
EV manufacturer Wheego has placed the ad above in this month’s issue of Scoot! Magazine, asking “the scootering community” to weigh-in on the concept of an electric Lambretta GP under the tagline “Brilliance or Sacrilege?”
You’ve seen the title, so you know my vote already – but there’s more to it than that. My top 5 reasons a new electric GP200 from Wheego would be the brilliant-est EV ambassador since Tesla’s Roadster after the jump.
TOP FIVE REASONS AN ELECTRIC LAMBRETTA WOULD BE BRILLIANT
1. Scooters Aren’t a Symbol of Transcontinental Freedom
For the past hundred years (give or take), the automobile has represented freedom to many Americans. The freedom to travel down the street, or across the country, for a few dollars’ worth of gas might never be realized, but it is there. There, if you need it – and that, more than anything else, is the biggest objection to owning an electric car: limited range.
Yeah, yeah – I know. Most people only travel a few miles each day, and may never want or need to go any further than an EV or extended-range hybrid is able to take them, but that doesn’t matter. Ideas are powerful things, and the idea of freedom is what has given the ICE automobile its staying power.
Scooters, however, are not cars.
Even the most avid scooterists would think twice about going even 40 miles on a scooter (I’ve owned almost a dozen scooters and mopeds, so feel fairly comfortable speaking for this group). Scooters are second, maybe even third vehicles that exist for brisk commutes, quick errands, and the occasional “decompression” ride. In other words: limited range is not a problem for scooters.
2. Scooters Don’t Need Speed
Cars, in order to be seen as “real cars”, need to be highway-capable. Highway-capable, in most states, means the car has to be able to comfortably cruise at 70 mph. Scooters, in a word, don’t.
To be clear, I should probably write that scooters don’t need much speed. 45-50 mph is usually plenty of top-end for a commuting scooterist, which can be achieved with as few as 50 buzzy little cc’s of displacement, if you’ve got your scoot tuned right.
No, what scooterists need is acceleration … and the the instant-on nature of electric motors, which deliver 100% of their available torque from 0 rpm on, is a perfect match for a vehicle that needs to “scoot” out into traffic and dart in between lanes to avoid obstacles. An electric drive-train suits scooters perfectly.
3. Lambrettas are Gorgeous
Electric vehicles, even impossibly slick creations like the Chevy Volt or EV1 or Tesla Roadster, look a bit … different. No matter how polished, many green cars adhere to a similar design aesthetic that fairly shouts “Look at me! I’m saving the Earth!” Some people don’t want that kind of attention, no matter how much they care.
Everyone (close enough), however, wants to look good – and vintage Italian scooters have been looking good since Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck took one on a Roman Holiday. While often overshadowed by the more famous (and commercially successful) Vespa brand, the Lambrettas maintain a classic style and just a touch of “outsider” status. In short: vintage scooters are cool.
4. Lambrettas are Made of Steel
Most modern scooters – and electric cars! – have bodies made of “advanced” plastics and composite materials, many of which are not easily recyclable or bio-degradable. Many modern automotive plastics are even petroleum based, which seems counter-intuitive when you’re talking about an EV.
Lambrettas are steel-bodied scooters made from easily recyclable materials, such that it wouldn’t take much to ensure that each Lambretta is almost fully recyclable. The scoots themselves could even be made primarily from recycled metals (what else are they going to do with all those “clunkers”!?).
5. Electric Scooters Will be More Affordable Than Electric Cars
When I was a broke college student, it was hard for me to justify buying a $3800 Dodge Neon. It got great mileage and blew cold (cool?) air, but it was a huge stretch for me, and – to be quite honest – I could only really afford it because my dad helped by pitching in about $3800 (give or take). Back then, it was a simple matter of economics: no matter how badly I may have wanted one, a new EV was simply not an option for me.
An electric scooter, though? Something I could have bought for a few grand that could get me to school, to work, and back home without burning an ounce of gas? Now that would have been ideal! Throw in a 12 month warranty and you would have won over half a dozen of my friends, as well!
If Wheego can build this thing for less than the price of a beater Neon or Chevy Cavalier, I think they have a slick, cool, fun, and affordable EV that could find real mainstream acceptance …
… now let’s just hope they decide to build it!
CLICK HERE to email Wheego and tell them to build the GP200e electric Lambretta!
Image Credits: Wheego ad (from Scoot!) and Lambretta (Innocenti sales brochure, 1971).