My friend-in-scooters and fellow Gas2.org writer Jo Borras sent me this nostalgia-pumping link to a Lambretta scooter ad straight from 1962, and I couldn’t stop grinning. The iconic Lambretta, ladies and gentlemen, was created amidst song in a lab clearly made from cardboard and glitter. It’s true; just watch the video.
What a simpler time! In the ’60s, all that was needed to make a sensational new personal vehicle was a song, smoking beakers, and throwing parts of an old scooter into what looks like a large sausage maker. The scientists/engineers/quartet even create the Lambret-twist, a dance move that causes a roomful of hot Italian youth to dance the twist around the scooters.
What’s missing? Well, no serious expressions or dialogue about how to make the Lambretta efficient, environmentally-friendly, or “green,” I suppose. The opening scene shows one scientist belting, “What shall we invent today, Professor?” The professor turns and suggests, helpfully, “Let’s invent the automobile!” “But that’s already been invented!”, cries another scientist, and so on, until they come up with the scooter. They then begin adding tangible qualities like “elegance,” “dynamism,” “geniality,” and “power,” and finally, for good measure, “everything that brings happiness!”
And, isn’t that what a scooter can do for human beings and the environment, in essence? I’ve met very few people who don’t smile when they hear the distinct, zippy buzz of a scooter humming by (disclaimer: I live by Miami Beach, a place made for scooting fun). And forget what MythBusters says about cars being “greener” than motorcycles (some scooters count as such!). They forgot to factor the environmental impact of making more gasoline for cars, and there didn’t seem to be a discussion of the volume of airflow coming from each kind of vehicle.
The world has changed a bit since the mods grew up and stored their Lambrettas; people are looking to go green and save some green. Scooters are one definitely a great way to do it. So, what would Lambretta’s marketers’ have their engineers singing about in an ad in the 21st century (assuming they’d go for some camp)? I guess the could sing that their UNO 140 4-stroke is 100% CARB and EPA compliant, but that seems kind of basic. Considering that Vespa already took the lead with its cute yet informative Vespanomics guide to how riding a Vespa scooter can save the world, they’ve got a way to go. How about an electric Lambretta?
Check! One fine Italian citizen has taken up the cause with his Ecolà, a fully self-built DIY modification of a Lambretta 125 D into an electric scooter. It’s a bit difficult to find much information, but one Richiurci and his friend Giovanni swapped out the old engine for a 1 kW motor. They also created the instrument panel, the homemade controller, and the fiberglass battery cover. It seems they didn’t swap out the lead batteries due to the cost of a Lithium battery. The scoot’s range is about 12 miles, and goes up to 31 mph or so- not too shabby considering the original max was 47 mph. Not bad, for not having any funding, and an electric scooter has zero emissions (not counting the source of electricity). My favorite part? Watch for the theme from “The Neverending Story” at the end of Richiurci’s video. Vespa, you may have been one-upped.