Several manufacturers from different countries are trying to popularize the electric scooter, while the big Japanese and European makers of gas-powered scooters are sitting on the fence, waiting…
Scooters are the perfect transportation for short distance commutes and urban living. With the engine placed on their rear axle and with their bodywork that conceals all the mechanicals, they seem ideal for an electric motorization.
Scooters are very popular in Europe and in Asia, not so much in America. According to Navigant Research, only 2000 electric motorcycles and scooters combined were sold in the USA in 2012. For 2013, Navigant Research estimates that 12 million e-scooters were sold all over the world. In China alone, 9.4 million were sold, and only 31,338 outside the Asia-Pacific region.
In China, electric scooters equipped with lead-acid batteries are competitively priced with gas scooters. Not so in the rest of the world, where most modern electric scooters have lithium batteries and are much more expensive than the gas-powered ones.
Modern electric scooters are mostly from the 50cc-equivalent category. They have usually a 3 kW electric motor and a 2 kWh lithium battery, which gives them a max range of around 50 miles and a top speed of 30 mph. Cost: around $5,000
The 125cc-equivalent category is growing slowly. They usually have a 3 or 4 kWh lithium battery and a 7 kW electric motor. Their range is about 50 miles, with a top speed of 50 mph. Cost: over $8,000
Who is leading this new market? If you believe Navigant Research, it is the Chinese Jiangsu Xinri E-Vehicle Co., ahead of the Australian firm VMoto, the Japanese Terra Motors, the Taiwanese SYM Motors and the German Govecs. Sadly, the only American company on the list, Vectrix, is no longer. There are a few smaller American firms left that mostly import models from China.
The well-known gas scooter makers like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Piaggio have all presented several electric scooters at trade shows, but with no firm distribution date. Honda and Suzuki have even shown fuel cell powered scooters… What are they waiting for?
This category of electric vehicles has a huge potential here in America. But we need a leading manufacturer, with great products and great marketing. Please Tesla, can you make scooters?