Electric scooters are an elusive breed in the wild, rarely seen outside of trade shows or leaked concept sketches. Their often unintuitive names, sky-high prices and modest ranges keep them from comparisons with their petrol-powered brethren, and in a market dominated by Chinese lightweights and classic Vespas, electrics have a long way to go before they are considered mainstream alternatives. So it was something of an event when, in an unassuming small city in southwest England, I spotted a noiseless and incredibly striking creature that looked like the progeny of my own Honda PCX and BMW’s electric C Evolution.
I have since learned that the Vectrix is in some ways a typical electric scooter; it’s expensive, in the region of £9,000-£10,000, with a range of around 85 miles and a charge-up time of 4-6 hours. It weighs in at 205kg and 0-60mph takes about 6 seconds – which isn’t half bad – but it tops out at about 65.
The VX does, however, have some nifty and even persuasive features, including Brembo brakes, Pirelli tyres, and a regenerative braking system to help recharge the battery, which apparently has a 10-year lifespan. The motor and transmission are housed in the swingarm, and the only thing that ever needs servicing is the fluid in the planetary gear drive: less than £10 and 2 hours of labor every 200,000 miles. The chassis comes courtesy of aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin, and reports indicate that the VX-1 Li’s predecessor, the VX-1, was composed of roughly 250 parts - minuscule even by scooter standards. No word on the VX-1 Li’s part count, though I can’t imagine it would be all that different.
There’s no doubt that Vectrix as a company is deadly serious about their work; they’ve been at it since the mid 90s, and the first VX-1 was released in 2007 after $50 million in investment. Their 2009 bankruptcy in the midst of the credit crisis was almost cliche for a company in their position. Everyone was laid off and the products were shelved, with any recently-gained customers left entirely without support. Luckily, they were bought up later that year – by a company that is coincidentally a prodigious battery manufacturer – and rebuilt throughout 2010 with new and old hires alike, and they emerged stronger and on safer financial footing. They have since released a tiny and cheap(er) entry-level electric, the VX-2, and the updated VX-1 Li+, and now it look towards the VX-3, a three-wheeled scooter that I have my doubts about, but looks rather cool.
All in all, signs are good for Vectrix, and the spotted VX-1 Li seemed remarkably at home tootling about town. Things are even looking up in the US, with the NYPD as the company’s latest bulk customer, following Las Vegas’ own police department’s purchase of 7 machines in 2011.
Of course, as long as I can get the same performance out of my £2,300 PCX, I won’t look twice at the price tag on a VX-1 (though it’s worth noting that my old CG125 cost 5.6 pence per mile in fuel, versus the VX-1′s single penny). But for those with the finances and sense of adventure – even risk – to ride at the cutting edge of emerging transport technologies, the VX-1 Li is an attractive proposal.
It might even be fun: