Vespa turns electric

November 17, 2016 | 01:49
Vespa turns electric
Vespa turns electric
The Italian Vespa scooter with its familiar putt-putt two-stroke engine is a style icon which has starred in many classic films based in Italy. Now Piaggio, the parent company has announced an electric version, the Vespa Elettrica which should be in dealer’s showrooms by the second half of 2017.

The recent announcement of the all-electric GM Bolt car has made it clear that Tesla is not the only serious player in town. The Bolt has a quoted range of 230 miles (380 km) from a single 9.5 hr charge from a 32 A, 240 V outlet. At $ 38,000 this GM electric mid-range car is not only seriously practical, but also real competition for the American e-car pioneer which sports a big T on its radiator grille. Production of the Bolt has already begun (in small numbers) so it should hit the market sooner than the upcoming Tesla 3.

Slowly the electrification of private vehicles is gaining traction as technology improves but what is surprising, at least in Europe is the poor uptake of two-wheeled electric vehicles. In China, cheap electrical scooters are now becoming popular which will help reduce the choking smog afflicting newly industrialized towns and cities. In the summertime pollution from the oil-burning two-stroke scooters spreads to many other regions, carried by westerly winds and there are even a few models of four-stroke powered vehicles which do not have catalytic converters.  In the West the pollution contributed by such a small number of two-strokes is considered irrelevant. That may be true but still no excuse for making polluting engines.

For scooters and similar two-wheelers the issue of range anxiety is secondary. The typical teenage rider will not be planning long distance journeys on a Vespa.  For the young, a scooter is generally a run-around for the period before they qualify for a car license and older riders may use them for short summer jaunts or to dash into town. In most cases a range of 50 km will be more than enough while 100 km would give added peace of mind. It’s good that such an established and well-respected manufacturer has at last after 70 years in production, introduced a radical new design although technical details of the Vespa Elettrica are thin on the ground. It still remains to be seen whether the quiet purr of the engine will get today’s actors as excited as Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were by the original smelly two-stroke.
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