Opinion: Not ready for an electric car? Get an electric scooter

Last week I was at Dell’s Annual Analyst Conference, but the product at the event I most wanted wasn’t a desktop, laptop, a tablet or even a smartphone. It was a scooter. It turns out that Dell had actually helped create Current Motor’s electric Super Scooter.

What makes this particular scooter unique is that it both uses a hub motor, and was designed to use vehicle wraps instead of paint. That last point is something that I think the car industry will eventually adapt as well. Wraps have a number of advantages over paint, yet outside of advertising, you rarely see them used. Current Motors is the first manufacturer I’ve seen use this capability.

I’ve been following electric vehicles for some time, but for now, I think electric scooters and bikes (I have two) make far more sense than electric cars do. Let’s take a look at why, then take a closer look at Current Motor’s M Electric.

 Why electric scooters make more sense than electric cars

Right now, electric cars make little sense because the charging infrastructure for them just doesn’t yet exist, and charging mid-trip is problematic. Electric vehicles are the opposite of their gas-powered equivalents in terms of where they’re best used: They are less efficient at speed on freeways, and more efficient in city stop-and-go driving. Why? The faster you go in an electric car, the more current per mile you consume, because they don’t have transmissions, which help make gas cars more efficient at freeway speeds.

So electric vehicles are best for short hops, or lots of traffic. Coincidentally, this is where motorcycles and scooters tend to stand out, because they can maneuver through traffic (lane splitting) and are far easier to park in cities. In addition, electric cars are pretty pricy, typically costing at least $30,000, yet still making major sacrifices in terms of range, performance, and other amenities. Good electric motorcycles and scooters typically cost under $12,000, and since these vehicles rarely have many amenities anyway, there’s not much to sacrifice compared to the gas equivalent.

For instance, electric cars like the Tesla S tend to be relatively noisy compared to gas-powered cars because they omit insulation to keep weight down. Bikes are open air, and tend to be noisy to begin with; electrics are almost silent in comparison. Granted, the deep rumble of a Harley is sought after, but scooter buyers aren’t exactly Harley types. Gas scooters try to be quiet, but electrics start out nearly silent.

So what works against electric cars actually seems to benefit electric scooters, largely because they are used in very different ways, and what is left off the electric cars is mostly never put on a bike or scooter.

 Current Motors Super Scooter

This takes us to the Super Scooter, which is a relatively unique offering in the market. It uses a hub motor very similar to (but much more powerful than) the motors I have in my E+ Electric Bicycles, about five times the power actually. A hub motor is rare in a high-performance scooter or motorcycle — most use a centrally mounted motor connected to the rear wheel with a chain drive. The advantage to a hub motor is that it is simpler and far quieter. The noise that you get from a typical bike or scooter that uses a chain comes from the chain, and regenerative braking (which recharges the battery as you come to a stop) can be more difficult to implement, because manufacturers tend to use a freewheeling hubs. You want regenerative breaking because it gives you far more range, particularly in the high-traffic conditions that these things are best at.

However the really cool feature is that this is the first time I’ve seen vehicle wraps used as a paint alternative by a vehicle manufacturer. If you haven’t checked into them, wraps not only can look nearly as good as custom paint, you can get finishes you just can’t get with paint, like purple chrome. (These are huge in Europe where they wrap high end cars in gold and chrome.) And you can wrap your helmet to match!

The other nice thing about wraps is that if you change your mind on the color, it is a fraction of the cost of new paint to change the color of your vehicle. Oh and wraps, which are similar in material to the clear bra (which I put on all my cars) are much more resistant to scratches and dings. The fact they aren’t used more widely showcases how slow industries adjust to new and potentially better technologies.

 Going electric

It is kind of amazing that Dell of all companies helped actually create this scooter. After all, it uses a technology, vehicle wraps, that you’d think HP (which leads in printers) would be driving into the market instead. At Dell’s event, the goal was to showcase a very different company. Helping build a unique vehicle likely showcases that difference.

In the end, I’m one of those folks who actually believe that getting off fossil fuels is a good idea for the nation, and that initially, bikes and scooters are the better way to do this. So suddenly I’m a fan of Current Motors, go figure?

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

[Parking lot image courtesy of Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock]  

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