Want to pay your own attention to the environment and avoid petrol pumps, road tax and congestion charges? Try one of these electric mopeds.
Vehicle wheel and machine
The epidemic has brought about a seismic shift in how we travel and where we travel. Our regular routines are interrupted and we are looking at alternative ways of travelling while we are still out and about looking for our feet (and wheels).
The meteoric rise (and success) of the pedal electric bike is now cheating on consumer mopeds and scooters: petrol pumps, zero-emissions bikes for modern customers eager to avoid road taxes and city inner-city traffic.
WIRED has chosen a set of electric mopeds across the spectrum, all of which are generally suitable for travel and urban riding. All come under 50cc (equivalent) engine size, and all share a modest top speed (up to 28mph) and range. Prospective riders will need a pre-2001 car licence to pilot without L plates and can take a pillion passenger. Riders with a post-2001 licence or a temporary licence must take a one-day motorbike CBT (compulsory basic training) course before slinging one foot. WIRED took the course and heartily recommends all riders take it regardless.
WIRED tested the bikes on various trips to central London and 5 miles (8km) from east London to the busy West End, with and without pillion passengers. All batteries are charged in the home atmosphere.
Electric mopeds are exempt from UK road tax (VED), London ULEZ and congestion fees, so after the initial cost of the bike, insurance becomes a big cost for riders – at least for the first year (when any claim is reduced by the following premiums). Bikes have been secured using the WIRED Kryptonite FagetBuild Chain and angle-grinder-proof Hiplok D1000.
The pleasant electric powered mopeds to experience in 2022
Wired Recommendations: The low-cost, lightweight runabout from the Italian bike giant sets a new benchmark for modern urban travel.
It is very plastic. It’s so small … Does it just cost too much? Whatever our first impressions, the Piaggio 1 (£ 2,500) looks like a true game changer for both Europe’s largest bike manufacturer and the entire e-bike market. It is a small electric moped with a removable battery that comes in at just over £ 2K. Yes, it costs less than many regular e-pedal bikes – and all of WIRED’s best electric bikes for travel editing. 1 is available in three models: 1 (a 50cc moped equivalent), 1+ (with increased battery capacity) and Beefier 1 Active (125cc scooter equivalent).
Jumping at the Piaggio, you straight away understand how small and occasional the seat is. It is seventy seven cm high. Standover is great for high-rise inspiring confidence, not so good for very tall riders. The saddle is quite comfortable and modest in size but accommodates passengers (again, medium sized). WIRED has made many trips around the city, with the adult comfort pillion. Yes, tight manoeuvrability is easy to ‘top up’ in heavy traffic, but even with the size of the bike, those movements are good weight and predictable.
Keyless Phoebe unlocks the bike and brings to life a 5.5-inch colour LCD display (think of a shrinking Tesla control unit for teens). You toggle through the three riding modes with the handlebar mounted button. Environment for battery saving riding in heavy traffic at moderate speeds (up to 18mph / 30kph). With a modest speed of 40 kph (Piaggio 1) or 60kph (1 Active), the sport is the perfect mode for all riders at all times. Finally, reverse mode. Select this to run the bike for parking. The Piaggio 1 is very lightweight compared to the regular 125cc scooter, but you never have to bother with it.
All of this motion is powered by a 1.2kW rear hub mounted motor (2kW on the Active), which opens up the storage under the seat for an open-face helmet. The motor is powered by a removable (bread-sized) lithium-ion battery. Open the seat, take it out and plug in the main charger for a full 6 hour charge from the empty. In addition to freeing riders from the need for those terrible trailing charging cables or off-street parking, the bike is very difficult to steal (no power source). The company claims that the battery is better for 800 cycles, at which point the charge will drop to about 70% of the new capacity. If you are using a bike for travel you can certainly charge at work and at home.
There is nothing like the first impression on the road. Silence. Complete silence. There is virtually no hum from the motor and the acceleration is as smooth as butter. Get ready to use the horn more than usual to inform pedestrians that the bike is coming. The experience is awkwardly quiet and there is a significant difference in vibration and noise from a modest-sized petrol scooter.
So who is the bike really for? The rider is looking for a clean, easy-to-charge zero-emissions bike. City-locked riders with modest speeds of up to 30mph (40kph) are delighted. Riders will find a lighter, simpler introduction to motorbikes with a limited range, regardless of whether or not they fit that gen Z demographic. Either riders want to take a long trip of 30 miles or riders handle roads with speeds exceeding 30 mph … keep moving …
Piaggio One: £ 2,500 (£ 2,011 with UK EV Grant) | Piaggio
Piaggio One Active: £ 3,000 (£ 2,411 with UK EV grant) | Piaggio
High-end traditional scooter style
Elettrica (from £ 5,480) is an electric moped that looks and feels like a ‘real’ moped. It is Vespa-sized, Vespa-weighted, and jumping on the bike feels like a normal Vespa. The styling matches the brand’s classic Primavera model, with the main body panels in a choice of silver and six accent colours – the Azuro Eletrico ‘Eco’ blue piping subtly suggests, ‘Yes, I drive an electric scooter’.
As soon as you put the bike in drive mode, everything changes. Nothing that Vespa Physical Patrol Engine Feel or Vespa Patrol Noise … but, in the best way. Elettrica is quiet, not as close to ‘quiet’ as Piaggio 1, but close. Gungu is more than a whisper. The pedestal accustomed to the shape and sound of that regular Vespa is surprisingly quiet.
WIRED tested the Elettrica 45kph (30mph), the most modest of the two bikes in the range and the 50cc equivalent; it can ride on a regular UK driver’s licence. Where the Elettrica fits into the city as a 1 is that modest top speed is not a problem – usually the less lively acceleration (in the 20s and 30mph zones) actually represents the speed-ticket saving quality. Constant acceleration gave us a few moments where we backed off from overtaking, knowing that at the last moment there was no ‘wumph’.
Come stop the bike and you’ll notice the Elettrica weighs 130kg now. This is not unusual weight for the bike, but it is 15kg more than the ‘equivalent’ petrol Vespa Primavera and 45kg more than the Piaggio 1 (also reviewed here). On the road, it manifests itself in sturdy and upright handling, but it is noticeable when stopping or lifting a bike.
Charging Elettrica is a different experience for the Piaggio 1 and Osa Cake, which includes an integrated coil charging lead and plug. It is smart and well designed, but literally attaches the bike to the ‘close to home’ parking lot. It’s a clean and fussy solution, but with a new generation of mopeds using removable batteries and now joining the Piaggio Global Alliance for replaceable battery quality, KTM, Honda and Yamaha, we’re not surprised to see it all. -Motorbikes adopt more future-resistant removable battery quality.
The Elettrica is the ideal bike for riders looking for a classic, classic Vespa style and build-quality, but with the weather-conscious sophistication of an emission-free ride. This is a superior product, ideal for anyone who has access to a ‘tethered’ charging point near home (or work), rather than a rider looking for high value or home-charging capability.
Price: From £ 5,480 (£ 4,295 with UK EV grant) | Vespa
Cake Osa +
Ingenious versatility and this is to love or dislike industrial beauty
The pleasant electric powered mopeds to experience in 2022
If the Piaggio 1 first looks like a big toy and the Vespa Elettrica looks like a regular scooter, the Cake Osa + (from € 8,500), looks more… okay, like … any bike we’ve seen. Part science project, part science fiction cake is a clever bit of Swedish engineering that is strangely innovative. The real Marmite aesthetics here.
The cake’s Osa + is billed as an end-performance utility bike and is hard to argue with. The custom aluminium frame cradles most microwave-sized powerpacks (more on that later) and modular accessories can be mixed and matched to the ‘UniBar’ toptube with intelligent proprietary Quick Release Clamp. This flexibility of construction really makes the Osa + a Swiss army-knife of motorbikes. A cinch is the addition of a camping kit, racks for surfboards, a tool kit and platforms to pick up baskets. Just one problem with this ingenious solution. Someone might even want to close it.
WIRED has tested bikes in the central London environment and we suggest that riders who want to keep the kit on their bikes may want to look for anti-theft bicycle solutions such as locking quick release systems and ball-bearing filled hex-bolts for long lasting peace. The mind. That huge powerpack (with a replacement value of € 3,500) is also easily removable and is only safe to bike with a Velcro strap – so we remove it from the bike at night (for charging), or lock it to the frame (with a carrying handle) when parked on the street.
You don’t even need a key, not even a fob to start Osa +. Simply turn on the battery, flip the handle-bar ‘Kill Switch’ and press the button on the display. You will then be asked for a three-digit security code. From this factor you’ve got the choice of choosing 3 riding modes and braking modes. Driving mode 1 is ideal for heavy traffic and limits acceleration and speed to 19mph (30kmph). Mode 2 increases acceleration and extends the maximum speed to 30mph (45kph). Selecting Mode 3 further enhances the catalyst for that ‘off the’ lights’ power boost. Braking Modes 1. Toggle between zero regenerative braking (bike freewheels when throttle is released – 2. Motor braking is activated when you release the throttle for constant acceleration.
The 4kw motor powers the traditional Spock motorbike style wheel with the Silent Gates belt drive, keeping the drivetrain cleaner and quieter than the regular chain. The regular battery will power you for a range of approximately 40 miles, which is about 65 miles, depending on the rider’s weight and riding style. Full charge time from zero to muted is 3 hours. The smartest feature of the battery is that it is really a ‘power pack’ and you can use anything that plugs into a 5v outlet, such as phones, tablets, or laptops, speakers, etc. Perfect for setting up remote working really.
Riding the cake is fun, fun, fun. The grin-inducing acceleration has a ‘real’ motorbike feel and with the option of Ride Mode 3 exhausting power at just 28mph, you’ll get 28mph in just 2 seconds (depending on your weight). On the road you usually beat 125cc bikes with lights (until you reach maximum speed!) Giving you the confidence to hold your seat around the city. That torque equates to a head and shoulder ride experience over the competition, making the bike a lot of fun to ride.
Price: € 8,500 | Cake
Super Soco CUx
A lightweight, easy-to-park bike for small riders
The Super Soco (from £ 2,699) takes Dinky, the high plastic beauty to another level. This really small mini-moped is the perfect bike for small and lightweight riders, or just-bit-too-dinky for normal-sized adults. Yes, CUx takes one passenger (it turns out footrests) but carrying a pillion around the city means a lot of ‘Budge Up!’ And ‘Will you not give me a little more space?’ Conversations. At 70kg it is the weight of the Soco test feathers but it is a cinch for parking, restoring, lugging up the curb or tucking into the front yard.
The narrow front deck subtly puts the bike in a different category for larger mopeds like the Vespa Elettrica with less ‘motorbike’ and more ‘e-bike beauty’. Bringing the CUx to the bike category only guarantees number plate and ‘motorbike’ insurance.
Featuring a Bosche Centre hub motor (not similar to the Piaggio 1), the Cux achieves a peak power of 2.8kW and topped out at a restricted 28mph. Another example of high-speed (with the benefits of easy access to a regular car licence) that comes with a modest and occasionally disappointing acceleration and bike class.
The bike has the option of three riding modes, the WIRED usually selecting Mode 2 (Eco) when riding in tight 20mph zones to limit our speed rather than conserving battery power. It only takes 3 hours to charge at full charge using a removable battery.
CUx also has a host of technology. LCD Toolbox, GPS and cellular access, USB charging point and wireless alarm. The bike also has the option of the Ferring Integrated Dash-Cam, which is unique in this market and is a touch clever for city riding and operates with a handlebar mounted control.
Having big bike aspirations? Doesn’t matter with stock colour schemes? You can always choose the Look-at-Me Red and White limited edition Ducati brand CUx. Do not try to drive another Ducati away from the lights.
Price: From £ 2,699 (£ 2,249 with UK EV grant) | Super Soco