I suspect that cities will soon become hostile territory for petrol scooters. And I'm not talking about the drivers on their phones or the potholes - they're with us now. I mean, slowly but surely, more and more cities around the world are tightening up their emission regulations, including those for motorised vehicles.
In London, for example, two-wheelers with an eco-class below Euro3 pay £12.5 a day to enter a reduced-emission zone (though they fairly allow a clean-emission test, rather than just looking at paperwork). In Oxford, partial restrictions came in 2020, and in Bristol diesel cars have been banned altogether since 2021. And where diesels are now banned, everyone will soon be banned.
Electric scooters in UK
In the end, there are only two options: gas and electricity. For those who live or work in a city, the electric option is the best. Electric scooters are more expensive than their petrol counterparts, but they are much cheaper in maintenance and costs than the average 125, so after a while there will even be savings.
It's like a new era: not so long ago, electric transport was the domain of geeks and pizza deliverymen, but now even the retro-grade BMW has the C-Evolution in its range.
Now, in 2020, there are some very vigorous electric scooters on the market, able to go 90 quietly, with good range and quite advanced on the technical side. Vespa released a faster version of the Elettrica, the Chinese Super Soco promise this spring to release CPX with a range of 135 km and a maximum speed of almost 90 km / h. They already have the TC Max with a top speed of 96 km/h, but it is more of a motorbike than a scooter. And then there's this thing called the Niu.
NIU GT electric moped
The brand has been on sale in Europe for a couple of years now. The company that makes them has created a unique niche for itself - Niu scooters are positioned as some of the smartest electric scooters with Bluetooth connectivity. Plus, their design is unmistakable: their angular fuzziness is either liked or disliked. Personally, I think the designers have done a great job: finally there's something on the electric scooter market that doesn't try to pass itself off as a Vespa, but still has a distinctive design. The GT scooter is the latest variation on the Niu theme, with a more powerful 3kW motor (the original was 1.8kW), bigger batteries, a range of 96km and a top speed of 72km/h.
On the move
Three kilowatts is not a fairy tale figure. It's only about four horsepower, like an average 50cc moped, but...
Like most electric motors, the Niu engine produces almost maximum traction from the bottom. The official claim is 138Nm, which isn't a moped, but rather a tractor and American cruiser.
In real life acceleration is not so abrupt to burn out tyres as the figures hint at, but still Niu is really quick off the mark. Mode Dynamic has [put by the law] limitation up to 45 km/h, and even it is enough to get away first from a traffic light, and certainly in Sport mode the scooter simply makes a subspace jump from a stop line, and further goes at a level with a good vigorous 125.
The situations, typical for mopedists, when a "sniffer" follows us on our tail and weaves continuously, appear in Dynamic mode all the time. But it is interesting that in this mode the speed uphill is not reduced, though many mopeds (and even electric mopeds) don't pull their maximum speed uphill. In sport mode, Niu reaches the set limit of 70 something (or even 80 uphill) - so you can't call it absolutely equivalent to a 125, but they are equally fast up to some threshold.
The first rides on an electric scooter are a strange experience, especially in traffic. And it's not so much about the silent speeding as it is about the fact that at traffic lights everyone around you is roaring and gassing, while you're sitting on a "muffled" machine. At first, it even frightens you - will it go on a green? But eventually you get used to it. It's also scary that pedestrians aren't scared of the quiet scooter at all and will literally walk under its wheels.
The familiar and typical scooter
Otherwise, the Niu is quite a familiar and typical scooter. A short base, twelve wheels, a fairly basic fork and two shock absorbers at the back. And yes, it wiggles and bumps at times, but it steers well. Small dimensions and smooth traction allow you to easily drive between the rows. The ride is neutral, upright and quite comfortable. Yes, it gets blown around a bit by the strong wind, but this also happens with larger and heavier machines.
Brakes are great - there's a disc on each wheel, the left handle causes braking on both. Press harder and you'll hear the quiet screech of a Chen Shing rear tyre. The right-hand knob is purely front braking. Of course, there's regenerative engine braking, which sends some of the energy back to the battery by pulling either brake lever, rather than just closing the accelerator.
And here we come to the most important issue - range. Claiming 96km, it's not much for petrol-powered models, but it's the real deal for once. I've driven the Niu in different zones with different limits - 50, 60 and 80km/h, mostly in traffic. After driving 70km, the GT showed a residual of around 35%, which means around 105km at the same rate of charge consumption. To help the driver, the 'Eco' light on the dashboard illuminates when Niu is travelling at the most economical speed (although it's a bit dull).
The GT is equipped with two batteries, about the size of a car battery each. One under the seat and the other under the floor, both of which can be recharged without removing them, or removed and taken home. The batteries are connected via a special connector, so there's no confusion. A full charge takes 3.5 hours, but like any modern battery, it can be recharged at any time. And that's handy, too, because the charger can be carried with you and plugged in anywhere. Battery life is guaranteed for 3 years or 32,000km, which is good considering the batteries are the most expensive part of the scooter.
The Niu's instrumentation looks complicated, but it's actually not badly structured. The battery scale - admittedly the most important information on the electric scooter - is big, bold and pretty, displaying the remaining charge as a percentage and a segment indicator. The percentages show the remainder and the scale even displays the regeneration process. And plus the aforementioned Eco light. Use it all wisely (or forget it and enjoy the steam traction).
There's also a speedometer, clock and phone connection status on the dash. Bluetooth, one of the Niu's most important features, is paired with a smartphone to display GPS position, diagnostic information from the scooter and a theft warning. What it doesn't have is a saddlebag, because the battery pack takes up all that space. It's flat, so you can put a bag in there and hold it with your feet and there's a glove compartment at the front for your phone.
So, it rides pretty good, has decent range, but will it be more profitable than a regular petrol moped? Let's calculate: 50km on a regular 125 with consumption in the vicinity of 3.5 per hundred will cost about 2 litres of gasoline, give or take. And the same journey in a Niu is about 2 kWh of electricity. Okay, let's say 3, taking into account all the losses - but it's roughly 12-15 rubles. It's almost ten times cheaper. And even though the savings will not have an immediate impact on the pocket, it still looks impressive. If to take into account that Niu is maintenance-free - it doesn't need anything to clean, change or lubricate - it becomes even more interesting.
For petrol engine fans, talk of economy, reduced emissions and noise pollution on the streets is hollow. You ride roaring bikes because you like it - and I understand you perfectly. But for those who just need to commute to work in the city, electric vehicles are a great choice, and we'll all get on them eventually. The Niu GT is an excellent example of modern urban transport, fast enough and with a decent range for daytime urban driving, comfortable, lightweight and nimble.