So what is PMD…or rather, what is a PMD? It’s actually a Powered Mobility Device and in this case like most, it’s a battery powered one.
SLUK contributor OlaDele Akinsehinwa has been on his travels to Singapore and whilst there managed a preview of a quirky new scooter-like PMD called Motochimp. He even managed a short ride…
MOTOCHIMP! A totally new concept from Vanda Electrics who are a Singapore Battery Manufacturing specialist. Safe to say, when it comes to batteries Vanda know a thing or two.
This is a battery powered Personal Mobility Device designed to whip you around your manor looking about as trendy as any bearded, quirky bike riding, erm, hipster.
Funky Two Wheelers
If the Motochimp reminds you of some other funky looking two wheeler’s you’ve seen before, bikes like say, the “precarious” folding Diblasi, the Honda Motocompo and (or) of course Honda’s iconic Monkey Bike, the Motochimp team took a good Google around during its development and certainly recognise the contribution these honoured odd-balls made to the final outcome of their new baby. Even the name sounds comfortingly familiar.
Monkey on a Moped
Vanda Electric’s official line for this is “The team couldn’t look at the moped without imagining a real life chimp poised on the back” hooning around like, well…. a monkey!
Think, pre Animal Welfare Act Circus Performers and you’ll get the picture.
I was lucky enough to score some face time with Ms Larissa Tan, CEO at Vanda Electrics, at the launch event for a range of sunglasses by design collaborative Sub crew, featuring Sam Lee and with Vannessa Wu in support. I’d never heard of them either, but judging by the enthusiasm of the polished guests clamouring to take a thousand Snap chat selfies with them, I reckon they’re somewhat of a big deal out in South-East Asia. Anyway, Larissa was there with a pre-production Motochimp.
Child like inspiration
Larissa explained the inspiration behind her company’s first PMD all stemmed from the doodlings of a young girl. The youngster in question, Lyinh, was just ten years old at the time and is quite the talent.
So Lyinh was involved in the naming of the scoot, that may read a bit like a ‘convenient’ PR fable but young Lyinh certainly exists. She’s Larissa’s God-daughter and the ‘fable’ explains in part why the Motochimp looks like a trendy, kid’s plaything, and something that could really only have been designed by non-scooterists, from a locality like Singapore.
Two Wheeling in Singapore
Kick-scooters, electric stand-up scooters, electric sit-down scooters, electric bicycles, power assisted bicycles, electric unicycles, you name it and someone in Singapore will steam past you on it. I assumed the Motochimp was an off-the-wall sibling from that diverse family of fun but that’s not the plan (at least not outside of Singapore) and Vanda have big plans for their little creation.
They aim to launch it proper this year and plan for it to be a fully homologised, road legal, minimum capacity machine. In other words, if you can legally ride a 50cc moped, you’ll be legal on a Motochimp. An interesting proposition when you consider the mentalist melee of motorists busy owning the roads in their larger conurbations. Not forgetting the eager, starchy-collared ‘Powers that be’ overseeing the scrum.
In Singapore, the authorities generally operate a more ‘common-sense’ approach to PMDs, with light weight, small capacity, low speed examples wholly accepted on the walkways so long as riders ride carefully! Where there’s room, they use the cycle paths, which are on the pavement. Where there’s not they share the route with pedestrians; and even pedestrian only routes are cohabited by bipedal and bi-wheeled traffic, really!
And in the UK…
As far as this depth of relationship goes, the UK isn’t on the same page and as trendy, and cute as the Motochimp’s status would be in a Singaporean environment. In somewhere like London, where cyclists and pedestrians aren’t quite as cosy, the Motochimp has no choice but to obscure that cute derriere with a big yellow rear plate and take to the highway.
Had a Go
As for how it will cope with that, the jury is out. The model at the launch was a pre-production demo and not strictly rideable and although a bit of the old “London charm” saw my arse parked in the saddle for a quick whizz up and down the alley behind the venue, it was only enough time for the most cursory of observations.
How’s it Ride?
So, contactless, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) ignition engaged, the gearless 48Volt 350Watt rear hub motor seems to ignore you until you give it a clip round the twist-grip startling it, whiningly, to life. It pulled away as easily as any stand up electric scooter and drew to a halt as quickly as my wary “don’t damage the expensive prototype” fingers asked it to, thanks to disc brakes on the front and rear. Top available speed will be dictated by the legislation of the country it is shipped to. So at least 28mph in the UK. I had no chance to get near even that.
Comfort and Control
The single seat is low but comfortably located, with your legs positioned more passenger-pegs than on the foot-board of a traditional scooter. The minimal rider interface comes by way of 4 buttons and a clutch of LEDs, focused around the grips, which have integrated indicators and hang off a pair of ‘not-quite-ape-hanger’ handlebars.
Body build quality is sturdier than its meagre size would suggest. With its aluminium alloy body measuring 1076mm Long x 614mm wide x 1063 tall, including the “sticky-out” chopper handlebars. The wheelbase is a mere 750.6mm.
Then there’s the battery, literally the life source of the machine, which I suspect is what the Motochimp is really about. It’s lithium-ion, thoughtfully removable and or chargeable in situ by way of the powerplug nestled under the seat, and offers an outstanding fill-up time of just an hour, standard. An hour’s juice which gives you 50-65km or around a kilometre per minute. Of course, like Italian Speedos, manufacturer’s claims often differ from reality and real world usage. On the other hand Vanda are essentially a battery management company, with some interesting partnerships and with the pace of current battery development, who knows?
I’m not entirely convinced it has the right credentials to be taken seriously as a fully-fledged, road-going moped though. The size of the body, of the wheels, its road presence, security and overall build sturdiness are all concerns for me and I’ll ride literally anything, anywhere with the dare mentality you nourish at an all-boy inner-city comprehensive. But with more than a few grey hairs tickling my chin, whilst my mischief says “do it” my “city-miles” can’t help but question what for? If you consider the bloody mindedness of some London drivers who adamantly believe the road is theirs, ditto privileged cyclists and ‘slave to the mobile’ pedestrians, to use Vanda’s own catchphrase, perhaps this really is “for the crazy ones” and all things being equal, a little crazy isn’t such a bad thing.
When released in the UK, the Motochimp is expected to cost a paltry £1,300 plus the relevant registration excise duty and road licence tax. No UK importer has been announced yet but when it arrives you can have any colour you like so long as its red… or blue… or yellow.
Words: OlaDele Akinsehinwa Pics: Vanda Electrics / OlaDele Akinsehinwa / Jasper Galvin