Retrospective Scooters Electric classic conversions | FEATURE
You can forget the space race, nobody cares about living on Mars or landing on the Moon. The race to bring a good looking classic electric scooter conversion kit to market is much more important (to some people at least). Retrospective scooters seem to be ahead of the rest though and have recently launched conversion kits for the Lambretta and also large frame Vespa models to sit alongside the smallframe Vespa we road tested here last summer.
VIDEO | Electric Lambretta GP in action
- Hub motor
- Swinging arm
- DC converter
- Relevant battery mounting trays
- Throttle sensor
- Wiring loom
- Fitting instructions
Where two or more batteries are to be used you’ll also need a relay box, leads and onboard charging socket.
Aside from the initial purchase price of an electric vehicle (the batteries are the expensive bit), the biggest barrier is range anxiety. Will you get stuck on it in the middle of nowhere? What if it runs out of charge unexpectedly on my way to work? I’m sure we’ve all had a mobile phone with 30% charge that suddenly dies when you least expect it? What happens if your scooter charge dies on a cold morning?
Niall McCart, owner of Retrospective Scooters and driving force behind this project had the following to say…
“I know the typical scooterist will always want more speed and more range and that may come someday soon with better technology as this electrical vehicle revolution descends upon us. I think faster charging is what will happen next, which needs stronger batteries. For now, most people will find it hard to switch their way of thinking from combustion engine to battery power and until they get on them and start using them it’s hard to explain it, but I would say the following. If a typical scooter rider was to do a diary for a week on the journeys they made on their scooter, in that time they would see that each journey would be no more than 10 or 20 miles. 30 miles at most before they reached some sort of destination point where there would, of course, be a rechargeable energy source (a socket) where they could ‘refuel’. Even if that’s only for one hour (or longer) it would be enough to go to the next point of rechargeable energy and so on and so on. A large majority of our typical journeys are like that, and we will no longer need to be seeking out petrol stations because we will be constantly able to refuel (with removable batteries) at any given point of our journeys. At home, work, a friend’s house, McDonalds, the shopping centre, even in the street, they’ll all provide power for your battery (some at a fee of course) but that is where it is heading. So this range anxiety can only be put into perspective whenever we get on with using the damn things.
The conversions run a 3kw brushless hub motor made by QS. High-end sinusoidal controllers are used because they’re robust and efficient, they’re developed especially for harsh environments and electric vehicle use.
The conversion price doesn’t include the battery. A battery costs £850 and is a modular system built by Retrospective using the best quality Panasonic 18650 Lithium-ion cells, as used by Tesla. The shoebox-shaped battery comes in its own protective case and is small enough to fit all models. It packs 66 volts and 24 amps of power, whilst weighing just 6kg (so it’s not too heavy to remove and carry indoors to charge if need be). Charging is via a conventional wall socket.
Expected range for one battery is 30-35 miles on a single charge (depending on use and terrain) but that can be increased if using more than one battery in parallel. Ridden flat out or in hilly areas will decrease the range. The Lambretta conversion (and Vespa large frame) has space for three batteries in the space where the fuel tank would usually sit, with the possibility to add a fourth on the Lambretta. Theoretically, it may be possible to do a rally on one charge before too long (although Niall said it’s not quite ready to do Scarborough at Easter). The smallframe Vespa we tested last year has a single battery.
Expect around 55-60mph from the 3kw motor, it’s comparable to and licenced as like a 125cc. The difference with electric is that the power is linear, acceleration is much quicker than on a modern four-stroke. A 3kw (or larger) motor can be very good fun. The 1kw motor is the equivalent of a moped, so it can be ridden on a car licence (depending on when you passed your test) but again acceleration is brisk.
When can I have one?
Retrospective launched their first e-scooter on SLUK in June last year. Since then they’ve been inundated with enquiries, especially people wanting to convert their own scooters. Retrospective have continued to refine things, for instance, the default 1kw motor we tested has now been replaced by a 3kw motor (in effect turning it from a 50cc equivalent to a 125cc). The batteries were redesigned and improved for a size and shape that can be used in all models and be used to run batteries in parallel to increase the range. They’re still refining and perfecting the kit but they’re pretty close to where they want to be. Their R&D will continue though and things like disc brakes, speed/range and the technology behind it will keewp moving forwards.
If you’d like your existing scooter converting now (or in the future) give Retrospective Scooters a call. They can also restore and convert a scooter for you from scratch if you haven’t got your own. The DIY conversion kits will be available from March/April but orders are being taken now.
Or give them a ring on 020 8888 5424 and tell them we sent you.
Obviously, an electric classic scooter will never replicate the sound, smell, feel and experience of riding a crisp two-stroke but already in many cities, certain vehicles are being banned or you’ll be charged to ride one. That situation is only going to get worse. Keep your eye on this Urban Access Regulations map but try not to have too many sleepless nights over it…
One day soon, electric technology will transform itself, batteries will become cheaper, lighter and have much greater range. The machines will develop character, already Kymco have built an electric geared SuperNexx superbike with its own built-in sound to emulate riding a ‘proper’ bike at speed. It’s likely other electric vehicles will develop their own character. Maybe one day the electric GP will drop oil, shed kickstarts and snap cables to give the rider an authentic classic scooter riding experience.
Either way, the electric revolution is taking place whether we like it or not.
Retro electric gallery
New products always in development…