Vespa Elettrica 45 km/h | ROAD TEST
We don’t tend to review (or ride) mopeds on ScooterLab very often but when one bears the Vespa name we’ll make an exception. The last (and only) time I rode the Elettrica was on a small test track at the EICMA show in Milan in 2018. The then-new electric scooter had just been ridden on to the Piaggio stand with plenty of fanfare and a presentation from the Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno.
Fast-forward two years and the EICMA show should have been taking place this month, COVID (of course) cancelled that. Rather than running around a huge international show and reporting on all the new scooters for 2021, we’re riding around closer to home in a world that’s very different to what it once was. A world where travel, working life, commuting, shopping and socialising has changed. Possibly forever. A world where many people are choosing an alternative mode of socially distanced personal transport. As we’ve seen from a large rise in new bike/scooter sales. A modern scooter is a perfect choice for many novices.
Current Vespa 50 and 125cc models
- Vespa Elettrica 45km: £6249 (£4999 with OLEV grant)
- Vespa Elettrica 70kmh: £5299 with OLEV grant)
- Primavera 50 EU5: £3499
- Primavera 125 i-Get ABS EU5: £4149
- GTS Super 125 i-Get: £4499
- GTS Super 300 HPE EU5: £5199
The Elettrica was the first and is currently (no pun intended) the only electric Vespa on the market. It’s based on the existing smallframe metal bodywork of the current Vespa Primavera. Having ridden the Primavera a few times in the past I know that it makes an excellent 125cc scooter (it’s also available as a 50). In many ways it’s a better buy than a GTS 125, it’s lighter, more agile, nippy enough for most 125cc riders, has a lower seat height and is a few hundred quid cheaper than a GTS. For various reasons though, not everybody wants a larger capacity scooter.
Reasons to ride a moped
- A 50cc scooter can often be ridden on a full car licence*
- Having to take a CBT to ride anything larger/more powerful than a moped puts people off
- 16-year-olds can only ride a 50cc (or equivalent electric)/moped class scooter
- Novices may think a 125 is too fast/powerful (they’re not so don’t worry)
* If you passed your car test before February 2001 you can ride a moped with no L-plates and don’t need any additional training.
Firstly, this little scooter looks like a classy machine, as you’d expect with something bearing the Vespa name. Unlike most new scooters it’s built using a traditional Vespa pressed steel monocoque frame. That’s a plus point for us old scooter boys and girls but also brings with it the problem of corrosion (a downside if you’re using it year-round on salty roads).
Having a one-piece chassis means the bodywork can’t just be replaced like a plastic panel, it has to be beaten back into shape and resprayed if you damage the scooter. Worth considering if you’re clumsy or a complete novice. Our test machine had already had a couple of minor prangs before we got it but no major damage, dents and scuffs can be lived with. On a plastic scooter that damage would have broken the plastics and looked a lot worse but would be easy enough to replace.
Although overall the Elettrica looks classy there were a couple of cost-cutting things that niggled me on what is still an expensive scooter. The first thing is the plastic-chrome switchgear and the switches themself look cheaper than you’d expect on a scooter at this price point. For the minimal additional cost of better quality switchgear the overall aesthetic of the scooter could have been improved.
The Elettrica comes with a 3.5 kW electric motor and a 4.3kWh non-removable LG lithium-ion battery, it’s designed to withstand 1,000 charge cycles before you notice a drop in performance. The battery can be charged in four hours from a conventional 220v domestic socket. Being fixed rather than removable will be a problem if you don’t have a garage with power, or if you work on the tenth floor of a tower block because you won’t be able to take the battery in for charging. This scooter is for an owner with a convenient power source.
Wheels and brakes
The graphite grey multi-spoked alloy wheels look pretty cool, they’re finished with contrasting blue rim tape and are shod with Pirelli Angel Scooter tyres. The front 110/70-12 and rear 120/70-11 rear are a decent enough choice on a scooter of this size.
Upfront the scooter sports the traditional Vespa single-sided fork and suspension arrangement with a 200mm disc brake. At the rear you get a single-sided shock which leaves the ‘exhaust’ side looking uncluttered to show the pretty wheel off. On the ‘engine’ side you get an old-school drum brake. To be fair you don’t really need a disc at the rear, or ABS (either legally or to stop the scooter) and many electric scooters opt for this simpler/cheaper setup. The Elettrica has regenerative braking which puts power back into the battery as you slow down.
The battery is housed inside the frame which leaves space underneath the seat for some storage and it’s not a bad sized space. Where you’d ordinarily find the filler cap for a fuel tank you have a lift-off cap, underneath lives the ordinary, household 3-pin plug, attached to a curly cable and integrated battery charger. Simply extend the cable and plug it into a nearby electric socket to charge your scooter. The cable is fairly heavy-duty and springs back on its coils if stretched too far. It can only be used around 2.5 metres from your socket or it’ll pull the plug out of the wall. Depending where you live, you could, of course, plug it into an extension cable, shove it through your letterbox and put the socket under the seat attached to the cable to keep it dry.
The glovebox upfront is accessed by pushing the ignition key in, as you do with most modern Vespas. Inside gives you a place to charge a phone with the USB port and store a bit of change etc. To be fair, only Jeremy Beadle could store his right-hand glove in there. The seat can be opened using the button next to the key. The scooter also comes with a remote keyfob with a scooter finder to flash your LED indicators. Incidentally, the scooter has LED lighting all round.
The dashboard is a good looking full-colour Vespa GTS SuperTech style 4.3″ TFT display. On it you’ll find details for battery percentage, it’ll show how hard the motor is working on acceleration/hills etc. it also gives mileage until you need to charge the scooter, speed, max speed, trip distance, time, temperature, connectivity to the VMP – Vespa Media Platform and to your mobile phone. Whilst we had the scooter I had problems connecting to the Vespa app though so can’t show you that working. If you check out our long-termer Vespa GTS SuperTech test you’ll get a better idea of how it should function there.
Elegant and stylish
Overall the Vespa Elettrica looks elegant and stylish in its Cromo paintwork and contrasting blue detailing. There are five other colour options: Azurro Elettrico, Gialo Lampo, Verde Boreale, Nero Profundo and Grigio Fumo.
At just under five-thousand-pounds (with the OLEV grant), this Vespa ain’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination. OLEV has knocked 20% off the cost but even so, it’s a lot of dosh. It’s £1500 more than a Primavera 50 and £850 more than a Primavera 125, it’s £500 more than a GTS 125 Super and for £200 more you could have a brand new Vespa GTS 300 HPE Eu5.
The average customer for one of these babies is a 30-50-year-old city dweller who usually commutes a couple of miles across town (ideal for a scooter like this). They’ll most likely be a professional with money to burn, well sculptured facial hair (and that’s just the ladies) and a media-driven eco-conscience. In 2020 they’ll have ditched the tube/bus/tram or train to try and get away from other commuters. They’re not likely to be an old-time scooter boy and have probably never owned a Vespa in the past but they’re drawn to the whole Vespa image.
Reasons to commute by scooter
- Scooter commuting is the best kind of social distancing
- It also gives freedom
- Door-to-door convenience
- Free parking (in most places)
- No ULEZ or congestion charging (as long as your chosen scooter is deemed to be green enough
- Longterm it’s cheaper than most forms of public transport
On the road
With an electric moped equivalent, you don’t ride it and expect to be blown away with its power. This is a 28mph (45kmh) restricted scooter built simply to satisfy legislation and provide an e-transport solution. It’ll do 31mph on the clock, although with my head down and a steep enough hill I saw 41 mph, that was by pure inertia though rather than power. Drop it out of an aeroplane and it’ll do 125 mph. This isn’t built for speed.
Before we get out though we need to get it fired up. Ok, fired up may not be a phrase associated with an electric scooter either. It’s more a case of turning the key and holding the map button until the green ‘Ready; illuminates on the screen. You can select between three options, ‘Eco’ ‘Power’ and ‘Reverse.’ The latter is to help you reverse out of a parking bay or garage (complete with reversing beep). The extra weight of the battery makes it a bit heavier than an ordinary moped but if you need help backing a machine of this size up you probably struggle to hold up our own body weight – a mobility scooter may be a better option. Eco mode is used purely for sadists, it slows the already slow scooter down to 22 mph and uses less battery power but increases the range to 62 tedious miles. If you really want to inconvenience other road users, this is the map for you! Power mode does sort of what it says on the tin, it’s the highest power setting for a lowly powered scooter. Don’t expect to hit it and be catapulted into the future. The furthest you’ll get is to the next lockdown.
The Elettrica is silent, quieter than a mouse. If you’ve never ridden an electric machine then it can seem surreal to begin with. You’re only aware of the noise of the tyres on the road, a mild whine from the motor, the wind hitting your helmet and the irritable shouts of car drivers as they eventually overtake you. One point worth mentioning on this scooter is that the ride-by-wire throttle gives a natural feeling response, rather than a snatchy pull off often associated with cheaper electric scooters. This makes slow-speed manoeuvres much easier and safer. The Vespa is certainly one of the smoothest electric scooters I’ve ridden.
VIDEO | In search of Banksy
I’m not your typical moped or electric scooter customer. For starters I live out in the sticks, my closest city is Nottingham which is 12 miles away. If I were to commute into the city I’d choose a 125cc scooter which would be better for faster-flowing roads, it’d give me enough power for overtaking (and to get out of trouble), it would cut my journey times down and make me feel safer on the roads.
Even so, I needed to test the range on this scooter. Range anxiety is something that puts people off e-scooter ownership. The video shows the types of roads I need to take to get into Nottingham, a mixture of village and countryside, 30 mph to 60 mph national speed limit roads and the odd 70mph dual carriageway. It’s not really the perfect journey for a 28mph scooter but it is doable. The video is more the ramblings of me (a frustrated petrol head) than an actual road test.
12 miles seems to take a while on a moped but it’s more than the average commuter does getting to work and back so most buyers won’t need to endure it. Once you actually get into the city the lack of speed and power are quickly forgotten and an electric scooter starts to make much more sense, it can accelerate well enough and filter through traffic like any scooter. This is where the Elettrica belongs, silently mobilising people, getting the few remaining workers into shops and offices without fuss, no messing about in fuel stations – just keep it charged and away you go.
50 mile range
I needn’t have worried about the range of this scooter. I not only made it into Nottingham but I also did some riding around the city to find the latest Banksy piece. Then I rode back home again and nipped to my nearest town (another ten-mile round trip). After 40 miles I was still on 14% battery and according to the dash I still had 7 miles before the scooter needed charging. Not bad at all considering I’d been riding the scooter flat out all day. I also live in a hilly area and the outside temperature was quite cold. I’d say over 50 miles would be easily achievable depending on gradients. That’s plenty for most people.
An expensive moped?
Although the Vespa Elettrica is essentially a very expensive moped it still has the feel of a 50cc scooter built to a price, rather than a luxury item built to a premium. The suspension isn’t brilliant, whether it’s any different to the Primavera’s or not I’m not sure, maybe the added weight of the battery positioned towards the rear of the scooter makes it feel the bumps more than a Primavera does? Then there’s the drum rear brake, it’s up to the job but on a premium machine I expected a bit more, the switches are another compromise in what is overall a decent quality scooter. Sadly, electric power still doesn’t come cheap and Piaggio had to cut costs in certain areas to please their accountants and make the Elettrica even remotely affordable.
I’m still not sure that electric-powered vehicles will save the world and the ethics behind them is questionable. Scrapping perfectly good vehicles then using the earth’s resources to make new ‘greener’ ones isn’t quite as eco friendly as Greta and her mob would have you believe. No matter what I think though, they’re here and are going to grow massively over the next decade.
The Vespa Elettrica isn’t perfect and there are plenty of cheaper electric scooters that can do the job for quite a bit less money but if you want something with the Vespa badge that will tick all those e-scooter boxes then this is the scooter for you. It’s smooth and easy to ride, has a good range and is robust enough to last a lifetime. If you want the class of a Vespa and the credentials of a green machine then this is the package for you, although if you’re riding on a CBT (or full licence) go for the L3 70km/h (43 mph) version of the Elettrica it’ll be much more useful.
Personally, though – I’d prefer to ride away on a petrol-powered Vespa Primavera 125 instead.
Words, photos and video: Iggy
Action shots: Linsey
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