Post peak vehicles: 10,000 km on batteries

Ugo Bardi's electric scooter, here driven by Ms. Donata Bardi, aka "the mad scientist's daughter"

After three years of use, I have just passed the 10,000 km mark on my electric scooter, or about 6,000 miles. Not bad for a small scooter of this kind. I have always been thinking that electric vehicles are an answer to peak oil; not the definitive answer, of course, but at least a way to maintain some mobility on roads in the years that will come. Electric vehicles are a technology that exists and that works. So, for the past few years I have been testing the idea in practice.

So, let me give you some data about this experience. First of all, about the scooter itself. It is the "Lepton" model made in Italy by a company named "Oxygen". It has a rated power of 1500 W, maximum speed (electronically regulated) of 45 km/h and a nominal range of 40 km. It is not on sale any more for private users, although it is still manufactured in a version for commercial transportation. Now you can find equivalent Chinese scooters that sell for about 2000 Euros. I think that the Lepton is much better than this new generation; but, in general, these small motorcycles are very similar in terms of performance and construction.

I have used the Lepton consistently for commuting from home to office. About 30 km round trip on hilly roads. According to the measurements I performed, the "mileage" of the scooter is of about 3kWh per 100 km. At the present prices of electricity in Italy, that is less than one eurocent per km. For me, it is actually zero, since I have photovoltaic panels on my roof that produce more than enough to recharge my scooter. In comparison, an equivalent gasoline powered scooter may need 3-4 liters of gasoline to run for 100 km. A liter of gasoline is about 10 kWh, so that the conventional vehicle is about 10 times less efficient than the electric one (!). Also, about ten times more expensive.

Those are, of course, just the raw energy costs. Battery replacement costs are higher. In my case, I used NiZn batteries, rather than the traditional lead acid ones. The experience has been moderately positive. NiZn batteries are lighter than lead ones and charge in about 1/3 of the time. However, after 10,000 km, the batteries show clear signs of fatigue and need to be replaced. Right now, I can't make the whole 30 km round trip from home to office on a single charge. I have to recharge at a public charge point that - fortunately - exists at a few hundred meters from my office. Users of lead batteries report longer battery lives, although some had bad experiences, too. In terms of cost, if I had to buy now a set of lead batteries I should pay something like 500 euros. That would correspond to 5 eurocents per km. But I am moving to lithium batteries, more expensive, but should really be a quantum jump in terms of range and reliability.

There are other cost advantages of my electric motorcycle. I can pay about half of the regular insurance cost because of a special contract that some companies offer to electric vehicles. Then, for five years I don't have to pay government vehicle taxes. In addition, the maintenance of an electric vehicle is really minimal. In 10,000 km the only maintenance I had to do was to lubricate the start button. These things are really sturdy.

But the idea of using electric vehicles is not so much to save money (although you can). The idea is to see if it is possible to move on roads without using oil derived fuels. Of course, an electric vehicle alone is not enough. If you want to be free from carbon based fuels, you also need PV panels or other sources of renewable energy to recharge your vehicle. But it is possible to do that with currently existing technology and PV panels are not beyond the means of someone who lives with the salary of a government employee, as I do. Think how things would change if a significant fraction of the currently running vehicles were battery powered. The next fuel shortage would not hit us so hard as we expect it will.

Unfortunately, I am also disappointed by my experience in the sense that I found very few followers. Over three years, I showed my scooter on my Italian blog, I took it to meetings and conferences, at ASPO-5 in 2006 in Pisa I used the little red thing everyday and all those attending saw it. But only my nephew and one of my coworkers actually followed my example.

All right, I understand that it has a short range, but if it is enough to go from home to work and back, does it matter? And, yes, I know that it takes a long time to recharge it. But if you plan ahead, what is the problem? Sure, I know that you can't use it to go visit your aunt who lives in another city; but is it really so crucial? Yes, it is a little more expensive, but in the long run, you save money. And if it doesn't make any noise it doesn't mean that it doesn't run.

But there is nothing to do. Most people just can't believe that an electric vehicle is a "real" vehicle. They much prefer to dream about hydrogen vehicles that, after all, are supposed to have a proper "fuel" and may even produce the appropriate noise. It is an entrenched attitude that seems to make us believe that if it doesn't burn, it is not really energy.

Well, what can I say? Here is a picture of the odometer that proves that I ran 10000 km with a vehicle without burning anything. It can be done. Try it.

Give also a look to our retrofitted Fiat 500, the post peak car . You can see it also at the the eurozev site

Nice story. I wanted to report on my experience with a similar technology, electric bikes.

Several years ago I bought an Ebike and it was okay, but heavy (lead) and noisy.

The new bikes I have tried are quiet, lighter (Li) and have much more power and range. They can climb very steep hills and some can go ca. 40 mi (ca. 60 km) on a charge and the great thing is that when they run out of electricity they can still be pedal powered.

In the U.S. electric bikes are only powered up to a speed of 20 miles per hour, otherwise they are classified as motorbikes and need a different licensing.

One company I know of Bionix, sells conversion kits where you take your favorite bike and make it electric assisted. These are really nice kits: quiet, long distance capable, and hill climbing ability.

In spite of the quality of these vehicles I don't see many around yet but have heard that the sales are picking up.

I went looking specifically for the Bionix conversion kit and the local bike retailer said that in his view the company and the technology weren't there yet. The technology kept breaking down and the company wasn't responsive so he stopped carrying the produce line.

This is just one datapoint so it would be good to hear from people with good experiences of the conversion kit.

I go riding once a week with someone who's had a Bionix conversion for just a few months. So far it's not been a problem (except for me keeping up on the hills), other than for an initial issue caused by a loose connector. It's heavy though, and I wouldn't want to pedal one unassisted for long.

E-bike ok but not in hollland, just thinks of they steal EUR 15 omafiets they will happy if you parked your EUR 1000 E-bike in front of them.

All Stolen Bike In Holland For Sale here


the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association had one of these at the Marin County Fair a few months back and I will attest to its quality. My father has a Chinese one and in comparison the Italian one is sturdier and better made. There is, as you noted, a big price difference though (or was a big price difference since the Lepton is no longer available). My father is stopped everywhere when he rides his and people ask questions.

Nonetheless, Italian or Chinese, these are wonderfully fun to ride. One caveat: I don't recall the wattage on my father's machine but I'm quite sure it wasn't above 1500W -- and it couldn't handle more than the slightest hills.

It seems that with even just moderate hills in a commute 3000W is likely necessary.

The Lepton's engine has indeed 1500 W power. The typical Chinese scooter is only about 500 W. Additionally, the Lepton has a regular transmission; whereas the Chinese models, typically, have the engine directly mounted on the rear wheel. As a result, the Lepton can go uphill very well; you should see the hills here, steeper than in San Francisco! For a while, I tried a Chinese model; it could barely make it all the way to the top. After I did that a few times, the poor thing died on me in a puff of smoke and bad smell. I guess that in China they don't have these hills; or at least no roads on them.

Yes, 500W seems to ring a bell re: my father's scooter.

Going to LiPo was a huge improvement on climbing hills. The ~50 kg weigth gain helps, but even the much better discharge curve on high load allows you to fully use the 1800 W of the motor. Batteries are discharged at about 1C, that is not stressful for LiPo (they can handle 4C) but is very demanding for a Pb-gel automotive battery.
Car batteries can deliver current at 1C, they have lower internal resistance, but for the same reason (high surface to volume ratio in the electrodes) they last for a much lower number of cycles, usually much less than 100.

Regenerative braking is also much better. Pb-gel batteries can be charged effectively at 0.1-0.2C, i.e. if the motor delivers 1800W, only about 400W are actually used to recharge the batteries. LiPo's absorb 90% of the power produced by the motor.

As I stated below, I can reach 20 km/h on a 15% slope, I never tried steeper ones.
This corresponds to 1400W to win gravity (I am very slim) and the remaining 400 W for attrites, losses, ect. Not to say, I get a range of 15-18 km in these conditions.

Very cool use of an EV. My motorcycle only has about 3500 miles on it now, but I do use it often.

You can see my daily EV commuter at

My EV is also solar powered like yours. We hate coal in Utah :)

I have been riding a foldable electric bicycle for a couple of months in the South Bay area of Southern California. Lithium battery. Great on the flats. Gives me (200 lb) plenty of assist on hills, when I peddle without any great effort. I have not checked the range but have been comfortably 15 miles roundtrip with plenty of charge left over. If used for a commute, it would be easy to remove the battery and recharge it in the office.

I have seen two similar bicycles in town. There is now a specialty electric bicycle retail store in the next town, El Segundo. Many people have looked at my bike when parked and/or asked me questions. I think electric bikes could be about to take off. I love mine!

I'm in the South Bay too. You should check out this group. It's like Critical Mass. One of us has a Giant electric bike too.

Does anyone know where I can get a replacement battery for a Heinzman Estelle electric bike?

I got my electric scooter last week. I am very happy.

It's a cheap chinese bike but it totally works as a proof of concept vehicle. Another $500 in better parts at the factory would produce a pretty amazing little vehicle. I can't wait to see how good they get when Honda takes an interest and starts making these in mass-scale.

I pobably drove 40 miles on the first day, just because I was having so much fun. So the claims of 100 km range are probably true. Another couple batteries, wired up in the storage area would give you close to 80 miles range, or more speed.

I go 32 Km/hr, so I got to work in 10 minutes. With all the stops I kept up with downtown traffic. But a bit more speed would be nice. I can modify the circut board and add batteries. Some people are going 50 Km/hr on these things.

From hitting a few bumps in the road I can tell you that anything over 50 Km/hr will be quite scary. Anything over 40 Km/hr will be fast enough and I should be able to do that with just 1 extra $29 battery and a short piece of wire.

The cost to charge the batteries is 6 cents, so even with the cost of replacing batteries, my daily fuel cost for a work commute is 4 cents. So for one day's bus fare, you run this for a month. Because these are classed as a powered bicyle I do not need to insure or licence it. You buy it and pay for electricity and maintenance, that's it.

Over time I will will probably upgrade the motor, front shocks and brakes, but the frame, body and battery configuration are quite good. This will make an excellent test bed.

There really are viable solutions using existing techknowlogy. We could cut down so much.

Use the truck or the minivan when you really need it, but for the nice days in spring, summer and fall, an electric scooter seems like an ideal choice, even if you have to wear a suit like me.

I think I will be able to reduce my gas usage by about 90% and get it down to just a few tanks per year. Imagine how the world could change if more people did this.

I am also happy to report that the people who sell these can't keep them in stock.

I encourage others to jump on this bandwagon...or scooter.

Most of the expense is in replacing the batteries, and better technology is coming to the rescue.
The problem with standard lead-acid batteries is deep discharge, and that is the reason for the short life.

A combination of a slightly oversized battery for your daily use and capacitors for hills solves the problem at minimal cost.
Here is the technology:
Next Big Future: UltraBattery combines a supercapacitor and a lead acid battery

Another alternative which will be with this market soon is the Firefly, which again should avoid the problems of short life due to deep discharge in addition to being lighter and more powerful.
Firefly Technology -

They are currently pricing this at comparable prices to conventional lead acid, since that is all they have to compete with, but it can be produced in standard factories and has the potential to be cheaper power for power.

Electric cars are sold commercially, and a car like the Norwegian 2 seater Think City has a range range of 200 km. This is far more than the 40 km reported here. While there is less space for batteries in a scooter, it also has a far smaller engine, so it should be relatively easy to extend the range, for example by replacing the NiZn batteries with something better.

Why not drive a wood powered car !

Have also seen the same technology on a motorbike.

Not really breakthrought, which interesting is the French Air-compressed car MDIMDI allready produced by Tata in india.

From sweden i love these sail car it's trully road Collin Archer stuff.

After workbiking for about 8 years, I now drive a Zap Xebra PK.

The PK is an electric tricycle that can haul loads such as the tools needed by a gardener or handy person or housecleaner.

The stock PK goes about 40 mph tops, and has a range that varies with load, terrain, traffic, and also extreme cold temperatures. The general range is 20-to30+ miles on a charge, but the PK is easy to plug in anywhere to get a boost for the lead-acid batteries. Some folks have gotten 40-to50 miles per day this way.

Also, the PK is a great platform for customizing, or "Hacking."

Many people have added a battery to get an 84 volt system which provides a bit more hauling, climbing, distance or speed capability. A few people have added two batteries to get 96 volt systems.

Also, people can replace standard auto lights with LEDs to use less juice and have more fun. People repaint, add different horns, bells and whistles, and can also remove the pickup bed on the PK to lose weight if just driving for one or two people. The option of extending the cab intrigues me, as does the possibility of designing a lighter cargo bed for the back of my trike-truck.

We are opening the first Electric Car Store in Minneapolis, MN -- after having taken some Zap Xebras through a Minnesota winter. We have good ideas of how to weatherize for the region.

In the future, i think that many small, short range electric vehciles will be made closer to the point of use. They will be designed for the region, or altered from a basic design such as the Zap Xebra to be customized for regions and specific needs.

I also think that lead acid batteries will retain significant popularity among the poor working people, and maybe even among some wealthier folks. Lead acid batteries will be cheaper and are recycle-able. I'm not sure that the lithium batteries allow for any recycling at the end of the battery's usefulness. Does anyone know about this?

Oddly, I get plenty of positive comments, but many people say "if only the battery technology was better, then I'd buy one." Good luck with that. I think that the big corporations are still trying model the EV on an obsolete paradigm for transportation. Forget the long drive across country. We need electric trains for that.

We will not have the resources to bring easy driving to the masses as our war economy further saps financial and material resources from working people. As the police showed at the RNC protests in St. Paul this week, the masses will be kicked down and kept in their place. I think that relatively low-tech, low energy, locally-sourced transportation options will be very pervasive and important for most people.

Pretty soon, just being able to get around town will seem like a cool thing. The scooter and lowly service vehicle might be the new "Chick Magnet" or "Dude Magnet" or whatever.

I think that the big corporations are still trying model the EV on an obsolete paradigm for transportation.

That's a prescient observation, we will never have electric powered SUV. Or vehicles that serve as single passenger commuters, long distance family transport and medium size freighters all in one. As long as the auto-industry folks don't understand that they won't be able to evolve away from fossil fuels.

It isn't just the corporations - the general public also has the same mindset...

And my own view is that the last person who I would want manufacturing electric scooters would be the automakers - their business model built around porking up a vehicle with options to make it expensive and hence more profitable.

You hear a lot of talk from the public about the "need to develop alternatives", but implicit in that statement is the belief that cars are still going to be an integral part of it all.

Working through the economics you are using about 1 kwh per day for the round trip to the office. However I presume you charge at night from the grid and you get a 1:1 credit from your daytime solar home input. At mid-latitudes that 1 kwh may require say 0.3 kw peak solar capacity costing $6 per watt US/Australian prices after rebates or say $2000 share of installed (inverted) capital cost. Add to that tyres and repairs. Depreciation on the battery seems to be about 150 euros a year. Depreciation on the rest of the scooter will depend on the price tag and its working life expectancy.

I presume small grocery shops of a couple of kilos can be fitted on a pannier or backpack but a shopping trolley full (say 50 kg) will need a car or perhaps a weekly cab ride from the supermarket.

Even for the brave souls who are prepared to ride a scooter it's all quite daunting. After petrol is gone many just won't or can't make the required physical and financial leap of faith. When there are no private cars there might be just two classes of people; scooter riders and public transport users.

Yes, the electric vehicle is still expensive. In a paradigm of rapid economic collapse, we would all be pushing supermarket carts along. But if we do not collapse very fast, I think there is space for sturdy and simple electric vehicles that would replace the vital transportation needs. My little scooter can't carry the same load as a typical family car, but I have loaded it with several shopping bags. It takes patience, but in an emergency you can carry a lot of stuff.

"My little scooter can't carry the same load as a typical family car".

Maybe not but some people seem to do amazing things with motorbikes and cycles. Have a look at the link below.

I am going to wait a bit longer in my area. The city traffic with cars and trucks is just too dangerous. Over 100,000 such scooters and motorcycles (mostly gas powered, we are quite a bit behind in technology) were added to Montevideo in the last year or so. The air quality is visible worse. Taxi drivers tell me they see three accidents per day. Very few are walk away accidents with quite a few fatalities. One person I know has missed 6 months of work while recovering from her accident. I think it a good idea once gas prices drive most of the cars and some of the trucks off the road. But until that happens I want to hang onto my arms and legs.

"When there are no private cars there might be just two classes of people; scooter riders and public transport users."

You've missed at least one big category - bicycle riders. I think you underestimate what groceries can be carried on a bike. I've taken 30kg in panniers (front and rear panniers), no problem. Just shop a little more frequently, perhaps cut out the soft drinks (soda) and juices, and you're fine!

That's even without going to a dedicated load-carrying bike, of which many types exist.

Yep, there's still a lot to be said for the bicycle. Mine runs on beer. And converted to an Xtracycle you can carry home a case of suds, along with a bag of dog food.

Here's a fun site on bike trailers you can build out of bamboo!
I like this one, which has a tensioned cabling scheme which keeps the bed rigid and square. Simple and Solid engineering!

..and I had to toss this one in!
Navitas bicycle trailer concept offers 3-way power generation

The single rear wheel of the Navitas can be detached and converted into a three-pronged wind turbine. The wheel’s twist and lock system allows it to be split into three segments to form a turbine that is in turn, mounted onto the towing arm which is removed from the bike to construct a vertical axis. According to Smith, the wind turbine can be: “…set up once the cyclist has made camp and the turbine aids the solar units giving energy throughout the day and night.”

.. I can only assume that the spinning wheel is also a generator when you're riding, as well as when it's set up for wind.. It doesn't sound like this is for propulsion power, just lights and utilities during a bike trek. But still..

Yes, the possibilities are extensive. My current plan is to make my bike trailer into an electric 'Range Extender/ Pusher Motor', so my bike is pure Human Power, and when I've got a load, groceries or a daughter to bring along, the more stable trailer will also carry the batteries and motor. These will also be quickly removable, IF I have my druthers, so I can still have a very lightweight Human-Powered system when desired. (The Kid-Seat is intended to have Pedals, too. She (5) loves to help when we're on a steep hill using our current one-wheeled 'tagalong' rig, and to ask if I can tell that her efforts are noticed.. as they often are.)

I'm also watching for an opportunity to convert a pickup to electric. I think it would be smart for any community to have a few non-oil work-vehicles available, in case the times get any more interesting.


Only one minor objection to electric scooters. We first encountered them in Chengdu, Sichuan and nearly got run over. They are absolutely silent. We had gotten used to the noise of motor cycles in Taiwan and SE Asia and practiced usual look and listen precautions when crossing streets. Suddenly the listen part was no longer present as a complement to look. Wow what a difference. Maybe they need to provide recorded sound of an infernal combustion engine to warn pedestrians of their presence - lol.

Exactly this was my concern. Maybe Italians have a rather defensive way of driving, so pedestrians can cope with the vehicles silently whoosing by. But in countries where the "strongest" vehicles have a right of way this may be a problem. Perhaps this is a new opportunity for the "sound design industry": Individual driving sounds that match the ringing sound of your cell phone :-)

I didn't find this to be a problem in Italy. Maybe it is because people, here, are very careful when it is question of crossing a street. Anyway, driving a silent scooter you see that people don't hear you, so you take the adequate precautions. But maybe somebody should make something like the cell phone sounds. That would be a nice marketing strategy.

In an earlier drumbeat, on a similar thread, someone suggested that a recording of the George Jetson (cartoon from the 60's) commuter vehicle be added as an option. I would go for this.

You could clip hockey cards in the spokes.

Alas, the wheels of my scooter have no spokes! Maybe just making the appropriate sound, something like "brooom, brooom....."

I think we underestimate the noise pollution that the internal combustion engine has brought us.
City life could happen at 10% the current volume, and we would all wonder how we ever put up with it.

Nice post Ugo, 10000 Km is a very beautiful number.

Ugo, does it have a recharge-on-breaking alternator? If so weight isn't that much of a problem and it should do ok with lead acid batteries.

I think that the main reason for the lack of adherence is that most people do not consider a scooter a proper means of transport, being it electric or otherwise. Especially damp weather scares most away. IMHO electric vehicles for this kind of trips will have to protect the passenger from the elements to be successful. There are other issues with luggage or child transport, but those are easier to solve.

This post highlights another matter that I discussed recently with a person that works at an auto factory: Electric vehicles will dispense most of the people that are today employed in the auto maintenance business. Eventually changing batteries becomes the only maintenance to do, and that the owner can do by it self (with grid connected vehicles not even that). If we move to a mostly electric road transport infrastructure the number of jobs in the industry will reduce dramatically.

I wish you another joyful 10000 Km.

Thanks, Luis. You are right: electric vehicles require very little maintenance, except for batteries. The engine is rated to last for a million km or so and that is bad for the people who run service stations. But humans are going to be replaced anyway, I think. The way we are handling things nowadays makes me think that it takes very little artificial intelligence to replace human intelligence.

AI already reigns in the US. Could the US Administration's Intelligence get any more Artificial than it is now?

Simple solutions: move people from internal combustion engine cars industry to electrical powered cars industry!
For the manteinance services, we can move people to the photovoltaic industry and wind/water electrical generators industry, and also in the electrical service!

This is called re-conversion. It happened many times before and it can be done again


I don't think switching from IC to electric cars will displace that many auto service jobs. A modern IC engine is a complex beast to build, but it's remarkably reliable and low-maintenance. All manufacturers are moving to longer and longer maintenance intervals, and very few engines need major repairs in the first 100,000 miles. Electric cars still need repairs and maintenance for tires, suspension, brakes, and, of course, body repairs.
One problem I do forsee is that because EVs are expensive, the total market for private autos will contract.

The lower running costs of electric cars mean that is the cost is amortised they will be cheaper than ICE cars.
Business models are allowing the car to be bought, and the battery leased, so you gain from the start if your driving has a good profile for present electric cars - ie you regularly travel short distances in commuting, so that your overall mileage is fairly high to make the fuel saving worthwhile, but you don't do continual long trips. If you do then a hybrid is a better bet, although due to their complexity they will remain more expensive to buy than an ICE.

Hi Ugo - Thanks for posting this - v. interesting. My wife is pestering me to get her an electric bike/scooter to cope with the hills in Le Marche!

My apprehension about 'stand alone' electric devices is that it always seems to be the batteries that are the weakest link. Tyres and other spares you could store. But the batteries?

Has this been done to death on the Oil Drum? Apologies if it has, but are there any viable long term solutions (20-30 years upwards) to portable charge storage? Hydrostatic head is all very well but it's difficult to move water towers around.

I've spent the last month or so looking at the problems associated with batteries - there really doesn't seem to be an ideal solution.

If we do get to a situation where no one is capable/able/ to produce/ship either lithium or lead-acid batteries, most off grid solutions would fail rather rapidly wouldn't they?

I've actually telephoned a couple of bespoke lead acid battery manufacturers and talked to them at length about the problems - the first one, I believe is that they start deteriorating gradually from their 'priming' and cannot be supplied in 'kit' form to be assembled at a later date. Effectively you can't store them and have to use them straight away.

The second is the potential for high temperature (1/2 the max life of 20ish years for every 10°C rise above 25°C) and charging 'hiccups' to further rapidly degrade the cells. [One of the guys I spoke to said a chap in South Africa was worried about his being stolen, so put it in the eaves - the roof was painted black and the battery died within a year at 45°C].

I've recently been in correspondence with a chap in Australia who's using PV and Ni-Fe Edison cells without a charge controller, and that configuration is working. You have to use a larger number of PV cells as the charging is less efficient and takes longer, and the charge storage is dreadful (I have the figures if anyone's interested for some new Chinese ones) - but, they do last 80 ish years, can be topped up at home if you have the salts (think you'd have to purchase the LiOH in advance - could get the KOH from woodash at a pinch!)

I just have a bad feeling that should it come to permanent grid/infrastructure failure, if we use lead acids we'll all be sitting in the dark at grid failure + 10 years.

Any thoughts?


Well, plenty of thoughts, of course. Batteries are still the weak link in electric vehicles and energy storage. About lead-acid batteries, some people told me that they could make more than 30 thousand kms on a set, others that they had troubles after just one thousand km. Reliability is still rather iffy. The new generation of lithium batteries should be way better; as I said in the post; I am moving to a lithium set. It costs almost as much as the whole scooter; but I expect it to last for a long time - I hope, at least; life is always a test. About your question, lead batteries can always be stored "dry" for a long time, but the latest generation comes sealed from the manufacturer, so it can't be done. I have been working on different kinds of batteries - in my lab at the university we work in electrochemistry - there is no miracle solution for the time being. There is some interesting work being done on metal-air batteries, zinc-air and aluminium-air. These have the advantage that you can store the "fuel", Al or Zn, dry for a long time; years at least. The efficiency is not great, but it is one possibility. Otherwise, if the grid fails, the present generation of batteries won't help much.

Thanks for your reply. Yes the guy I spoke to said they 'prime' lead acid batteries before sealing them.

Do you have any comments of the Ni-Fe batteries? Are they as bad as people say? It seems to me that even if they discharge in 1-2 days, at least during the evenings you would have light if they were charged in the day time.

Just about every 'solar rechargable device' has an integral NiMH/Cd battery with 3-5 year life span - How much life do you hope to get from the new Li batteries? What do the manufacturer's guarantee - any references?


Hi have no experience on Ni-Fe batteries. It is a technology supposed to be old, but also very sturdy. So, perhaps, it is good for PV energy storage. The NiMH batteries usually don't use Cd; in principle are much better than lead batteries and they are used for electric vehicles. The famed "EV" of the movie, the one made by General Motors was supposed to run on Ni-MH batteries. However, lithium batteries should be the real quantum jump. There is a lot of material on the web about Li batteries. I got my set from Kokam, a Corean company, shipped directly from Corea; they also made the battery set we used for the electric Fiat 500. REcently, they set up a horrible web site at

In the United States, you can still order dry batteries and purchase the sulfuric acid by itself. With this option, the batteries could be kept for quite LONG time.

These batteries are only good for home power storage, or a 4-wheeled vehicle, however, as they cannot be used in a scooter due to the fact they would be spilling acid all over the place. (Sealed Lead Acid batteries are used in motorcycles and scooters for this reason.)

Also, the standard lead batteries (acid or gel) are not good for vehicles because of the discharge curve which is not suitable. You need special electrodes to keep the voltage approximately constant as the battery discharges. Otherwise, it would be like driving a spring loaded toy vehicle; less and less power as you go on

Also, the standard lead batteries (acid or gel) are not good for vehicles because of the discharge curve which is not suitable. You need special electrodes to keep the voltage approximately constant as the battery discharges. Otherwise, it would be like driving a spring loaded toy vehicle; less and less power as you go on

Really what are you talking about? There is no such voltage drop problem with lead acid batteries. There is the a very non-linear discharge curve called the peukert effect. That means that if you discharge too rapidly, your total available current (amp hours) is drastically reduced. After more that 1,500 miles on lead-acid, I can report good reliability and range. I claim that lead acid is a viable choice when the following are true
1. Initial cost is a primary concern
2. Weight is not too important (my area is flat and the bike is a very strong-framed tandem)
3. Typically only moderate distance trips are needed. (This means the average depth of discharge is (say) less than 40%. Thus the battery life can be easily over a year.
Conversely, if you have an expensive battery chemistry like lipo's you must beware of a "calendar life" limit. IOW (like on a laptop battery) the cells can begin to die simply from old age regardless of how much load they have been made to deliver.

Well, I suggest that you go to see the catalog of a company like Exide or Tudor; they have special lead batteries for traction purposes with special electrodes to keep the voltage constant. Or maybe speak with one of their engineers; they'll explain the problem to you. But if your application is not very demanding, as you describe, ordinary lead acid car batteries may work passably well. Normally, however, it is a bad idea.

Just a note to clarify: "But if your application is not very demanding, as you describe, ordinary lead acid car batteries may work passably well." Nope. I am speaking of AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries. In this country auto batteries are vitually all "flooded" meaning liquid electrolyte. I have never heard of any e-bike or e-scooter using flooded lead-acid. Further, AGMs are used in "traction" for other things like powered wheelchairs. I think your battery comments are too vague to be useful. And no, I won't be phoning the engineers at Exide or Tudor :*)

Right now the German photovoltaics journal Photon ( calculated the economics of a conventional vs an electric car - resulting in an overall advantage for the electric car. They'll probably also publish this in their international edition (

Thank you very much for bringing this technology to light...

I fondly remember the many mopeds in Papeete, Tahiti, and other places around the world. As for electric bicycles... Shenzhen, China is full of them...

But don't forget........

The Bicycle..........


If you really want to go electric auto....... go ultra light.... ala HyperCar...


I bought an ecolocycle a year ago. $1400 canadian. Runs on li/ion. The bike itself runs great but the wiring and components are cheaply made and I have had to repair it many times.

Very interesting.
I see this as an example of what experience someone would have with an EV.
In my case I believe in KISS - I live close to work and commute by bike - in rain, snow or sunshine. It's not for many.

Why have others not adopted an electric scooter/motorcycle? Well - it takes work! It means having to do something different. We are creatures of habit and changing course; rethinking something we're doing takes energy - it's not something our brain is wired to do. We are wired to shut out extraneous smells/sounds/thoughts/visual stimulation and never rethink the 'background noise'.

In my case I've spent a bunch of the summer with the hot water heater off and using a black plastic bag for making hot water. It brought a change of lifestyle. I used the water for the clothes washer - but that ment not washing clothes early in the morning but waiting for the bag to be warmed - I had little choice as to when I washed dishes or took a shower - unless I was willing to tolerate cold water. Would any of my neighbours adopt this? Not on your life! This "technology" cost around $14, will last perhaps 8 months and will save us about $3/month. It's very awkward, time consuming, requires planning ahead and the savings can't pay for a coffee.

Oh sure I could spend a few thousand dollars and rig a solar collector, with a storage tank and have a system that worked outside of the winter. About $7k would get me a "proper" system which would give me warm to hot water year round - but all of that work for providing $70 of hot water per year? We have a 19 gallon electric water heater - it's barely enough for filling the tub and that's why we got a heater that big.

I've been ribbed for this and likely will be again. The way forward is powering down - doing without - without fancy, complex, energy intensive schemes, toys and the like.
It's easier to do without a car - and live close to work - than it is to adopt the latest technology - trying to keep on top of a treadmill. But that's what we've been doing for 50+ years and that's what consumption is all about. Just keep buying the latest gadget and the latest and the latest .... soon you will achieve nirvana.

I was surprised to see that dual flush toilets (4L/6L and 3L/6L) are now about $200 and $300 - much more than I paid a few years ago. Back then I bought into the technology grindstone, errr treadmill. Given that we'd already adopted a well known technique (if it's brown flush it down - if it's yellow let it mellow) the cost of a dual flush (3/6L or 4/6L), or even low flush (6L) would never pay back. Plans of gray water recycling - diverting sink/shower water to the toilets would also backfire because these high-tech babies are likely very very sensitive to how clean the water is. I'm now a believer - that in terms of toilets - we should do without them. We should be doing, at the least, urine diversion for crops, and ideally, full humaure composting (read the book - free online - Humanure Handbook It can be done locally - the technology is old and we can use it on our gardens (although my family hasn't gone that far). But our sawdust toilet uses no water at all - just some sawdust with old coffee filter and/or dried grass (peat doesn't work at all).

In short - technology is not the solution. We need a hard turn in how we do things - realizing just what is going to happen to our society.

All of that being said - we're about to have a Federal election - and the Liberal party is on a "green shift" campaign - however, energy price increases seem to have driven out of the mind of most the issues of climate change. So we'll likely get another Regressive Conservative (we used to have a _Progressive_ Conservative party which I supported) government - hopefully a minority so that their disasterous Bush-lite policies don't destroy us too quickly.

We're not going to see any quick changes anywhere - humans rarely work that way; and they're often too caught up in the moment to think about the future, much less rethink past assumptions.

Said by praetzel:
Oh sure I could spend a few thousand dollars and rig a solar collector....

One can build a solar hot water panel for about $100 buying new parts or less if they are scavenged.

Kudos, Ugo! You're a one man PO/Climate mitigation team who's a beacon to us all, keep up the good work.

What do you do in the rain? In my area, summer afternoon downpours were relatively frequent, but nowadays fairly infrequent. Hence, one vehicle I've been considering is a velomobile with electric boost (one example) that allows one to pedal AND motor in an all-weather enclosure without breaking a sweat.

I'd also like to see a lower profile EV scooter/motorcycle, to reduce drag...

... with an extended fairing and safety cage like a BMW C1 to provide all-weather comfort and safety.

Manipulating the image provides an illustration of the design concept...

See a number of similar, viable approaches, including a 2 passenger Zark 1500 (pictured below). Or "how to take your child to soccer practice in something other than a minivan"...

Technology like this is certainly appropriate for urban situations in comparatively mild climates, and it's not rocket science. It's here now. Fortunately, this is where most people live. The safety issue is problematic, but speeds are slow enough that helmets and protective clothing can provide a large degree of protection, as long as one is not hit by a large vehicle. What's needed is separate road infrastructure for slow speed two-wheeled vehicles where they can travel safely.

However, where I live, in northern Minnesota, 40 km. range would not get me to my closest town and back. And winters, which last six months and have temperatures dropping under minus 40 degrees every year, make batteries even less effective than during the warm season. So technology like this is not very useful for me. My bicycle is a better option, since my "battery" (my body) has much longer range, and, at the age of 59, I can still average 25 kph in a three hour ride. But, again, our roads are continuously snow covered from the end of October until after Easter, making biking impossible or unpleasant at best.

Yes, one reaction that I see many times when I discuss electric vehicles is that "bicycles are better". Of course they are, when possible. I would love to use a bicycle to go to work; I am 56 and the exercise of biking 30 km every day would do me a lot of good. The problems I have are 1) with the present levels of traffic it would be too dangerous 2) and all those hills; some are a little too much for me. More in general, not everybody is physically able to ride bicycle; we have to think of them, too.

The point is another one, though. If (when) things start going really bad with fossil fuels; I am sure many of us can go back to bicycles; the problem is transportation of things which are larger and heavier than oneself. Sometimes people tell me "I can go shopping at the supermarket using a bicycle". Sure, but how are the supermarket's shelves going to be refilled? Here, we are again at the question of whether we'll have an abrupt collapse or we'll have time to adapt. In the second case, we have a chance to adapt the transportation system to electric vehicles with relatively modest investments; that is using the existing power grid and road system. All what you need are new vehicles; and electric vehicles are only marginally more expensive to buy than conventional ones. If you can retrofit the old ones, actually, it is even cheap. If things don't collapse too fast, battery powered transportation could be a great help. Some people say "let's go back to trains and subways" but think of the investment needed. Just as it is impossible to think that you'll have the time to build the mythical "hydrogen infrastructure" that would allow you to drive hydrogen cars a few hundred thousand dollars apiece...

To add something more, I am not working just on electric scooters. We are working at a project for a small electric truck to be used mainly in agriculture. Think of that, too. You can't bring produce to town without some kind of road vehicle. That's the idea; but people haven't realized yet the need for this kind of vehicles. So, we'll live in interesting times, as the ancient Chinese malediction says.

Two points.
For a typical American they spend 2 months/year working to pay for their car. That's a lot of time to spend biking to work - or finding other ways (bus etc).

One thing that came to mind recently is a human scale - both in a co-housing group I'm with and for repairs. I can easily fix a bicycle. Spare parts and tools are cheap and simple. A car is another matter, and more complex devices even worse (just having gone thru the 4th failure of my digital cameras - in comparison to my medium format Rollei from many decades ago which can be disassembled and cleaned).

In terms of moving things with a bike - there are bike trailers - easy to make out of a plastic tub and some 3/4" EMT tubing and a bender. Mind you something like that can't haul all of the compost that we get at a weekly farmers market (amazingly enough the vendors there - rarely farmers - just throw out the tops and spoiled food).

Dealing with my 2 kids is another matter - but they've got their own bikes now.

I can also well relate to the issues of shopping. We're part of an alternative to the regular retail food chain and buy organic food in sacks - not something which I can easily haul around in my backpack - also enough to overload the bike trailer when I get flour/oatmeal/rice/raisins.

That's why we have to produce more locally.

Using urine as fertilizer works amazingly well on some plants - I've never had brussel sprouts with such massive leaves. Why just throw all of that good fertilizer away?

But going back to a human scale. If we cut our population in half in North America that would be a good start. There simply are too many people for the resources. The paradim of constant growth has to end. It was really sad in the book Better Off (Eric Brende) where the Mennonites were being forced to move and pay more for land - all because they breed like bunnies and were all trying to grab enough land for their kids ....

I think that's the first reference to this book I've seen on TOD...I can highly recommend it. Very nice exposition of living a lifestyle of lower complexity.

Yeah, I'm not saying that bicycles solve everything. But they can be a significant help for many people. Electric scooters are great too and faster than a bicycle, but more expensive. In a government rationing scenario, I'm sure food transport to supermarkets will be prioritised above private transport.

Yes traffic can be a problem, but this can often be mitigated in a few ways:
- Find different routes. Eg side streets instead of main roads.
- Improved skills and riding techniques. Riding in the gutter is not the best way. Here's a great guide:

I find people tend to over-estimate the dangers of cycling in traffic. The statistics I've seen show that in the USA, UK and Australia the fatality risk per kilometre is higher than driving a car, but lower than riding a motorcycle. A category that includes motor scooters! ;-) Plus, bicycle riders typically organise their lives so they don't travel as many kilometers, so their overall fatality risk is often similar to a typical car driver.

For someone who is not otherwise active, NOT riding a bike is actually the riskier choice! Transport cyclists have longer life expectancies than non-cyclists, according British and Danish studies: (PDF warning)

Fitness is more of an opportunity than a problem. :-) Just work up the distance/speed gradually. When I re-started transport cycling 10 years ago, I had to walk up a hill on my route. After a few weeks I was riding up it. In many parts of the world, old people are getting around on bicycles.

At the risk of being considered a pain, isn't switching to electric vehicles as it stands today a switch from petroleum to coal in many countries? Coal seems to be far worse for the environment.

Oh dear... Here we go again.

Can someone please explain to me where the investment is coming from to completely rebuild the automotive supply chain and its support infrastructure in order to accommodate electric vehicles?

We need to knock this nonsense on the head before the politicians get interested!

It appears as if the creative destruction of fanny and freddi will not occur...I wonder what sort of bailout will the current auto makers get.Out of MY pocket.They are not exactly cutting edge with their thought processes.And still refuse to import their high mileage vehicles....

Believe me. You've been knocking it on the head for about thirty years now!

I have had my electric scooter for three months now and i could not be happier with it. There is no maintenance, no oil change, of course no fuel to be filled. All i need to do is plug it in when i get home and keep the tires optimally inflated. THAT'S IT!



6000 miles? That's $300 in gasoline in the US for a typical 70 mpg scooter that costs less than a grand to buy.

Any poor schmuck could log onto ebay, buy a scooter, drive it across town and back 600 times, all for less than a tenth of what Ugo most likely spent on this setup. I mean... come on. Where is the reality here?

Hey let's all go out and spend 5-10 grand on an electric scooter. And then spend 5-10 grand on solar panels, just so that we can say we saved ourselves 10 bucks a month in fuel! If Ugo had just driven a little $800 USD gas powered scooter, he'd have saved himself many thousands of dollars. AND he would have saved many thousands (millions?) of BTUs of fossil fuels that went into the production of both the scooter and the solar panels. (Do you know what is involved in making trichlorosilane gas for polysilicon solar PV??) The truth is you're not saving anything by driving an electric scooter. Not by a longshot. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not 5 years from now.

You need to give a look to the EROEI values for PV panels. They have now a highly positive return therefore you don't waste BTUs with PV panels, you save BTUs. The same is true with electric scooters. In both cases, the initial investment is larger, you save money and energy in the long run. Not today, not tomorrow, but 5 years from now, yes.

You don't seem to have your facts in order; I found a Lepton Oxygen for $2500. I found a similar gas powered scooter that costs $2300 shipped. Which motorized scooters of the same power class (150cc) were you referring to? What would be the cost of ownership after 10 years, with your assumptions?

A 150cc scooter isn't comparable to the Lepton. It's much more powerful with a 60 mph top speed, but if you want to compare anyway, here's a place selling one for $1300. That's pretty close to a grand, and we're still talking new while Iconoclast421 was talking about used. I could easily imagine used ones selling under a grand, but given the dodgy build quality on some of these Chinese-made scooters, it might be best to avoid used ones.

A restricted 50cc scooter is much closer in performance to a Lepton Oxygen. You can get a quality, Japanese 50cc scooter like a Honda Metropolitan for $2000 new. I have no idea about the long-term durability and running costs of a scooter like that, but the motorcycles I've had tend to be high-maintenance. OTOH, the battery pack is expensive and is starting to wear out at 10,000km. It's not fair to compare operating costs without amortizing the battery expenses too.

> A 150cc scooter isn't comparable to the Lepton. ... A restricted 50cc scooter is much closer in performance to a Lepton Oxygen.

The Lepton has an 8.5 hp motor, which provides that power across most of the RPM band. A 150cc engine has roughly 8-10 hp only at the upper end of its RPM band (the one you linked has less HP than the Lepton). Same applies to torque.

> Iconoclast421 was talking about used

I see no such qualification in his post.

> I have no idea about the long-term durability and running costs of a [gas powered] scooter like that...

which require new engines with great frequency, but then you say,

> the battery pack is expensive and is starting to wear out at 10,000km. It's not fair to compare operating costs without amortizing the battery expenses

As long as you amortize the gasoline, tuneups, oil changes, replacement engines, and the mechanic's labor to replace them.

Never mind about Iconoclast421 specifying used. He did say $800 US for a gas scooter which is less than any new price I could find, and Luis De Sousa inferred the same thing downthread about buying second hand.

I don't see where it says 8.5 hp. Ugo says it's rated at 1.5 kW which is a little over 2 hp, and it's governed to a top speed of 45 km/h. That's the same performance as a restricted 50cc scooter, e.g. Honda Metropolitan which gets 100 mpg.

You ask about the cost of ownership over 10 years which is far beyond the three years and 10,000 km that Ugo reports on. Like I said, I don't know about the running costs over 10 years which would extrapolate out to 33,000 km. In that time on the electric scooter, you'd have replaced the lead acid battery pack twice, possible three times at 500 Euros each. I do know that a Honda Metropolitan won't require major repairs or a replacement engine in 10,000 km, and scheduled maintenance will cost nowhere near 500 Euros or $800 US. If you want to get pedantic, I'll find an owner's manual and maintenance schedule for it.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm down on EVs. I want EVs to succeed as much as anyone here, but we shouldn't be overly optimistic to the point of overlooking objective performance disadvantages.

> Never mind about Iconoclast421 specifying used. He did say $800 US for a gas scooter which is less than any new price I could find, and Luis De Sousa inferred the same thing downthread about buying second hand.

Exactly my point, he started his analysis with the wrong price for comparison.

> I don't see where it says 8.5 hp. Ugo says it's rated at 1.5 kW which is a little over 2 hp, and it's governed to a top speed of 45 km/h. That's the same performance as a restricted 50cc scooter, e.g. Honda Metropolitan which gets 100 mpg.

Ok, I thought I saw 6.5 kW, but see now that it is 1.8 kW, so I'll accept the comparison to a Honda Metropolitan.

> I do know that a Honda Metropolitan won't require major repairs or a replacement engine in 10,000 km

In a comparison, one must consider cost of ownership over the life of a vehicle. How many miles is a Metropolitan warrantied? A 10,000 km point is small potatoes for an electric motor, but gas scooter motors are notorious for short life spans. Here's one that required $600 of repair after 2800km. This person gets 70-85 mpg from their Metropolitan. And Honda only provides a 1 year warranty, so unless you can provide sufficient documentation to prove otherwise, there's nothing that shows a Metropolitan engine will last over 10,000 miles, if that. Therefore, what do you estimate the cost of ownership of a Lepton vs. a Metropolitan over 30,000 miles, with gas, oil changes, tune-ups, and engine replacements and labor on the Honda?

>Exactly my point, he started his analysis with the wrong price for comparison.
I should've just searched Ebay for "150cc scooter". I found a few fixed price listings for $900 + shipping, brand new. If you're patient and bid carefully, you should be able to get one for $800 at auction, again brand new. The warranty and dealer support on these Chinese scooters is dodgy, but you can't complain for $900. At least parts and service are available mail-order since the Chinese knockoffs use the same engine and other components. I'd get a quality Honda or Yamaha myself, but to each their own.

>Here's one that required $600 of repair after 2800km.

That scooter was a cheap, off-brand Roketa, and they're $600 new on Ebay. Note that the scooter needed no major engine repairs, just a few minor repairs (including body and brake work) that added up to $600. Everybody has horror stories about mechanics. The same thing could happen to you if you took an electric scooter in for work on body, brakes or tires.

>This person gets 70-85 mpg from their Metropolitan.

100 mpg may have been a best case figure based on EPA estimates, but plenty of other owners report 80-90 mpg. They say YMMV, even more so on such a small vehicle. Rider weight, terrain, and riding style can make a huge difference, whether it's mpg on a gas scooter or battery range on an EV.

>And Honda only provides a 1 year warranty, so unless you can provide sufficient documentation to prove otherwise, there's nothing that shows a Metropolitan engine will last over 10,000 miles, if that. Therefore, what do you estimate the cost of ownership of a Lepton vs. a Metropolitan over 30,000 miles, with gas, oil changes, tune-ups, and engine replacements and labor on the Honda?

Why do you keep changing the bar? First you ask 10 years which I estimated to be 33,000 km at Ugo's annual mileage. I say 10,000 km and you change it to 10,000 mi. Now you ask about operating costs over 30,000 mi. That's simply not realistic because these scooters are built for short, low speed trips. Maintenance schedule is oil change, air filter cleaning, and spark plugs every 2,500 mi. First major service is at 15,000 mi.

It's also not useful to draw conclusions of long term durability based on a 1 year warranty. That thoroughly debunked Hummer vs. Prius study used the same logic to assume battery pack replacement after 100,000 mi when average service life is much longer. Honda build quality is excellent, and total engine rebuilds at 10,000 km or even 10,000 mi is unheard of absent abuse and neglect. You can abuse a battery pack same way by discharging it too low, and replacement costs run the same as a major engine repair. EVs may be low maintenance, but they're not idiotproof and immune to abuse.

First, your gas scooter's emissions are worse than an auto's, and the E-scooter produces none. The PV power is apparently available to Ugo as household power as well as transportation energy.

Second, you're only talking about dollars saved, and in the short term. (American, right?) Of course, the electric motor and the PV panels will probably be working, maintenance-free after you've burned through a handful of gas-scooters, and untold numbers of fuel-filters, tuneups, replacement parts, etc..

Third, if there's a gas supply problem, he can still get down the road.

PV production (in the US at least, and I'd wager in Germany) is held to strict regulatory standards for pollutants, unlike Coal Power plants, apparently. It has a good reputation for control of its toxic components. If you have some stories about the TriChloroSilane becoming a toxic waste problem, I'd be happy if you posted it. But as far as I've heard, once those panels are on the roof and working, they're the safest and simplest form of electric generation available.

Yes, PV is expensive, but also very durable and reliable, offering simple local power security, as long as you have light. Today, Tomorrow, 40 years from now. What's in your tank?

If you looked at some of my links, you would find out that electic scooters can be bought for as little as $800-$1500.

These machines can be quite simple, the cost of replacement parts indicates that the manufacturing cost of gas scooters is probably higher than electric scooters.

PepBoys used to sell electric scooters, but didn't provide any support. I bought an ETON folding electric bike for around $500. But, again no support. You can get conversion kits at I have a problem with the extra weight of the hub motor and the battery pack. The idea was - if you get tired of peddleing you can kickin the electric. Trouble is you will get tired because of the extra weight. Also, if you don't use the electric regulary the batteries will go bad.

In spite of the bad rating this comment has, it has some point.

The problem is that Iconoclast421 is conflating the tactics of using an ICE powered vehicle with the use of second hand vehicles. For electric scooters the second hand tactic does not apply yet, maybe in a few years.

Anyway buying a second hand vehicle is a fine option for someone with lower income. That's my case, my car is 17 years old, but is more efficient than the vast majority of the new vehicles offered by the auto-industry. When buying a brand new car you are immediately using up a considerable amount of oil in its fabrication. A new car should only be an option when it is more efficient than a second hand car.

But this shouldn't be confused with the option between electric or ICE engines. And besides remember that for us in the EU oil and gas will rapidly become scarce things.

Well, this is a series of interesting comments. In my opinion, 50 cc gas powered scooters were once a good idea: there existed very sturdy models, practically impossible to wear down and that required very little maintenance. I used to have one, when I was 16; later on I owned a 125 cc "Vespa" that lasted 25 years without requiring, practically, any maintenance-. However, these scooters have disappeared. They used two-stroke engines, which is horribly polluting. Now, the standard 50 cc scooter has a 4-stroke engine, catalytic filters and is a very sophisticated machine which, I hear from owners, requires a lot of maintenance. Also, because of the weight, the engine is overstressed and it doesn't last very long; or at least so I am told. In the end, I am sure that, everything considered, in the long run you do save money using an electric scooter. Not a lot of money, sure, it is marginal on an average person's budget. You won't buy an electric scooter because you want to save money. As I said, that is not the point.

Said by Iconoclast421:

Hey let's all go out and spend 5-10 grand on an electric scooter. And then spend 5-10 grand on solar panels....

What is ridiculous is your exaggeration. Ugo Bardi gives the following data for his scooter:

3 kW*hr / 100 km
3 years of use
10,000 km driven

On average that is 10,000 km * 3 kW*hr / 100 km = 300 kW*hr

300,000 W*hr / (3 years * 365 days / years) = 274 W*hr / day

Assuming 75% sunny days, no power output of the PV panel on a cloudy day, PV panel pointing in a fixed direction (i.e. integration factor 6 hours), 1,000 W/m^2 insolation, and 85% efficiency for the wiring and electronics (assuming a grid-tied PV system), on average he needs a PV panel with a rated power of:

274 W*hr / .75 / .85 / 6 = 72 W

He could buy a BP Solar BP380J 80 W PV panel for $459.

I do not know the voltage of the scooter's battery nor whether he charges it using DC or from the AC electrical outlet preventing me from estimating the cost of the electronics. It is not the overwhelming cost that you imagine especially considering his PV system has many other uses.


thanks for your report. You ask why so little people have followed. I can give you some reasons.

While scooters have always been very widespread in the mediteranean countries they have not been so in northern Europe. Yes, youngsters drive many of them here in Germany, but this cannot be compared to the southern countries. (In Athens/Greece they are the No. 1 cause of deaths among youngsters as I read some time.) But you will very rarely see older people on a scooter here. And if so, this is associated with low income, for those who cannot afford a decent car.

Youngsters in these days wouldn't buy an e-scooter for both reasons of higher costs (the E-max, produced here in Bavaria, is about 3,000 Euros, compared to some 800 or so for a gasoline scooter) and the lack of roaring (yes - many youngster need to express their personality that way, unfortunately.) Silent scooters are not cool.

I have been thinking of buying one of these e-scooters myself, but there are good reasons not to do so. I ride some 6,000 km a year on a bicycle (my way to work is 5km /3miles one direction). A scooter would be unfavorable when it comes to low temperatures in winter (you get cold), and lastly I would have to use the same streets as the cars. With my bike I can use quiet side roads or bike pathes all along the way that are not allowed to motorized traffic.

The electrified Fiat 500 is not going to be produced by the Fiat company as far as I remember, but the OsCar, which I'd like to add to your list, is at least intended to be produced on an industrial scale (well, some time ..)

cheers from Bavaria!

Separate bike paths certainly make it safer. I commute on a motorcycle in rush hour traffic. It runs on gasoline, but my experiences with comfort and safety apply to electric scooters all the same. You really should wear substantial safety gear if you ride in traffic: full face helmet, gloves, boots, and jacket/pants with CE approved armor. I wear all of that myself except for the armored pants; they're just too inconvenient to wear everywhere.

Bicyclists ride in traffic with much less safety gear, but they have to balance crash protection with staying cool. Scooter riders tend to be more complacent about safety gear, I guess due to lower speeds and their friendlier image, but the risks of riding in traffic are the same as a motorcycle. I know safety gear in the past has tended to be cumbersome, hot and come in a limited range of styles, i.e. leather clad biker, but they're much improved now. Here's a mesh jacket with CE armor that comfortable for even the hottest summer days.

I had an amusing experience on my bicycle the other day chasing after a guy on an electric bicycle. I say "amusing" because I didn't realize he had an electric bicycle. From behind, all I could see was he was going really fast, and pedaling in the wrong gear, which made it very strange. We were going about 25 mi/hr, and I decided to pass him to see what the heck was going on. That's when I saw the Li battery and the big fat front hub which housed the motor. I was like, "aw shucks, that's why he's going so fast."

If that was in Waltham, Ma, then the the battery was actually SLA not Li...

I use a bike cost about 2000 euros, maximum power about 400 watts, maximum range in a day, 300km( so far!). Annual mileage 16,000 km. Fuel consumption eg yesterday over 130km & 2300 metres of ascent, average speed 21.5kph:- 1 litre of water, 1 carton of Ribena, 1 Toffecrisp, I Geobar, 2 Turkish Delights & 6 Dextrose tablets. Rider 70 yrs old, weight 76 kg. Bike weight 8kg. Seriously though what is this obsession with motorised bikes, they are heavy, have limited range & when the batteries run flat you are stranded.

Actually, I think transport is the only justification for photovoltaic solar panels. The up front capital cost is simply too high for domestic power. It's only when the power from the panels is displacing the cost of fuel used in transport that they make any kind of economic sense.

The payback period drops from 20 years to 4 or so, assuming they are also powering the domestic electricity.

Not the only justification; but a powerful justification. Electric vehicles and PV match very well with each other.

> The up front capital cost is simply too high for domestic power.

I would disagree. There are many features in a house that can drastically change the purchasing price, especially the amount of floor space. Add in things like granite countertops, marble tile, expensive furniture, etc and $20k for a PV system makes a lot of sense if one wants to live modestly with a low energy footprint. There are too many people who complain about the 'high cost' of PV, but choose a $36,000 SUV over a $12,000 Toyota Yaris...

Not sure how that adds up. Electricity from the grid can displace transport fuel at a much cheaper rate than PV panels. You could argue they reduce peak load on the grid, so they're good if you have to charge your EV and run the AC in the middle of the day, but that only makes sense if we have instantaneous time-of-use metering where retail peak rates are much more expensive than off-peak.

I can't comment on the economics, but I can applaud the intent. It is good to read of a determined approach to a problem that is not going away any time soon. Someone above alluded to the problem of moving the weekly 50kg of shopping on a bike - I'd have to question the need for that much stuff! Here (in the UK) you can usually get bulky stuff delivered (okay - I speak form a city viewpoint)- I get milk and such delivered this way - the rest I carry from the shop, or cycle with it in a back pack. My wife recently purchased a stunning 'new' piece of technology to help with the local shopping - a single axle 'trolley'- which will quite happily take on average 10- 20kg with no problems. Think of all those executive suitcases being dragged around airports and you get the picture. Photovoltaics are a non-starter this year after a grim and grey summer!

This problem is realy easy to deal with. You just stop every day on the way home from work and grab a little bit. You eat fresher food that way.

If you look at the link for my scooter, you will see storage compartments, plus there is one hidden under the seat that stores a helmet. You can also add a lager storage box for the back that would take a 4 litre jug easily.

One day or two days a month you go buy your really big stuff: sheets of plywood, 20 lb bags of potatoes, 50 lb bags of concrete etc.

I want to play too...

Here is a two person short range vehicle. Top speed about 28mph
range about 30 miles. Battery replacement cost $125 after 1500-2000
miles. Cost: under $1000. It can also tow a trailer of course. No
licensing or insurance required. Miles to date: about 1,600

Dang! I can see I'll need to redo this photo featuring daughter instead of old guy dad :*)

Beautiful Italian women sell vehicles much better than middle aged guys (like me) in shorts.

Rather astounding growth in e-bike use in China. The chart at top of article says it all.

I have a scooter very like Ugo's. Main difference, LiPo batteries. I rode 15.000 km on Pb-gel batteries before the LiPo opportunity was technically feasible, and 1500 on LiPo. Extended mileage (almost 70 km), 15kg instead of 60, recharging time of 2 hours, and much better perfomance on steep streets (20 km/h with a 15% slope). Alas, 4 times the price, and hopefully also 6 times the duration (to be verified...). Some pictures of the new batteries are on my blog (in Italian, sorry). In Florence there is a good network of free recharging points, so I don't pay even the modest amount of electricity needed (less than 35 Wh/km).

The reliability is quite good. Never had problems in 6 years, apart for a hull damage in a fall, and normal maintenance: tires, some cc of gear oil for the gearbox, and a lamp. While my son (yes youngsters need the noise of a ICE motor) has changed two scooters in the meantime, and must periodically pay a visit to the repair shop.

I agree that a bike is better. And I use mine a lot, too. But having an alternative is handy.

I don't like electric bike, they are limited by law (here) to 22 km/h, so I go faster with a normal one. But I understand some people are not so athletic.

For some people like me, it not a matter of being athletic. I have to wear a suit and look polished. On a bike, I would sweat too much on a hot day.

The electric scooter fits my needs perfectly. A vast reduction in noise and polution on four cents a day in electricity. I am faster than cars because I wiggle past them and right through a traffic jam. I am classed as a powered bike and I drive it that way. I have cut my gas automobile use 95% since I got it. We can change things. I am so happy.

Yes, I should have said in my post that, although I didn't have many followers with my idea of the electric scooter, I had at least one master, Gianni Comoretto (also a good friend) who started before me with using an electric scooter. He is now leading the way with the first scooter in town with lithium polymer batteries.

Considering where you might take your experience next, have your looked at the Aptera?

I am aware of the Aptera and think they are on the right track, but my scooter only cost $1500 and covers my needs for 7 months of the year.

I would rather save the money that you could spend on an Aptera and invest that money in oil stocks on the dips.

My electric bike (Tidalforce M-750) gets over 1,000 miles per
gallon in energy equivalent (actual measured value). Although
its speed is limited to 20 MPH (32 Km / hour), it gets me to
work as fast as a car since I can ride it door-to-door and park
it in my office.

It is possible to get a good-quality e-bike with Lithium
batteries for around $3,000. About $1,000 USD of solar panels
are enough to power it. The savings on gasoline and parking
pay for it in a few years.

I've been commuting (7 miles each way with steep hills) by e-bike
for several years, alternating with a regular road bike, and I
find it to be quite practical.

This short video appeared yesterday (Tuesday September 9)  on the BBC web site:

A Swiss schoolteacher has embarked on world tour in a taxi cab powered with the help of the sun to spread the word about green power.

Louis Palmer has driven 45,000 kilometres in the solar powered vehicle which has a maximum speed of 88 kilometres per hour.

Very interesting, a small 3 wheeler, with the PV solar panels towed behind on a very light weight trailer.

This sounds like a great little scooter, but ...

Why can't people get as excited about using their own energy and ride a bicycle? People seem to have the idea that a bicycle can take you to the corner shops for some milk and back but for anything longer than that we need electric or fossil-fuel based transport. You say that the scooter has a nominal range of 40Km - that means that if I used it for one of our cycling group's day trips, I'd be stranded as we often cover about 50Km! If I need extra power for the way home then a chocolate bar, a bag of chips or a cake usually does the trick...

It seems that the bicycle, the most wonderfully efficient (and perhaps enjoyable?) human transport solution ever invented is just too 'low tech' for people and we seem to permanently looking for a hi-tech solution. Also, as well as transport you'll stay fitter, get improved musculature and get an excuse to wear skin-tight lycra - what more reasons could you want!

Have a look at the URL to see how efficient a bicycle is, even compared to a fish!:

Hi Kiltedgreen,

I think the answer may be evident in China. Remember in the old TV clips, we used to see thousands bicycles at every traffic light in Beijing, just waiting to clog the streets with a mass of humanity.

Those were the good old days. The latest TV footages show very few bikes in Beijing anymore, only American SUV's filling the roads with a mass of humanity.

With our coming impoverishment we will now see hundreds of bicycles in New York intersections.

Good News: The US obesity epidemic may have a solution after all