Anyone who attended the Carole Nash Winter Classic at Newark couldn’t help but see the amount of interest being shown in an electric Lambretta GP scooter being showcased by Retrospective Scooters owner, Niall McCart.
Once word got round that you could have a go, folk lined up to ask questions, watch the machine in action, or have a go themselves. I must admit that John Walklate, Chris Coe and I gave the scooter a whirl and we were all suitably impressed, not only by its handling, but also by the speed of the scooter. I should also point out that Niall also had an electric Vespa Sprint and a Vespa Primavera at
Anyone who regularly reads Classic Scooterist will know that I wrote about the electric Primavera that Niall built in a previous issue. The GP seen here belongs to Niall’s mechanic, Dave, and up to the show it housed its Innocenti-built engine. However, Niall had other ideas and a swing-arm was sorted along with a tray (capable of holding three batteries), wiring loom and even a fake engine casing.
I must admit that when I saw the scooter sat in the corner at Newark on the Saturday morning as Niall set up, I did wonder if it was just a standard machine. How wrong could I have been!
Niall opened the toolbox door to reveal the battery connections. Flipping off a side panel revealed the hub motor at the rear, with the fake engine casing, which, if you just walked past, looked like the Innocenti item, save for the fact that there was no kick-start. The batteries (all three of them) were sat side-by-side on a purpose-built tray, in the space once occupied by a conventional petrol tank.
The scooter became a crowd pleaser, once people had found Niall tucked away in the corner. I only knew he was there because he was directly across from our own Luna Owners Club stand.
Practicality and usage
Standing outside watching both Johnny and Chris try the scooter brought home an issue that I’ve always said about electric scooters – there’s no sound. Given that at present, range is an issue and these scooters are suited to city work, that’s a potential issue. I’m not sure how you get around that, but a solution will need to be found.
I must say that the lack of sound was my only criticism of not only the electric GP, but also of the electric Vespa I tried some time back, owned by Jon Nurse and built by Saigon Scooter Centre. It does seem surreal to watch a scooter zipping round with absolutely no sound whatsoever. Crazy!
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This scooter (or rather the kit) isn’t being put together with the rally-going scooterist in mind. That’s not to discount any rally-goers, but to point out that the travelling distance on a single charge is one of the areas that’s limited at present. It may improve in time, once battery technology improves. We might say that it will never happen, but if you’re a realist, you know that at some point we’ll be forced into using electric vehicles.
Niall pointed out that a 1kw battery is restricted to a speed of 30mph, whereas the 3kw battery would do 55-60mph. The issue is that the harder you ride, the more you drain the battery, losing range and battery life. He went on to say that converted electric scooters are urban transport only, for use around towns and cities, not travelling between them. Asked if a rider carried six batteries, could they travel to a national rally, the answer was no. There was also the issue of where would you put six batteries? Ultimately, Niall sees the electric conversions as a bit of fun, runabout town scooters that save you money, being easy to use, with fantastic acceleration and they sure put a smile on your face.
Price of scootering
The kit costs £2,495 and consists of a number of items, including the hub motor, swing-arm, DC converter, wiring loom, controller, solenoid, battery tray and the all-important instructions, should you choose to do it yourself. You could ask Niall and the Retrospective boys to do it for you. Niall also said that if you use two or more batteries, you’ll need an on-board charging socket, leads and a relay box.
QS Motor make the brushless 3kw hub motor, which is a high-end piece of kit using sinusoidal controllers (try saying that when you’re drunk!). The Panasonic 18650 Lithium-ion cell batteries cost £850. You don’t need to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to lift them, as they weigh a mere 6kg. Their easy removal provides a simple anti-theft device for your scooter. The converted GP uses three batteries, although it was running throughout the whole Newark show weekend on less than that, and coped admirably with all that was thrown at it.
As said previously, range is the biggest issue, so unless you live 30 miles or less from a rally destination (some folk do) then this won’t (at present) be your scooter of choice.
A single charge will provide a 30-35 mile range, depending on how many batteries you have in your tray. Again, I will re-iterate what Niall said: the range depends on how hard you ride the scooter.
What’s impressive is the top speed. With the 3kw kit providing 55-60mph, it’s no slouch. It’s not going to beat kitted scooters, but then that’s not what it’s built for. The 3kw kit means its the equivalent of a 125cc scooter, so you need the respective licence, insurance, etc.
Having ridden the scooter, I’m happy to say that the pick-up is impressive and the scooter happily provides nippy handling. I was more than impressed and got off the scooter wondering if an electric Luna Line machine would be on the cards.
Another upside of the electric scooter is that you don’t need road tax, and if you’re living in London, you don’t need to pay for any emission charges. A typical round-town use would see five miles costing one pence.
Niall said the conversion could be carried out on any old scooter. Currently, he’s working on an old 1960 NSU Prima V and a 1962 Guizzo. One was just a frame and the other had a damaged engine, so the electric conversions will see them back on the road.
It’s clear that there are many plus points for the electric GP and I for one will wait and see what Niall – or anyone else building electric scooters – comes up with next.
The time will come when we have no choice and are told that fossil fuels are banned. Frankly, it’s anyone’s guess how far away that is, but fair play to Niall for putting his faith in a new piece of kit, which is more than worthy of a second look.