Review by David Hoole of the City 80L

This review first appeared on Eco Vehicle Exchange – see here.  Our thanks to David for his great review!

I’ve been cycling in central London for the past 15 years. Yet sometimes I wonder if I’m getting a bit too old for all that pedalling.  I can cope with the stresses and threats of our inner-city roads (mostly by taking cycle paths), but when I’m riding up a sharp hill, sometimes I long for a little motorised assistance (Archway, anyone?). Simply put, could I, should I, swap my bike for an electric scooter? Vmoto UK (sole distributors of Italian-designed, German-engineered, Chinese-assembled electric scooters) kindly gave me the chance to find out with a test-ride of their City 80L model.

It’s immediately fun. It’s stylish with its bright red colouring and silver swoosh (it’s also available in black, white and electric blue). Nippy too. The acceleration is impressive; responsive, smooth, and powerful – not jumpy at all. It’s also silent, just like a bicycle. I’m immediately proud of my quiet, emission-free ride.

The scooter certainly turns a few heads. A builder on a nearby building site practically wolf-whistles at the bike. He proceeds to shout out questions about range, speed and charge time. The battery is stored conveniently under the footwell. This helps with the low centre of gravity. I feel very comfortable and secure on the seat. The controls are all simple and clearly indicated. The wing mirrors give a good rear view. The indicators bleep audibly as they flash. This is most reassuring for someone like me who might forget to switch them off.

The 80L model comes with a 1000W engine power (running on 72V DC, with a capacity of 1.4kWh). This translates into a maximum speed of roughly 45km/h and a range of roughly 45km. You don’t need a motorcycle licence to drive it, if you have a full, clean UK driving licence. (NB Drivers with licences issued since 2001 will need to complete compulsory basic training (CBT).)

As a cyclist and resident of the inner city, it’s been a while since I drove a scooter (or a car, for that matter). Maybe busy Borough Market in central south London wasn’t the easiest place to start.  But I know these roads well. Soon I’m feeling confident driving north over London Bridge up to Spitalfields and around Aldgate. I certainly appreciate that nippy acceleration heading uphill into the City.

Soon the realities of driving a scooter through central London become apparent. I may well be riding clean tech, but I’m sat in the middle of lots of very dirty traffic. And the traffic lights are so often at red, I feel like I’m being forced to stop and breathe exhaust fumes every couple of minutes. It could easily be a form of torture. My heart leaps with joy when I (occasionally) see an electric car or a hydrogen bus. At rush hour, progress is very slow. The scooter is fast and easy to manoeuvre. However, it’s not as good as a bicycle when it comes to weaving through traffic and avoiding jams. Unsurprisingly, the vehicles I notice most are other scooters. We’re often held up together at traffic lights. I’m sure there’s a pack mentality as we drive off, looking for some safety in numbers. They notice me, the quiet one. I notice their noise and exhaust fumes in my face, as they pull ahead.

There are other practical considerations. Where to park? (There’s an app for that!) How many locks to apply, for security? Should I remove the battery for total peace of mind? D-locking a push bike to a railing is generally pretty straightforward. But I’ve had four bikes stolen in eight years. I clearly wasn’t doing it right. Fortunately, I make it home with both the scooter and I very much intact.

There’s a new challenge too, battery charging.  We regard filling up with petrol as routine, even if it’s often inconvenient, time consuming, and a little bit dirty. Domestic and transport battery charging will soon be just as common. It will also be easier, cleaner and far cheaper. Most EV owners say it’s already a breeze. Vmoto estimate the cost of a month’s e-commute at £2.20 (compared to £12.50 for an ICE scooter at 125mpg and £39 for a car a 40mpg).

The battery weighs 12.5kg. It’s easy to lift out of the footwell and even comes with wheels attached. That means it’s hassle-free to take to your preferred (standard 3-pin) plug. The separate charging unit is simple to connect too. A full recharge takes 3.5-4 hours. A blue flashing light indicates a successful connection. The charger has a small cooling fan, which makes a low-level hum throughout the charging period. Not something to do in your bedroom then.

The following day I enjoyed a longer drive out around Stratford and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Traffic was a bit quieter, and I thoroughly enjoyed cruising around in the 20-30mph range, and actually covering a few miles. One minor complaint later in the day though; the battery charge declined predictably from six bars to five to four and then three, two…and then back to three again. And then down to one. And then back to two. This was confusing (and a bit stressful) just when I needed a reliable, accurate reading. This is ‘range anxiety’ in action. But I needn’t have worried. I made it home with plenty of battery to spare. As a proud owner, I’m confident I’d soon grow more familiar with the bike and the battery characteristics. My only other gripe was the safety lock on the rear ’top box’. It was so safe I found it hard to unlock. There is a knack to it, which I didn’t quite understand. But it always sprung open eventually.

So, I should I switch? Cycling, driving or scooting is never going to be a stress-fee pleasure in central London. Even walking can be pretty intense with so many vehicles and people crammed into the place. I wouldn’t choose it for London roads, but in more relaxed urban and suburban places this scooter would be a pleasure to ride. Especially if you have a commute of about 10-12miles (or twice that if you can charge the battery in the day as well as night). For now, I’ll focus on cycling in zone one, and making the most of the new cycle superhighways.

Should others switch? In London there are lots of noisy, polluting scooters on the roads, mostly for commuting and household deliveries (pizza anyone?). It would be a real breath of fresh air for all of us if those drivers made the #ecovehicleexchange to a Vmoto e-scooter.

More on the City 80L here.

Vehicle listings also available for the E-MAX 120L+ and the E-MAX V120L