Scoot'Elec: a review after 4 years and 20,000km of ownership.
The Scoot'elec was first conceived 10 years ago, and based on Peugeot's entry-level petrol scooter (at that time) called the Zenith, with which it shares a lot of body panels and suspension parts. It is powered by a 2.8kW DC motor fed from 3 Saft nickel-cadmium "monoblocs" giving an 18v 100Ah battery.
Built around a "double cradle" the frame is different than the Zenith's, and holds the batteries low down between and behind the driver's feet. The electronic controller and onboard charger are housed under the seat (not accessible) which is where you'll find the attached charging cable - a curly flex with a standard domestic plug. A fast on-board charger (1,400 Watt) means that "empty" to 95% is realised in 2 hours from a 230V mains supply, with a further 3 hours to equalise the batteries.
Being based around the Zenith the only storage space is a tiny, irregular space in the front - nominally for a "demi-jet" helmet, the kind that only covers the top of your head (akin to a horse-riding helmet). These aren't even legal in the UK so for me that space just carries a minimal toolkit, spare bulbs and puncture repair sealant/tyre re-inflater. I opted for a full-face helmet anyway, so I added a rear carrier and a top-case, which proves very useful for grocery shopping too!
The Saft "Ni-Cads" are "low maintenance" requiring battery watering two or three times a year - a procedure usually entrusted to an authorized dealer. It involves an overnight longer-than-normal maintenance charge and then the addition of de-mineralised water through a tamperproof filler under the seat. A warning light on the dash tells you when this is necessary, giving you only about 200km (125 miles) advance notice. This battery maintenance is included in the purchase price in France, not in the UK... it makes it expensive to keep on the road, costing about twice as much per year for the watering as for the electricity to recharge it!
The sparseness of Scoot'Elec dealers in the UK can make this awkward, especially if you move house or your dealer ceases trading (both have happened to me) but this situation might be better in continental Europe. UK Peugeot scooter dealers elected (no pun intended) to deal the Scoot'Elec - they weren't obliged to carry it or to service them.
The driving controls are simple to get to grips with. Having never ridden any kind of motorcycle before I appreciated the simplicity. Left and right brake levers for front and rear brakes respectively; twist grip throttle; single switch for front and rear lights (no dip/full beam); turn signal indicator switch and a keypad immobiliser.
To start the scooter, you turn on the key (unlocking the steering in the process) and enter your 4-digit PIN into the keypad. It gives a confirmatory "chirp-chirp" and then the contactor clicks on. What would normally be the "engine start" button is used to toggle between a handling mode (walking pace) and full-power mode. The standard road horn and a virtually useless "pedestrian" horn, which is too quiet to be heard, complete the driver controls. There is a speedo in km/h and an odometer in km (even though the UK works in mph and miles there is no option or dual scale on the speedo - after 4 years I've just about got used to it!) and a battery "fuel" gauge and a few warning/indicator lights.
I bought the scooter when I was living in a city, and then a year later moved back to my rural home town. It was only then that I realized that the 15W (yes, fifteen watt!) incandescent headlight was next to useless. It wasn't safe to ride above about 10 mph on an unlit road because it's impossible to see anything! Not wanting to potentially damage the scooter by fitting a higher wattage bulb, I endeavored to find a 15W Halogen bulb. Not easy. Many phone calls later I found a bulb dealer from whom I had to buy a pack of 10! Still on number 1! It made a big difference though.
Riding the scooter is pleasant in town, where it is usually fast enough to keep up with traffic. It has good acceleration and hill climbing ability. It's nominally limited to 45km/h but it does more like 55km/h (32mph), but this can vary depending on how long has elapsed since it was last charged. Leave it for more than about 8 hours and there is a noticeable drop in speed, acceleration and hill climbing ability and you then can feel overly slow. Often I need to plug it in for 15 to 30 minutes before setting out if it's sat for a while. I've been told that this is "normal" and is a peculiarity that has to be tolerated.
I had a couple of problems with the brakes squeaking and binding (remedied by a change of brake linings to a different manufacturer). I also found that water was entering the frame because the tubular sections are left open ended at the rear of the machine (under the back of the seat). Easily preventable by a couple of plastic caps. Mine is now "waxoyled" to help prevent corrosion.
Good points: Fast on-board charger. Good quality manufacturing. Good looks - it doesn't look "converted" or shoddy. 4 year battery warranty. Legal for a pillion passenger (but subject to a weight limit and obviously a drop in performance) with fold-out foot pegs.
Bad points: useless standard headlight bulb (replace with a halogen - I have 9 spares if you're interested!) Minimal storage as standard. Official battery maintenance and servicing requires authorized service dealer. Short notice (by warning light) of service requirement. Frame subject to corrosion if not treated. Range is limited to about 20 miles stop-go town driving to 25 miles on a constant speed run.
Ideally, the Saft NiCds should be replaced with a better battery (NiMH or Li-Ion etc.) giving a higher range - the 25 mile real world limit is just a bit too short for me, particularly since I moved to a rural area. The fast charging mitigates this somewhat, but about 30-33 miles range would be ideal for me.
Production of the Scoot'elec was suspended a couple of years ago, but apparently has since resumed and it's available again in, I believe, the same spec as before. A nice looking, mostly well made scooter from one of the big scooter manufacturers. Make sure that you can get the servicing that it needs and change that headlamp bulb!
trevaskis at hotmail.com