February 21, 2011

After the e-bike boom: Will Switzerland become an electric scooter pioneer?

Every 10th bicycle sold in Switzerland is electric. However, e-scooters are still a rarity on Swiss roads. At the fair for motorbikes, scooters and tuning, SWISS-MOTO, talked to the small but growing e-scooter industry about market expectations, the cooperation and competition with China, and new technology trends. + photo gallery
SWISS-MOTO 2011: Electric Scooters on display

INTERMOT: How E-bikes take Europe by storm, 11 Oct 2010


EVS25: E-bikes offer lessons for EVs, 17 Nov 2010


Exclusive interview with EVB Technology: Insights from the Chinese market, 10 Feb 2011Held from 17 to 20 February in Zurich, SWISS-MOTO brought together 195 exhibitors showcasing their latest models, technology developments and accessories for the two-wheeled fun to ride. 15 exhibitors were grouped in Hall 7 around a test track to convince visitors that riding an electric scooter for daily commuting can be a silent, comfortable and low-carbon alternative to taking the car or the public transport.

With most leading domestic and foreign brands active in bringing e-scooters to Switzerland also being present at SWISS-MOTO, this year's special exhibition was a significant step forward for the work of "NewRide". The Swiss association to support the domestic introduction of electric two wheelers is confident that after the fast track electric bicycles have taken – they now have a 10% share in new sales in Switzerland – their scooter counterparts could follow suit.

When exactly however, the market for electric scooters will pick up, remains subject to speculation. Urs Schwegler, Project Leader of NewRide, hopes that Switzerland could, with its preference for high-quality products, even become a pioneer in building a strong market for e-scooters in Europe.

The Swiss Post has set an example by already operating 1,000 fully electric heavy-duty scooters for its postal deliveries. Since 2008, the private company has been using e-scooters and yearly orders have been increasing ever since. Europe's largest fleet of electric scooters is expected to grow to 3,000 units by 2012, or more than 40% of the group's total fleet.

E-Scooter models on display

While most models on display are still using a large share of Chinese casings and components, Swiss companies are investing more and more resources in research and development of the battery management system, intelligent monitoring of the driving range and more efficient drive trains. A move towards complete Swiss production, however, is not likely to happen anytime soon, given the already higher prices of e-scooters as compared to their gasoline counterparts. E-scooter makers and distributors confirm that the long-term competition by low priced import Chinese models is of no major concern in a country where safety and quality enjoy priority over financial savings. On the other hand, manufacturers are also aware of the fact that overpricing e-scooters – vehicles that are trying to find their market niche between bicycles on one side and the car on the other - will not be beneficial to the emerging, yet promising industry.

Among the models displayed at SWISS-MOTO:

e-sprit: Top performer in ADAC's test of 7 electric scooters in August 2010, the "Silenzio 45" by Austrian company e-sprit reaches a maximum speed of 45 km/h. The model ranked first due to its fast charging (up to 5 hours for a 100% recharge), its realistic driving range of around 75 km, its high-quality LiFePo4 battery, and excellent motor performance, especially when in uphill driving mode. Having been active in Germany and Austria since 2009, the company's product range – including also a 7.5 MW model only to be used with a driving license for motorbikes – is just entering the Swiss market with the help of Swiss distributor semax.

e-tropolis: Germany manufacturer SiG Solar – a specialist on photovoltaic installations – presented its "future" and "retro" models sold in Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The models are manufactured in China according to German quality standards. For this year, the company hopes to sell 3,000-5,000 models in those four countries and in Switzerland where e-tropolis just entered the market. The scooters use 60 V silicon batteries with up to 450 charge/discharge cycles.

Kyburz: The Swiss manufacturer showcased its heavy-duty three-wheeled vehicles for postal deliveries. Kyburz has signed an agreement with Swiss Post to test 50 models under harsh real-life conditions. Scooters used for daily deliveries are usually replaced every two years, given the extensive start-stop driving mode they are operating in. The DXP is based on the Classic model already sold to thousands of Swiss. It reaches a maximum speed of 45 km/h at a driving range of 30 to 100 km, and can climb up to 30% slopes. Payload is at 120 kg and at even 270 kg when used together with a trailer.

m-way: Leading retailer group Migros created "m-way" to promote electric mobility through an integrated competence platform offering all services and products needed to enjoy fossil-fuel free two- and four-wheelers. The portfolio ranges from appealing financing and insurance models, to equipment and accessories, green electricity and fast-charging stations, to maintenance and repair services. In m-way's first shop opened in Zurich in Autumn 2010, e-scooters are available for test rides, sales, rental and leasing. At SWISS-MOTO, m-way presented some of the electric scooters and bicycles promoted through its online and physical platforms: Elmoto, PGO eWave, Stromer, Vectrix, and Zero S.

PGO Scooters: Fibag, the Swiss importer of Kawasaki and Taiwanese PGO scooters, showcased the "eWave" as a high-quality model that does not require a full driving license due to its maximum speed of 45 km/h. The combination of two portable lithium-ion batteries and four fixed lead-acid battery packs makes the model a valid alternative for daily commuting and easy recharge. The model with both rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive is sold at around 5,000 CHF (around €3,800).

Vesp@Verdee: The sustainable use of resources was the underlying motivation for Swiss company Bechtiger Motos to develop an innovative drive train unit that can be built into existing scooters to combine timeless design with emission-free mobility. After three years of intense R&D, an exclusive series of 10 classic Vespas equipped with a completely new Swiss-made motor and controller unit is now available. According to the manufacturer, the "second-life" models equipped with a 5-10 kW motor will be fully charged in 1 hour, can reach a maximum speed of 85 km/h and a driving range of up to 210 km with 3 fully charged batteries.

vRone: Developed by Von Roll and Quantya, the vRone was presented at SWISS-MOTO for the very first time to a broader audience. With a maximum speed of 100 km/h, a 100 km driving range on one charge and more than 1,000 charging cycles, development and manufacturing are "Made in Switzerland". The manufacturer claims that the model will be fully recyclable. First units will be delivered to the Swiss market as from April on.