Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Scooter Resource -- The Future ?

It was only about 50 years ago when scooters and mopeds began taking over the world. Companies such as Cushman, Vespa, Lambretta, Puch, Motobecane and Allstate proved that these two wheeled vehicles provided a inexpensive form of transportation which granted their owners an endless amounts of freedom. These vehicles sparked a transportation boom that still continues. Today we are on the cusp of a new, green transportation revolution, and I'm convinced that similarly to the past, scooters and mopeds will provide a flashpan of growth for this new type of transportation. I've compiled a list of my thoughts on the current state of the scooter market, where I think there is opportunity for growth, and ultimately where it will end up in the future.

It's a well known fact that the USA is a strange scooter market when compared to most other countries. Like their motorcycle cousins, scooters and mopeds are seen more as recreational vehicles or weekend toys when compared to the uses of similar bikes in Europe or Asia. Another interesting difference in the USA market is the popularity of vintage models. In most other countries vintage or vintage-style scooters are rarely seen or sold. America is a completely different story with vintage-style new bikes dominating the sales figures.

Another interesting
trend I've noticed over the last year or so is the growth in popularity of electric two-wheeled vehicles, or LEVs. Recently Lithium-Ion battery technology has advanced to a point that makes reasonable commuting distances on an electric two wheeler possible. While there hasn't been a mass adaption to LEVs yet, the inevitability of rising fuel prices make this adaption a matter of when and not if. This period reminds me of about eight or ten years ago when I bought my first generation iPod. It was small and different but it attracted attention. Most people didn't know much about MP3 players but were very interested in checking out the iPod whenever I used it. Needless to say the iPod is on generation 7 or 8 and is a huge seller. I don't think the coming electric scooter and moped boom will be that dis-similar to the iPod phenomenon of the early in mid 2000s. Unfortunately there hasn't been an electric scooter or moped that has been built, that is truly mass appealing to the America market. This boom won't happen until that mass appealing model is built.

Obviously you can see where this is going. Why not take the best of both worlds and combine a revoultionary green electric motor with the soul of a vintage scooter and/or moped. I envision a modern interpretation of a classic moped ala the what SYM has done for gas scooters with their Symba. You could call it the Allstate Moped II or a MotoBecane Mobyylette Deux and power it with around a fairly powerful electric motor that would keep up with conventional gas scooters, easily be capable of highway legal top speeds, and even get a little exercise while pedaling to extend the range. As far fetched a concept as this seems, a similar strategy has been very successful in the musical instrument industry for which I worked in a previous lifetime. Danelectro is a guitar manufacturer which for years has built modern interpretations of various Sears-Roebuck catalog guitars from the 60s. While their models aren't exact copies of the Sear guitars, they preserve enough original flavor and soul for its customers to instantly identify with their products. This is what the electric bikes need to take the next step towards mass adaptation.

Gas bikes will never die off completely, but I see a future where they are by far the minority and reduced only to hardcore enthusiasts. Maybe 50 years from now we'll look back on this period as the calm before the electric vehicle storm. Only time will tell.


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