About Air and Water

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Zero-emission all-electric scotter unvieled - VECTRIX

Michael Taylor - San Francisco Chronicle Auto Editor - Friday, August 10, 2007

Bay Area zero-emission advocates got their first test ride Thursday on a zippy new all-electric motor scooter that can take two commuters on a silent freeway ride that will cost them just pennies in electrical power.

The plug-in hybrid automobile crowd, in the news these days because of advances in the technology of fuel-efficient hybrids, gathered at San Francisco's Presidio to see the latest wrinkle in emission-free transportation - an electric motor scooter called the Vectrix that can whiz along at 60 miles an hour.

At $11,000, the Vectrix may be a bit pricey, but it is a first of sorts and it will probably appeal to the same high-income people who have ordered the $100,000 all-electric Tesla sports car. "We want to get to the right consumer demographics," said Jeff Morrill, Vectrix's managing director for marketing. "It's for urban commuting, and it targets environmentalists, active (electric power) enthusiasts."

One of those was Marc Geller, a San Francisco photographer who owns a rare all-electric Toyota RAV4. He said of the Vectrix: "I've ridden it and it's fantastic. It's all about the (electric) plug and environmental concerns, petroleum concerns. I think it's totally cool, compared to that noisy piece of crap."

He was referring to a loud gas-powered vehicle that sped past as a few Vectrixes quietly tooled around the Presidio's main parade ground in a public demonstration of the new electric-powered scooter.

The Vectrix is a lot like other scooters - it has the normal right-hand twist grip for power, similar to motorcycles. On a 20-minute ride, a Chronicle reporter found it was pretty good in the zippy department, quite comfortable and, yes, very quiet.

It handled well, its fit and finish seemed good, and it had a trunk under its passenger seat that was large enough to accommodate a motorcycle helmet. But overall it wasn't much different from other, much less expensive, gas-powered scooters.

The 462-pound Vectrix scooter takes two hours to recharge its batteries on 220-volt house current and three hours on a 110-volt current. Its makers say it has a top speed of 62 mph and, when traveling at a constant speed of 40 to 45 mph, has a range of about 60 miles on a charge. It is freeway legal and is sold in San Francisco by British Motor Cars.

The Vectrix looks a lot like modern scooters made by Honda and Suzuki. Its major departure is the fact that it is powered by a small electric motor affixed to the rear wheel. Otherwise it feels the same as its gas-powered brethren.

But it's the price that gets people.

"Eleven thousand dollars? It's bloody insane," said Morris Friedlander, a veteran scooter and motorcycle dealer. Friedlander, who said he last operated an East Bay dealership for about a year, said most prospective scooter buyers are looking for economical transportation.

He said a typical scooter buyer might spend $3,000 or more - sometimes up to $8,000 - for a new gasoline-powered scooter that will run circles around the Vectrix and still get 50 to 80 mpg.

After riding the Vectrix, Friedlander said, "the speed is acceptable and the weight is well balanced and the brakes worked well. The downside is that its appearance is derivative" of other motor scooters.

Greg Beemer, who commutes 55 miles roundtrip each day on his $7,000 Aprilia 500cc scooter, said he was impressed with the Vectrix.

"To begin with, it's silent," he said, "and it's inexpensive to run and to maintain." He paused for a moment, then added, "But that price. That's something they'll have to overcome."

E-mail Michael Taylor at mtaylor@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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Travel to other worlds ... UTA Planetarium

Immersive full-dome 3-D Digital planetarium show narrated by Ewan McGregor (Obi wan Kepobi from Star Wars) - Astronaut takes you exporing the worlds of inner and outer space. The movie is projected all around you. You recline in specially constructed chairs which enables you to comfortably view the immersive full-dome planetarium show. Astronaut! (produced from the National Space Centre in England) goes beyond the stereotypical space movie. Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of the astronaut. Float around the international Space Station moving thorugh the microscopic regions of the human body! Discover the beauty and perils as "Chad", the test astronaut experiences everything thrown at him.

Summer Schedule (June 2-August 26):


shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Wed. through Saturdays at 11 a.m.
and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Cosmic CSI

shows at the UTA Planetarium 3-D Digital Dome.

Wed. through Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Rock Hall of Fame 1 (The Original)

shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Thursday at 8:00 p.m.

Read more (Warning their flat dull website doesn't give much of a glimmer of the multi-dimensional experience you'll have once you enter the dome of the UTA Planetarium!)

Admission: Adults: $5.00

Seniors, Students, Children: $4.00

UTA Faculty, Staff & Alumni (with ID): $3.00

UTA Studens (with ID): $2.00

Groups of 10 or more with reservation: $3.00

Call 817 272-1183 or e-mail planetarium@uta.edu