EICMA 2016 Recap: Whither the Scooters?

The Honda X-ADV: Can your scooter do this?

EICMA, Europe’s premier annual showcase for powersports vehicles, is often the platform for manufacturers to unveil stunning and bold concept vehicles, new models that dazzle, and updates of their existing lines with the latest technologies. Yet this year’s offerings for the scooter lineups are unusually slim and familiar. Many of the new models on display at the Milan show, which concludes this week, were previously announced or are final versions of concepts unveiled years ago.

Some of the scooter neglect is due to manufacturers quickly and belatedly turning their attentions to smaller, less expensive, entry-level motorcycles aimed at ballooning urban markets. The sellers of the hundreds of Craigslist “incomplete cafe racer project” bikes will soon be able to choose from a number of offerings from several makes. BMW, which has teased a smaller-displacement version of its C650 scooter, has unveiled several variants of its nineT. Ducati, once rumored to be working on a scooter, is expanding its popular Scrambler line.

The small-displacement boom is also gaining steam, pulling attention and customers away from scooters. Following Kawasaki’s 2017 Z125 and successful 125cc motorcycles from Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki announced its GSX-S 125 at EICMA. BMW’s G 310 R street motorcycle — yet to go on sale — got a sport touring sibling, the G 310 GS, also announced at this year’s exhibition.

EICMA 2016 wasn’t completely bereft of announcements for scooter enthusiasts, despite the lack of surprise and excitement.

Honda X-ADV
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Honda’s “adventure scooter” was introduced as a concept at EICMA 2015, announced as a production model in September, and is making its “formal” debut at EICMA 2016. This is an unusually quick concept-to-sale turnaround, but the version displayed a year ago looked almost production-ready and varied little from the current, final model.

Honda is clearly in experimental territory here, offering a powerful 745cc scooter aimed at a currently non-existent market segment. While the NC700-D (Integra) scooter is a clearly a streetbike in scooter-ish form, the X-ADV is its more intrepid, genetically modified cousin, ready for a dirt road, rocks, or the worst city streets on the planet. (The hand guards are spliced directly from the Africa Twin.) Though unquestionably weird and new, the X-ADV is well-equipped for its stated purposes, with few compromises.

Like the Integra, the X-ADV’s dual-clutch transmission has Drive, Sport and MT (manual) modes. While many in the scooter world question the need for this model (and whether it’s a scooter at all), dropping gears to tackle a dirt mound on a scooter with these specs sounds like a heckuva lotta fun to us. Our prediction last year was that the X-ADV would never be sold in the US, but now that it’s gone from concept to reality, we’d be happy to be wrong.

 

Vespa Elettrica Concept: Hope for  the Future?

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Vespa’s Elettrica concept looks more than vaguely familiar.

By now, most major scooter companies have revealed an electric concept and made some pledge to help build an electric transportation future for the good of the world. In this respect, Vespa’s a little behind the ball. But few companies have delivered on that pledge, and Vespa says it intends to within a year.

The Elettrica is more of a statement of intent than display of new technology or design. It doesn’t take a discerning eye to tell that the Elettrica is simply a current Primavera model dressed up with clear-coated metal, blue trim, and plastic covering anything under the cowls. There may be an electric motor and battery under there, but even that’s doubtful.

According to their press release, Vespa is “assessing the most advanced players in the sector on a global level to develop innovative technological electric motor solutions together.” Given that the company doesn’t reveal how far along they are in this process or how long it’s been going on, we can’t say whether the additional claim that “production and sales are planned for the second half of 2017” is realistic, optimistic, or  fantasy.

We remain hopeful because in its own oblique way, Vespa is telling us that they’re attempting to partner with outside electric tech firms to create their first all-electric, and that this scooter will carry the distinct design, form, and branding of Vespa. This is their first tease, and the first declaration of a commitment to build such a model. If Vespa can deliver by late 2017, they may beat Honda’s Japan-only 2018 EV Cub to other markets. Still, electric development has been slow-going for many companies and many concepts have come and gone. That Honda EV Cub was unveiled in concept form nine years ago.

BMW C Evolution: Big Boost

The BMW C Evolution electric scooter gets a new battery and more power courtesy of their i3 car.

The BMW C Evolution electric scooter gets a new battery and more power courtesy of their i3 car.

If there’s one hare among the field of tortoises in the electric scooter race, it’s BMW. While not the first e-scooter or the only one, their C Evolution currently sports the best tech and specs in the field. The electric version of BMW’s C-series scooters made its first appearance as a concept in 2013. The Evolution went into production in 2014, but with limited sales. BMW is expanding 2017 sales to the US, Russia, and South Korea.

The scooter’s been given a serious upgrade for 2017 releases (US, Japan, Russia, South Korea), thanks in part to a battery transplant from the company’s i3 electric car. The new power source — with a nearly 30% gain in amp-hour charge — gives the Evolution a reported 100-mile range, with increased horsepower and torque. Fully charging a flatlined battery will take 3 hours, and it can charge 80% in 2 hours, fifteen minutes. The European versions have a top speed electronically limited to 80mph (suggesting greater capability), but it’s still unknown whether the US and other new versions will carry that restriction.

Also notable:
The 2017 European version of the popular Yamaha TMax maxiscooter is splitting into three versions (TMAX, SX, DX), all of which feature new traction control and electronic throttle controls. The company gave no indication when any of these features will be available in other markets.

The Kymco AK550 will likely (eventually) replace the aging Xciting 500 model. The sporty 550 is clearly aimed at competing with Yamaha’s TMax in terms of style and specs, but its price point should also be attractive to potential Suzuki Burgman 650 buyers.

GoGoRo‘s scooter sharing system is launching in Berlin with 200 of their electric scoots. These feature swappable batteries and speeds limited for easy rental.

The Samsung Smart Windshield, last seen as a concept developed with Yamaha is now a prototype with a new partner, Givi. This means that for better or worse, the product will likely be made available for a variety of current scooter makes.

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  • Piaggio is “assessing the most advanced players in the sector on a global level” because they’re looking to get the best deal on batteries. Just like they do with their other OEM suppliers. They aren’t going to design and manufacture their own batteries because they could never hope to recoup the costs. Samsung and LG Chem supply most of the world’s electric vehicle batteries, so unless Marelli in Italy can provide a cost-effective solution, one of those two will be the source. The most likely design challenge will be a battery with decent range that’s small enough to allow for some underseat storage. The motor will be in the wheel, just like every other electric scooter… no need for a transmission.

    In an ideal world, it would be nice if some element of altruism were in play, but Piaggio is a publicly-traded corporation, just like every other electric vehicle manufacturer. The cost, demand and price curves have intersected; there is a sound business case. Be very surprised if the production electric Vespa’s price tag isn’t somewhere around $10K.