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Walking through the immense EICMA facilities in Milan, we came across Lorenzo Marin, Marketing Director at Piaggio Spain. We were talking with him to introduce us to some of the main models that the Italian company brought to the show but what most caught my attention then was not exactly the beautiful V9 Bobber or similar, but the Piaggio's commitment to electric mobility with its Wi-Bikes.
That's right, Piaggio, like other great motorcycling brands, has presented its electric bicycle this year. The difference with respect to other options is that the Wi-Bike does seem a realistic option both for design, functionality and, especially, price. Speaking with Lorenzo (interview after the jump) he told us about the sales figures for this type of vehicle in countries such as Germany or the Netherlands, with almost half a million units sold per year in the first case and 190,000 in the second. And it is that they are no longer those monstrosities designed more for retirees who were looking for a new hobby, now they are attractive vehicles that hit very hard. Which led me to ask myself the following question, Will the electric bicycle replace the motorcycle in cities?.
What characteristics do they have?
Let's take this Wi-Bike as a representative of the sector. The first thing to know is that Piaggio offers these bicycles in two main versions, Active and Comfort, which also then allow different configurations to adapt them to all types of customers. In other words, we cover tastes that range from the most image-conscious youth to those looking for comfort and versatility.
The engine has been developed by Piaggio itself and does not depend on third parties such as Yamaha or Bosch, the main suppliers of powertrains. Develop a 250W maximum power that translates into 50Nm torque. As you probably already know, these bikes from pedaling assistance push the user up to 25 km / h, at which point he will depend exclusively on his legs.
Up to 150 km of autonomy and total synchronization with smartphones
The battery is supplied by Samsung and it takes around three and a half hours to fully charge. The autonomy will depend mainly on the use we give it and the driving mode we choose. We would be talking about about 150 km approximately in ECO mode, up to just under 100 km in sportier mode. Also, the battery incorporates a GPS system with the exact position of our bicycle and that notifies the user in case of being moved.
Incorporates a removable instrument panel that works as a key (to make theft more difficult) that works in sync with our smartphone (and charges it) to offer complete information on speed, average speed, navigation … and even report calories burned.
Other components to consider is the suspension with a single shock absorber like the one we could see in the Cannondale, the NuVinci transmission by belt (or Shimano Deore) or the seat and grips in leather.
All this, and always talking about the more premium configuration possible, I know it will go slightly above 3,000 euros.
Can they drive the motorcycle out of town?
It is something that many may not like, but the truth is that these bikes are eating ground by leaps and bounds. And be careful, when we talk about trips within the city, not between them. Its success in central Europe is mainly due to three pillars:
- It is clean energy. We have already seen how the center of Madrid was closed to traffic due to high (extremely high) levels of pollution. Motorcycles were not included but it will happen sooner rather than later, no matter how much Euro4 they can meet, they are still combustion engines. It is logical to think that many inhabitants of the big city want to have the same freedom of movement (or more) without having to be aware of the quality of the air. In addition, for many, the simple fact of moving without polluting is justification enough.
- Infrastructures. Wherever the bicycle triumphs, it also enjoys large infrastructures dedicated to the circulation of the same. The European Union has done its part to ensure that more and more cities make cycling safer; bike lanes, bridges, authentic international highways, tourist routes everywhere … Spain, who enjoys a time that is the envy of frozen Europe, can become a cyclist's paradise.
- Is in fashion. Yes, whether by the messengers or the hipsters, the bicycle is today a fashionable vehicle that appears in the main catalogs of large textile firms. Those who give more importance to the image can now also move around on a bicycle and make it one more element of their outfit. And if that wasn't enough, too keeps those who care more about health and fitness happy offering all kinds of details and even a Personal Trainer in the form of an app.
I can attest to it; In Germany, Austria, Holland or even Poland, absolutely everyone has a bicycle that they use to a greater or lesser extent. The company offices often have their own bike racks or even closed rooms at the foot of the street to keep them safe with video surveillance. It will hit hard in Spain and, incidentally, will promote the creation of new businesses (shops, workshops, rental services, routes …).
I have no doubt that sooner or later we will begin to leave the motorcycle for other types of journeys Or, failing that, electric motors will become the norm in urban scooters and mopeds.