This Retro Electric Moped Is Taking Over Europe
This Article Originally Appeared On Wired
A moped spews more filth into the atmosphere than an 8-cylinder SUV. One study found that these tiny vehicles generate amounts of pollution “several orders of magnitude higher than the limit values admissible in Europe and the USA.” As the study authors put it, “Waiting behind a moped in traffic may, therefore, constitute a considerable health risk.” Not good.
To help rush-hour victims breathe easier, Dutch designer Ronald Meijs has created the Motorman, an electric “moped” that’s become the fashionable green machine for daily commuters throughout Europe. Motormans have been spotted on the cobbled streets of Amsterdam, Ibiza, Düsseldorf, Maastricht, Zurich, and Brussels; enough E.U. cities to fill a Jason Bourne itinerary.
The Motorman may fit the legal definition of a moped, but it has no pedals. The drivetrain is fully electric. No human power required. Tech-wise, though, this is no Tesla. The 2kw engine won’t allow you to do burnouts or evade the polizia. There’s no iPhone charger, blind spot detection sensor, or autonomous driving mode. Not even a lousy cup holder for your macchiato.
What you will get, though, is brilliant industrial design. While other moped and scooter companies are striving to make all their models look like Tron light cycles, Mr. Meijs has gone full retro. The Motorman—with its balloon tires, low-slung gas tank, oversized headlight, and spring-mounted leather seat—looks like a cross between a Schwinn cruiser and a 1915 Harley-Davidson.
A student of American culture, Meijs admits he mined inspiration for the design from the early board track racers that zipped around motordromes at the beginning of the last century. “This isn’t some alien machine from space,” he explains. “The antique motorcycle shape is instantly recognizable.” He adds that while his stylish two-wheeler is intended to be environmentally friendly, customers are attracted as much to the classic lines of its beefy tube frame as the zero-emission technology. Maybe more. “People smile when they see the Motorman on the street,” says the Dutch designer. “They love it because it transports them back to a time when life was easier and less complicated.”
The ride isn’t too bad either. At just 99 pounds (less than half the weight of a typical moped), the Motorman is easy to balance and maneuver through congested streets. “If you can ride a bike,” says Meijs. “You can ride a Motorman.”
According to Koen Boot, it’s actually easier than riding a bike. “The Motorman is effortless to steer and has a much smoother ride than a bicycle,” says the 25-year-old engineering student. “When you hit cruising speed, it feels like you’re floating on air.” He concedes that the design is a large part of the appeal. “People get so excited that they stop me on the road to take photographs. It’s has those classic Harley and Indian motorcycle lines, but it’s extremely minimalist. Look down, and all you see is a speedometer and two buttons—one for the light, one for the horn. Even the electric plug is concealed beneath the fuel tank.”
That “fuel tank” holds a lithium polymer battery, the ideal choice for light EVs because of its high power density rating. That translates to some respectable specs. Range: 43 miles. Top speed: 28 mph. Charging time: 6 hours. Not road trip numbers, but ideal for office drones who like the idea of lowering their carbon footprint without breaking a sweat. The Motorman is also maintenance-free and economical to operate: less than two cents per mile. That may help soften the blow of the sticker price: $5,158 for the base model (available in Jet Black or Ruby Red). This being Europe, tack on another 21 percent for the V.A.T. Options, like Bauhaus paint jobs, leather saddlebags and custom logos, will pad the bill further. Which only proves that not every Dutch treat is cheap.
The Motorman is currently available only in European Union countries (+Norway and Switzerland). It will be available in North America within a year.