World in Motion

April 1, 2007
Back story As they say, timing is everything. And the timing couldn't be better than right now to introduce the world's most advanced electric scooter,

Back story

As they say, timing is everything. And the timing couldn't be better than right now to introduce the “world's most advanced electric scooter,” according to CEO Andrew MacGowan. While Vectrix engineers were busy tweaking scooter designs over the last 10 years, modern problems like traffic gridlock and high oil prices were only getting worse — fueling the desire for affordable, non-polluting transportation options.

According to Peter Hughes, VP of technology, the most significant design challenges were to “create an electric scooter that matches the acceleration and handling of gasoline-powered scooters, provides sufficient range for city commuting, and weighs less than 500 pounds.” To meet the weight challenge, aluminum was used to provide vehicle structure. A custom battery pack delivers 20 kW of peak power for acceleration, and 3.7 kWh of energy storage for range. Placing the motor and gearbox in the rear wheel freed up space within the frame for the battery pack.

Design impact

Thousands of online reservations for the $10,999 scooter have already been placed. To reduce warehousing costs, bikes will be built on demand — assembled in hours and delivered within days. Future designs include the VX-FCe — a fuel cell/electric hybrid scooter — as well as 3-wheel and sport motorcycle models.

The VX-FCe features an integrated 500-W fuel cell system that continuously charges the scooter's batteries, which provide power to the motor. The fuel cell shuts off automatically when the battery pack is fully charged. By adding an onboard fuel cell, driving range is extended from 68 to 155 miles, and the bike won't need an electrical outlet to recharge. The VX-FCe is a collaborative effort among Vectrix, Parker Hannifin, Protonex, and other high-tech companies. It will be at least a year or two before the VX-FCe is commercially viable, due to issues involving fueling infrastructure and storage.

Ready to roll

Over the past 10 years, Vectrix engineers refined the scooter's core technology to optimize performance, simplify operation, reduce weight, and streamline component costs. Here's how they did it:

Battery pack — Nickel metal hydride (NiMH); 10-year lifespan

Battery charger — Smaller than earlier versions; charges the NiMH battery pack in two hours

Regen throttle — Digital, bidirectional throttle allows engine braking and acceleration with one hand; smooth braking simultaneously redirects energy to battery pack

Motor controller — Provides interface between battery pack and motor; lighter weight and less expensive than previous versions

Engine — Electric brushless motor with permanent magnets from Parker Hannifin is lightweight and ultra-efficient

Integrated transmission — Single-stage, rear-wheel mounted planetary gearbox and electric engine provide gradual acceleration at all speeds

Lightweight frame — Aluminum frame improves handling, provides structural integrity, and protects battery pack

Instrument cluster — Stylish pod displays speed, odometer, trip mileage, time, estimated range, and battery status

Sustainable scooter fuels desire for fun

When a company sets a goal as lofty as revolutionizing an entire industry, things usually don't happen overnight. It often takes years of research, prototypes, design, and redesign. So it is with Andrew MacGowan's Vectrix Corp., Newport, R.I., the company he formed in 1996 with the idea of developing a zero emission, electric motor vehicle that's “fast, fun, practical, clean, and economical.”

MacGowan's vision is nothing short of “revolutionizing the world of urban transportation.” More than a decade later, production is about to begin on the company's first offering, the Vectrix Electric Maxi-Scooter, the first high-powered, electric two-wheel vehicle to compete against large, 400-cc gasoline-powered scooters. Assembly facilities in Wroclaw, Poland are ready to roll out scooters this month for the European market, with the New Bedford, Mass. plant all set for production as North American demand dictates.

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