Best electric mopeds
Electric mopeds could be the future of urban transport. With urban restrictions on private cars likely to increase radically, we'll have to find alternatives, and e-mopeds will be part of the mix, along with bicycles (both pedal-powered and electrically assisted), kick scooters, ride sharing and public transport.
So what's available? Until recently, there was nothing between a few feeble electric mopeds aimed at the likes of Uber Eats, and BMW's C-Evolution. But the last year or so has seen a new generation of smarter e-mopeds capable of zipping silently up to 50 or 60mph, with bigger batteries for a better range and a tad more sophistication.
Highlights are the Bluetooth-enabled Niu and the superbike-influenced Zapp i300. The big names are getting in on the act, too, with Honda and Vespa both launching electric mopeds recently.
When buying, look for a battery warranty of two to three years (more is good) and qualification for the Plug-In Grant, which offers 20% off the up-front price, up to a maximum of £1,500. The top design trend at the moment is for smaller twin batteries rather than one big one, enabling them to be lifted out for recharging – important if you live on seventh floor!
Niu GT – from £3,196
Niu isn't exactly a household name, but has created a little niche for itself as one of the smarter electric-moped makers. The GT is the latest variation on the theme, with a 3kW motor, claimed 60-mile range and 47mph top speed, which makes it easily quick enough to keep up with urban traffic.
Claimed ranges of electric mopeds can be about as accurate as the fuel-economy aspirations of internal-combustion cars, but the GT lives up to its official figure – our test bike had 35% battery left after 44 miles, so was heading for a credible 65 miles to empty. The GT has two batteries, both of which can be charged in situ or lifted out and taken indoors.
A full charge from flat takes 3.5 hours, according to Niu, and the battery warranty runs to three years/20,000 miles, which is good. Bluetooth is one of the Niu's selling points – it links to your smartphone to show GPS, real-time diagnostics and an anti-theft alert – but the scooter won't swallow a week's worth of shopping, because all the under-seat space is filled with battery. At £3,196 after the government's Plug-In Grant, it's competitively priced.
Zapp i300 – from £5,250
The Zapp i300 is not exactly undersold. It's designed in Britain, with production now getting underway in Thailand, and its publicity refers to "superbike-type acceleration and riding dynamics... five patent applications relating to motorcycle fundamentals and 50 new-to-industry advanced features". The motor is a 'Super Twister' and the two batteries are 'Turbo Twins.'
Behind the hype, the Zapp really is a high-performance moped. The motor offers 14kW and a massive 587Nm of torque, backing up official claims of 0-50kph in 2.3 seconds and 0-100kph in 4.9 seconds – this is true motorcycle performance, although top speed is limited to 60mph. The chassis has a superbike flavour, too, with two-sensor ABS, fully adjustable suspension at both ends and a distinctive exoskeleton frame.
The twin batteries (sorry, can't call them Turbo Twins) are very small and light, giving a range of only 37 miles. But Zapp reckons that with average European city daily mileage being only 12 miles, that's enough, and the smaller batteries are easier to carry up to the office or flat for a recharge. Zapps are sold direct online, with annual servicing performed at the owner's home by, wait for it... 'Zappers'.
BMW C-Evolution – from £12,830
BMW makes the biggest, fastest and most sophisticated electric moped you can buy. It's also one of the longest-lived, launched over six years ago. All the equipment you'd expect on an upmarket moped is here: ABS, traction control, an on-board computer and big TFT colour screen. The original C-Evolution had an 8kWh battery, but the latest Long Range option inherits technology from the i3 and i8 cars to offer over 50% more capacity and what BMW says is "up to" 100 miles range. The charger is only 3kW, so there's no 30-minute rapid charging – BMW reckons on 3.5 hours for an 80% top-up.
The C-Evolution can seem daunting the first time you ride it – it's a big, long-wheelbase job that tips the scales at 275kg, but fortunately the seat is only 765mm off the ground, so it's not difficult to get both feet flat on the tarmac, and a reversing function helps get you out of tight parking spots. Acceleration is rapid up to its limited top speed of 75mph and as you'd expect, the C-Evolution is comfy into the bargain. It's expensive, but the only electric scooter happy on a motorway.
Cezeta – from £11,760
The Cezeta is a bit different, but it's not an ersatz retro effort, being a faithful reproduction of an original Czech-made moped from the late 1950s. Over 100,000 of these were sold across the Eastern Bloc from 1957-64 and in 2017 its Sputnik styling was reborn, now with an electric motor in place of the old 175cc two-stroke.
Production won't be reaching six figures, though – just 50 are assembled a year in the Czech Republic. Underneath the composite bodywork is a galvanised steel frame, disc brakes and a choice of motors giving 5.7kW to 9.2kW, with 4kWh, 6kWh or 8.5kWh batteries. We haven't tested the Cezeta, but the maker claims top speeds of 52 to 75mph and ranges of 52-105 miles depending on the motor and battery combination selected.
All are classed as A1 mopeds, so you don't need a full motorcycle licence to ride one, just your CBT, theory and practical tests. The Cezeta isn't cheap, but it's a unique machine that'll certainly turn heads. And if you're still not sure about buying one, there's always the option of taking a trip to Prague and hiring one for a weekend.
Vespa Elettrica – from £4,999
A Vespa is the ultimate moped for many, and 18 million have been sold since the original was launched in 1946. Modern incarnations are still being made in Italy and the Elettrica was added in early 2019. Outwardly, it could be mistaken for a petrol Vespa (apart from some subtle blue pinstriping and lack of an exhaust) but underneath it's very different.
The 50 or 125cc petrol motor is replaced by a 4kW electric motor (which is quite beefy for what is a moped-class bike) and generously sized 4.2kWh battery. So although the standard Elettrica is limited to 28-30mph, it gets up to speed pretty quickly and holds it up hills, something not all mopeds can manage. And being a Vespa, the dynamics are good – it's light and manoeuvrable, quick to steer and easy to ride, plus has the Vespa heritage.
The TFT dash will integrate with your smartphone via the Vespa app, which enables you to make or receive calls, and has a sat nav and various other goodies. As you'd expect, the battery can be charged in situ or lifted out. At £4,999 after the Plug-In Grant, the Elettrica is one of the most expensive mopeds on the market, but it's undeniably stylish. Vespa has just launched a faster 45mph option.
Honda Benly e: – from £5,074
It has taken years for the world's leading motorcycle manufacturer to finally take the plunge into electric mopeds, and this is it. The Benly e: is initially on sale in Japan only, and in the softest of soft launches, is just being offered to businesses, with production limited to 200 in the first year. It's not so much diving in as putting a timid toe in the water.
Otherwise, the Benly e: looks like a fairly conventional delivery moped, with flat luggage platforms front and rear, plus a reverse assist feature for getting out of tight spots. The twin swappable batteries are small (1kWh each) and Honda says customers will be required to return them for recycling when the time comes.
The Benly e: comes in e:I (moped-equivalent) and e:II (5.7PS) forms, both available in basic or 'Pro' spec, the latter bringing a front basket, rear carrier, hand protectors and footbrake. With those small batteries, the range is limited, Honda quoting about 55 miles at 18mph for the e:1 and about 26 miles for the e:II. On the other hand, these smaller power packs reduce weight and cost, while business customers will have spare batteries on hand for rapid swaps.
SEAT eScooter Concept – £TBA
SEAT is joining the ranks of moped manufacturers with this eScooter, based on a design by Silence of Spain. Silence is well established, building mopeds aimed at fleet users in Barcelona. SEAT's version is a 125cc-equivalent with a 7kW motor (11kW peak power), 240Nm of torque and a top speed of 62mph.
SEAT claims 0-31mph in 3.8 seconds and a range of up to 71 miles. And following the norm for urban moped, the battery will be removeable for home charging. Could this be the start of a trend among car manufacturers, given that urban mobility looks likely to change radically in the next 10 years, away from private cars?
SEAT points out that its average customer profile is significantly younger than those of rival carmakers, and that its customers could be more open to a two-wheeled alternative. Reflecting the fact, SEAT has also unveiled an electric kick scooter, this one based on a Segway design. The SEAT eScooter initially goes on sale in Spain, but SEAT UK has been making positive noises about bringing it in, so watch this space.
Super Soco CPx – from £3,599
Super Soco isn't a household name yet, but its smart little motorcycle-style bikes have been the best-selling electric two-wheeler in Britain for two years running. Now it's getting into mopeds, with the CUx, which features a built-in camera to record your commute, and is available in the colours of Ducati, the Ferrari-equivalent sports bike from Italy (but it'll still only reach 28mph).
The CPx is altogether different: a 125cc-equivalent moped built for longer commutes. Physically bigger than the Niu, it should carry two riders comfortably. With a 4kW rear hub motor delivering 171Nm, it tops out at 56mph and has a claimed range of 50-60 miles. Keep to a steady 25mph, and Super Soco claims you can ride up to 112 miles, but maybe not in the real world.
There are convenient touches like a reverse function, LED headlight and a USB charge point. And like an increasing number of electric mopeds, the battery can be recharged on or off the bike – Super Soco reckons a full charge takes 3.5 hours and the battery has a decent four-year warranty.
Rieju Nuuk – from £6,199
Best described as a moped/motorcycle hybrid, the Nuuk has the lowish step-through and smallish wheels of a moped, but the exposed frame, inverted forks and 280mm front disc brake of a motorcycle. With the option of a big luggage box to replace the passenger seat. it's aimed at commercial fleets as much as private customers.
It's made in Spain by Rieju, a long-established maker of small motorcycles. The Nuuk comes in 28mph moped or 70mph motorcycle form, the latter with a 10.5kW motor, and the standard claimed range is 70 miles or 50 miles respectively, although extra batteries can boost the the distance. Batteries can be quickly accessed for swapping or recharging. Standard charging takes five hours, although there's a fast-charge option of 1.2 hours.
UK prices are £6,199 for the moped and £6,999 for the motorcycle version, but it's expected the Nuuk will qualify for the Plug-In Grant, cutting these by 20%. The Nuuk is different – it lacks weather protection and (unless you pay extra for the top box) any luggage room – but it's an interesting addition to the market.
Artisan – from £2,695
Artisan's EV2000R is the budget electric moped, arriving in the UK four years ago with lead-acid batteries and a sub-£1,500 price. It has since progressed to the industry-standard lithium-ion and the price has gone up, but it's still one of the cheaper options. Artisan also offers a tilting three-wheel moped aimed at fast-food delivery riders.
If you like faux-Vespa styling, then you'll love the Artisan. The cognoscenti will notice that the bodywork is plastic (not metal, like a proper Vespa) and that there's a bit too much chrome, but it does come in a wide choice of colours (seat as well as the bodywork). This is a moped-class scooter, so it's limited to 28mph, which can feel vulnerable on a busy road, but that's endemic to all 50cc-equivalents.
Claimed range is just 25 miles, but the good news is that the battery lifts out for indoor charging and a second battery (£500 extra) slots in beside it to extend the range. Two and three-year battery warranties are becoming the norm, so the Artisan's 12-month cover is a bit thin. But then, it is the budget option.