Sophisticated Electronics In A Classic-Styled EV Package

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing better than new technology like all-electric drivetrains is when such fandanglery makes a classic presentation, and Vespa’s Elettrica hits both of those high notes. The timeless Italian design looks much like the rest of its current lineup, but under the skin, the battery and electric motor deliver the goods and push EV scooters into the realm of viability. Think I’m overstating things? Just read on and let me make my case.

2019 Vespa Elettrica Design

Outside, it's the quintessential 'wasp' design immediately recognized as classic Vespa.

When it comes to deep roots within the scooter world, it’s hard to beat Piaggio’s Vespa family. The Elettrica’s visage is straight out of post-war Italy with a mug that first saw the light of day in 1946. An aircraft landing-gear acts as the front suspension to leave the right side of the wheel completely unobstructed and start that old-school look going right out of the gate. The legguard section is boomerang-shaped in profile, and on the face you’ll find that classic “necktie” detail as the only adornment up front, unless you count the recessed turn signals as such.

Up top, the handlebar fairing cleans up the control area and acts as a housing for the classic cyclops headlight and digital instrument panel. A 4.3-inch TFT screen takes care of all the instrumentation, and through the miracle of Bluetooth wireless connectivity and the Vespa Mia system, the Elettrica will network with your smartphone to allow you to answer calls, check messages and pipe in your tunes, all on the fly and without removing your hands from the controls.

The display itself has four levels of brightness and an ambient-light sensor detects the available light and adjusts the screen automatically, but I think my favorite electronic geegaw here has to be the GPS function that comes with the App. You can always find your scoot with your smartphone whether you’re lost in a parking lot, or someone has relieved you of your two-wheeled pride and joy and you need to handle your business, er, I mean call the cops. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

A short tunnel interrupts the step-through, but the factory gives it a flat top complete with a non-skid finish to restore some of that lost ’tween-feet storage. The footwells are similarly treated, and the passenger area comes with the addition of a rubber block upon which they can hook their heels and be able to relax a little bit. A generous J.C. handle surrounds the rear of the bench seat like a chrome valence that doubles as a bungee net anchor to turn the wide pillion pad into another cargo area.

Toward the front, the saddle narrows down almost to a point so as to give your thighs a break when you deploy your Fred Flintstones. Under the seat is an abbreviated dry-storage area that will hold only a single full-face bucket due to encroachment by the on-board charger, which mounts its own pigtail so you can plug in just about anywhere. Out back, a stylized taillight and recessed turn signals finish out the rearward lighting with a short mudguard extension/plateholder to round out the spray containment. All-in-all, the quintessential “wasp.”

2019 Vespa Elettrica Chassis

2019 Vespa Elettrica
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The monocoque structure is brought over from the Primavera.

It’s a stressed-skin monocoque assembly that uses the body panels for structure in lieu of any sort of underframe business. Nothing new for this marque, that’s for sure. Absolute numbers on the production model are still a little sketchy, but it looks like there’s a 200 mm disc up front and a regenerative-braking mechanism out back that works with the 140 mm drum to slow the scoot while it converts a portion of the kinetic energy back into electrical energy.

The swing-mount drive system remains even though it replaces the internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor that is, in turn, married to the transmission. As you’d expect, the whole thing is used as a stressed-unit with a single, coil-over shock to support and tame the rear. Another coil-over shock makes the trailing-link front end work, but it looks like the only adjustability is the preload, and that’s limited to the rear strut.

Frame: Sheet steel body w/ welded reinforcements
Front Suspension: Single-arm coil-spring fork and hydraulic monoshock absorber
Rear Suspension: Hydraulic monoshock absorber
Front Brake: Hydraulically operated, 200 mm stainless steel disc
Rear Brake: Mechanically operated, 140 mm drum brake

2019 Vespa Elettrica Drivetrain

The real magic in this charming little scooter lies in the four kW electric motor with two different power modes.

Naturally, the real magic in this charming little scooter lies in the drivetrain. You can run the four kW electric motor in two different power modes — Power or Eco — each with its own power-drain rate and performance profile. “Eco” limits top speed to around 18 mph, and it’s in this relatively useless mode that you’ll see the 60-mile (100 km) range. Turn it on “Power” and unleash a whopping 147.5 pound-feet of torque.

Electrical power is stored in a 4.2-kWh lithium-ion battery that, according to the factory, can last at least ten years and/or 1,000 charging cycles with a guaranteed maximum range of at least 60,000 miles. If you have access to 220-Volt power, you can plug right up and slam a charge from empty to full in just four hours through the on-board charger, so the Elettrica is clearly geared toward an urban market.

Speaking of gears, there ain’t any, not in the traditional sense anyway; just a 15-to-1 reduction direct drive that delivers silent power to the 11-inch rear wheel. Oh, and because it’s electric, it was easy to bless it with a reverse function that won’t diminish the forward performance.

While it’s unsure if it will make it to our shores, I want to give an honorable mention to the Elettrica “X” that mounts a small ICE generator to make it a true hybrid with four-times the effective range on a single charge and three-quart fuel load. The engine will fire up automatically in response to battery status, or you can switch it to “extender mode” to run the generator non stop.

Motor: 3.5-kW (4 kW peak) electric Piaggio brushless motor with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)
Battery: Piaggio 4.2-kWh lithium battery, LG Chem cells, built-in battery charger
Torque: 147.5 lb-ft

2019 Vespa Elettrica Pricing

2019 Vespa Elettrica
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MSRP is $7.5k and should be available in April 2019.

Never one to use price as a selling point, Vespa looks to get $7,499 for a 2019 Elettrica. It’s not on showroom floors just yet, but should hit U.S. dealers in April of 2019.

Instrumentation: 4.3 inch color TFT w/ smartphone connectivity
Ride Modes: Eco, Power (X: also Extender)
Price: $7,499

2019 Vespa Elettrica Competitors

2017 - 2019 BMW C Evolution
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2019 Vespa Elettrica
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At nearly twice the price, you'll have to decide if BMW's traction control and greater range are worth it.

The field of practical EV scooters is still rather narrow, but BMW Motorrad has an entry that I think is worth looking at with its C Evolution on tap as its flagship electric. Beemer has zero compunction about going for a modern design that is clearly driven more by function than form, and the result is a modern-looking ride with little in common with the seventy-something year old Eye-tie design.

The step-through is all but blocked by the Beemer’s tunnel, so it’s not going to be quite as easy to mount as it has just a skirt-reservoir up front and little else. Like the Vespa, Beemer’s scoot has limited under-seat storage below the pillion with just enough room to stash a full-face helmet. A hybrid underframe gives the “C” its structure, and like the Vespa, it rocks a single-side swingdrive. Unlike the Vespa, the C rocks a traction control system that has no peer on the Vespa side.

As for the motor itself, there is something of a compromise here; the Beemer runs a 35 kW motor that produces 53 pound-feet of torque for a pretty big gap with the 147.5-pound Vespa plant. Range on the C is pretty good at 99 miles per charge, and that couples with the 80 mph top speed to make the C a more capable commuter than its Italian counterpart.

Of course, you pay for that capability with a $13,995 sticker that is almost twice as high as the Vespa, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if the performance is worth the price jump.

He Said

“Love it! I hope more manufacturers take this route— I know Ford has done something very similar with one of its old fastbacks, and it looks fabulous. As for the Elettrica, I think it’s just fine and dandy for what it is, but feel it’s a bit limited if you have very far to commute, or if your path takes you on highway.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “The torque number is scary for a scooter, but you know, the power is manageable and the rider modes help keep you in your comfort zone. The reverse mode is nice when you want to get into or out of a parking slot, and seriously, the level of sophistication as far as smartphone/rider/scooter connectivity rivals some big, expensive bikes, so kudos at this price point. In keeping with the general 50 cc scooter market, to which this is aimed, I think this has been restricted to a 32 mph top speed so this will be a strictly urban ride with no chance for the higher-speed arteries. In that light, the small range doesn’t seem to be a negative.”

2019 Vespa Elettrica Specifications

Motor:
Motor: 3.5-kW (4 kW peak) electric Piaggio brushless motor with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)
Battery: Piaggio 4.2-kWh lithium battery, LG Chem cells, built-in battery charger
Torque: 147.5 lb-ft
Chassis:
Frame: Sheet steel body w/ welded reinforcements
Front Suspension: Single-arm coil-spring fork and hydraulic monoshock absorber
Rear Suspension: Hydraulic monoshock absorber
Front Brake: Hydraulically operated, 200 mm stainless steel disc
Rear Brake: Mechanically operated, 140 mm drum brake
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 53.1 in.
Seat Height: 31.1 in.
Weight: 225 lb.
Total Recharge Time: 4 hours (220V source)
Max Range: 62 miles (X: 124 miles)
Details:
Instrumentation: 4.3 inch color TFT w/ smartphone connectivity
Ride Modes: Eco, Power (X: also Extender)
Price: $7,499

Further Reading

BMW C Evolution

2017 - 2019 BMW C Evolution
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See our review of the BMW C Evolution.

Vespa Primavera

2015 - 2018 Vespa Primavera
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See our review of the Vespa Primavera.

Vespa

no article
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Read more Vespa news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: vespa.com, bmwmotorcycles.com

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