Scooter at NAIAS – Detroit scooter

4 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Scooter at NAIAS – Detroit scooter
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Scooter at NAIAS

During my time at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, I searched the vast halls of Cobo Center for just one thing – a scooter. As it turned out, I needn’t have wasted my time, as I found the only scooter in the place near the entrance. Yes, there was exactly ONE scooter in amongst all the cars and trucks of the manufacturers’ spaces.

So much for the new respect that some automotive manufacturers had shown for the scooter in the Fall car shows! But somebody ‘got it’ – my hat is off to a little car company that I’ve written about here before, yes, it’s smart.

Smart proudly defended its turf at Cobo this week (and will continue through the industry, charity, and the public days through January 30th.) Their booth featured the delightful smart fortwo. For 2011, the fortwo features a host of changes ranging from new wheel designs, new colors and significant interior revisions, including new knee bolster airbags. The booth also hosted the smart fortwo electric drive, a second generation plug-in electric vehicle that is currently undergoing a limited launch in advance of series production (and U.S. sales) starting in 2012.

I love the fortwo, but the highlight of the booth for me was the magnificent smart ‘escooter’ study that debuted at the Paris Motor Show last October. Now in Detroit, here was the smart escooter, resplendent in its pure white and green livery. It’s a concept (or a ‘study’ in smart parlance), as the lack of a real headlight, rear fender or on-board storage attest, but seeing it in the flesh was a treat.

The smart escooter is sleek and futuristic, but it represents the first real experience that many of us might have with an electric-powered personal vehicle. We are to believe that Daimler (parent company of smart) is seriously considering production of a version of this scoot for smart showrooms, and that they are talking with existing scooter manufacturers to make it happen.

If it ever makes it into production, it will most likely perform like a moped (with an under 30 mph top speed), to ensure that no separate motorcycle license will be required for operation. I don’t know if that kind of speed will be enough to allow the escooter to replace a gasoline-powered scoot, but it’s great that they are trying.

I liked the detailing on the smart escooter, with its rear hub-mounted electric motor and suspension neatly tucked into the design. I noticed the clear, tinted wind wings on the leg-shield and the integration of a smart phone as the sole instrumentation piece in the dash panel. The wind wings double as both LED running lights and turn indicators, which is a very interesting (but not probably DOT legal) innovation.

Of course, the smart phone would also need some weather protection in the real world. Functionally, I think that the smart phone integration is a long shot to make it into production, but it does get one thinking of the things that it could offer: GPS alternative (low-speed) route information and guidance, scooter data tracking and ‘real-time’ mileage predictions, all in a portable, yet-fully integrated, package.

The escooter can transport two people with its fold-out second seat deployed. Two-up with only 4kW (5.3 hp) probably won’t break any speed limits. In fact, two persons on a ‘moped’ classified vehicle won’t comply with many state laws stating that ‘mopeds’ only accommodate one rider.

Still, and despite what will probably be an eye-watering price when Daimler/smart get around to marketing this scooter, the escooter is just plain appealing. It’s usable, attractive and might represent a real, in-town transportation alternative if it’s designed, manufactured and marketed properly.

I’d like to be the first U.S. scooterist to ride the escooter, as it’s an idea into execution that I’d probably appreciate. The scooter category represents a great opportunity for a successful battery-powered transformation, and smart companies are betting on just that.

What’s next: Upscale gear at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show

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