Welcome to Thomas Insights — every day, we publish the latest news and analysis to keep our readers up to date on what’s happening in industry. Sign up here to get the day’s top stories delivered straight to your inbox.
The era of the electric vehicle is likely to offer many benefits, from cleaner air to reduced noise to lower ownership costs.
But there are some obvious drawbacks for fans of vintage vehicles — updating your decades-old ride for the end of the internal-combustion era isn’t as easy as just swapping out the gas tank for a battery.
Except, apparently, unless you’re after la dolce vita.
The New York Times this week detailed how two friends and scooter enthusiasts from the U.K. developed a do-it-yourself kit to turn iconic Italian scooters from noisy, exhaust-spewing vehicles into quiet, zero-emission ones.
Niall McCart, a mechanic originally from Ireland, opened a scooter shop in London, which, like many cities around the world, is enacting ever-stricter vehicle emissions limits to combat urban air pollution and help meet climate goals. McCart and John Chubb, a retired naval officer, electrical engineer, and rocket scientist, in 2017 began working on a way to convert their old models into climate-friendly ones.
In 2018, after a discussion with the chief technical officer of a scooter company in China, where electrics have been on roads for more than a decade, they debuted an electric 1976 Vespa Primavera — delighting attendees at Vespa rally in Belfast.
Today, they sell kits that turn five Vespa and Lambretta models into electric scooters by replacing the conventional gas tank and swing arm with a lithium-ion battery and a custom arm with built-in motor. McCart said the process takes about 16 hours for someone with “basic” mechanical skills.
Despite the kit’s steep cost — around $4,750 — and limited range, they’ve sold 60 to date, mostly in Britain and the U.S. After all, McCart told the paper, the Vespa wasn’t designed for a lengthy commute in the first place.
Image Credit: Thomas Industry Update