I got to do a detailed investigation and ride of one of the very very few prototypes of the Voloci
this past weekend. I met with Dan Ferguson, the west coast sales guru for Nova Cruz, in his backyard of Portland, Oregon
. He brought one of the very few (2?) prototypes that exist right now and I went riding along the water on a beautiful sunny day. This prototype was not a finished production unit, and had some limitations. First of all, it only has about 70%-75% of the power, speed, and acceleration of the production units. Also, the lights and fuel gauge were not hooked up. This means that I cannot yet detail my impressions on the power and speed side, but I sure as heck can tell you all about the scooter and the ride itself.
First of all, looking at the Voloci
on the web, I imagined it to be bigger. Something along the lines of an electric motorcycle
. Several other people have remarked on the fact that this cycle will be perceived as a motorcycle (creating problems for those riding in parks or on sidewalks). I am VERY pleased to report that nothing can be further from the truth. It is smaller in person. In fact, it is noticeably smaller than most mountain bikes. Think of an oversized electric BMX bike with suspension and you won't be far off. No one will mistake this cycle for a motorcycle. In fact, most people will see it as a bicycle. I watched a couple of people come up to the Voloci
, scrutinize it for several minutes, THEN realize that it doesn't have pedals. This is an example of people seeing what they expect to see. Since it looks like a bike, people's minds will register it as a bike as you ride by. The quiet ride will reinforce this perception. Owners will have no problems riding this cycle anywhere bicycles are accepted.
A Portland bicycle cop stopped and took a long hard look at it, and pronounced it very cool, stating that he wanted to get one himself, and that law enforcement agencies should consider it as a platform for bicycle cops, as it will go faster than a bicycle, has lots of range, and delivers the officer to his destination fully rested and ready for action. He really liked the super simple quick release battery pack, pointing out that this feature is the critical factor for a quick turnaround fleet vehicle.
This is the ideal platform for a rental fleet for the same reason. The double range battery pack would keep anyone entertained for an hour's rental (even at full speed), and a quick change with a fresh pack sends the scooter right back out the door with the next renter. Think campus vehicle for security, resorts, and colleges. The disc brakes make for solid stopping power under any conditions, with no wear on the rims.
Really, the only maintenance on this electric scooter
besides charging the batteries is cleaning and oiling the chain. Everything looks strong and substantial. Durability should be excellent. The suspended chassis should also reduce failures substantially, due to reduced shock and vibration on the motor, controller and battery pack. Now on to the juicy stuff... the ride itself.
I was really impressed with the overall ride and handling of the Voloci
. Anyone who is not intimidated by a bicycle will have no problems with this cycle. The front and rear suspension really ate up the bumps. The suspension preload is adjustable, which is good news for heavier riders like myself. I was told that this cycle can handle a drop of four feet with a rider on board. There was a nice 3 and a half foot jump on hand, and we were sorely tempted to try it, but given that this was one of the only Voloci
cycles out there right now, we decided not to do this kind of abuse test yet. I did ride both on asphalt and in the dirt, and it handled both with no troubles. It was really gratifying to have the power of an electric bicycle
combined with the feel of a mountain bike. It was like having a super light trials bike or something. Really nice. Everyone that rides this thing is going to love it, I think.
The removable battery is super simple to install and remove. This means that commuters will be able to lock the Voloci
up in any bike rack and take the battery pack into the office (or coffee shop, or apartment) for easy charging. It is important to note that the pictures on the web show the cycle with a single NiMH pack installed. The lead acid setup is similar and will fit into the same space in the chassis as the NiMH, though will not be removable. The double range NiMH pack is reported to "stick out" from the frame, filling the space under the seat. As neither Dan nor myself have seen this pack however, this is somewhat speculative at this time. If there is a downside to the design, it's that the controller is integrated into the motor, and is therefore going to be difficult to tweak for more speed. That said, I fully expect SOMEONE out there to successfully tweak it anyway, just not the average user.
The word is that production is starting at the beginning of April (mere days away), and Nova Cruz is on track to deliver the first 100 units in the first month.
I predict that this is going to be a HUGE HIT for Nova Cruz. The quality is obvious, the price is right, and the speed, versatility and range are going to be just great for a whole lot of users. This is a winner, and one of the best personal electric vehicles offered to date by anyone, anywhere.
Drooling yet? I know I sure am! I will have a more detailed review along with lots of beautiful photography in the next issue of V is for Voltage, followed by another performance review when I get an actual production unit in a couple of weeks..
The Voloci electric motorbike is no longer available. Check out the very similar A2B electric bike