The Current Motor Company may not be on the minds of all scooterists, but that is about to change. Not only is Current offering an efficient, modern electric scooter, it's unveiling a bold business plan that not only involves new patented hub-mounted motor technology, but features the power of a Bluetooth connected smart phone to the Dell Inc. technology under the windshield.
Current Motor Company was founded by two ex-Ford Motor Company engineers and had a typical innovative product gestation (that is, long). Although the all-electric scooter that was their first product, the company struggled to scale production with a matching funding, marketing and distribution efforts. Fast forward to today's appearance at the North American International Auto Show, and not only has the company grown with financing and marketing, they are introducing significant upgrades to their already impressive maxi-electric scoot.
I spoke with Lauren Flanagan, the executive chairman of Current Motor, at the NAIAS, where their atrium booth was attracting a lot of attention. She told me that there's a lot to like about the Current Motor "Super Scooter." She says that it's a "clean, green, best value machine." And what's not to like - the scoot looks good. It's approximately the size of my Honda Reflex and offers very nearly the same quality of paint, fit and trim. It's got a comfortable, grippy, dual seat, unique hand grips and decent quality switchgear. The scooter uses Lithium Iron Manganese Phosphate (LifeMnPO4) batteries and, get this - is built right here in Michigan, that's right, Michigan. This is nothing less than the return of the great American scooter, but it's more than that. What makes this scoot even more attractive is the hub-mounted rear hub motor, mild brake-energy-regeneration and a reverse gear. But the real star of the Current Motor "tech show" is a smart-phone connected dashboard that not only displays vehicle speed and real-time range, but is also configurable to show over 20 different operating parameters of the scoot. And it gets better - due to the partnership with Dell, the Current Motor scooter features on-board 3G connection that allows for remote monitoring and problem diagnosis, remote access to the scoot via your smart phone, scheduled charging, trip planning, GPS and social media direct connections.
Ms. Flanagan also filled me in on the battery technology under the floorboard of the scooter. "We've got two options - the Super Scooter, with a range of 40 real-world miles (based on riding conditions) at speeds of 55 MPH+, and what we're calling the 'high-performance option' with a top speed of 65 MPH+ and a range of 50 miles." She continued that, "in real world testing, the Super Scooter is proving to be more than adequate for day-to-day use - commuting, fun riding - the quick charging makes them both possible". Flanagan said that the Super Scooter, "is a lot of technology for the investment" and that with the renewal of a 10% tax rebate provided by the Federal Government (plus state incentives, although there are none in Michigan), they are "at the tipping point for cost vs. value". Although the current price of the Super Scooter is a cool $9,995 (the high performance option comes in at $11,495), there are other items to consider. Current is pioneering bundling optional patterned "wraps" for your scooter and has both a set of designs to choose from or they can do a custom one for you or your business. As a matter of fact, their NAIAS show special is a free wrap or up to $1500 credit for a custom design. Beyond the cost of the scoot and the options (which can also include helmets and top storage boxes), consider that the cost to operate a Current scooter can be stunningly low. Charging can be automatically managed using the smart phone enabled scheduled charging (through a regular 110v circuit connected to the on-board charger) to happen when your electricity providers rate is lowest. This results in an "on the road" cost of about two cents per mile for fuel. Compare that to even your most efficient tradition scooter (never mind a small car) and the math starts to be compelling. Add in that the scooters are almost maintenance free, featuring the sealed hub motor (no belt, no chain) and battery health monitored continually through on-board systems. It sounds good, right? So I rode it. Well, I got to ride on the back of one downstairs at Cobo Hall.
I went downstairs to the Aisin Drive Green track and helmeted up and jumped on the back of a Super Scooter with my "driver" John Tittle. Although the track has a speed limit of 5 miles per hour, I noted that John gave the Current a little "goose" to show me that the power comes on not only instantly, but very smoothly. Remember that we were near the maximum weight for the scoot (neither of us are exactly tiny), and yet the scoot handled it well. The regen kicked in as he eased off the throttle due to pottering electric cage traffic, but it was an easily manageable step as it kicked in. The ride was also totally silent. We were easily able to converse while under way in the vast expanse of the Cobo basement. With wind noise and the noise of other cars on the road it will likely be much different in the real world, but as a rider you'll know that the noise isn't you, and that you are not contributing to the exhaust fumes like everyone else. Back at Cobo, it was just a few laps, but I pledged there and then to take a Super Scooter for a much longer ride, and soon.
There is a lot more information to come about the Current Motor Company, and watch this space for more on their technology integration and some advanced propulsion tech that they are working on. Stay tuned - it's electric.
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