When last I wrote about the paperwork involved for the Current Motor Super Scooter, it was both a sad and happy day. The paperwork had arrived, but it was incomplete. Missing were both the assignment of ownership to me by name and the odometer statement.
Today, I’m happy to report that the corrected paperwork has arrived. The back of the Certificate of Origin now names me as the purchaser. Further, a State of Michigan Statement of Vehicle Sale now accompanies it with the odometer reading filled out.
Also rounding out the documentation is a copy of the printed Owner’s Manual and Quick Start guide. In the meantime, I had asked for and received a PDF copy of the Owner’s Manual and could study that while waiting for the printed copy. Having the official printed copy on hand will be useful for any representative of law enforcement or state regulatory agency interested in whether the scooter is legal for street operation, or for a motorcycle repair technician interested in learning what is necessary to know about servicing the vehicle without getting a nasty electric shock.
So what’s next? I should be able to bring these documents with me to a licensing office to register the vehicle, right? Yes, that’s true. But there’s a price involved.
The scooter was won in a sweepstakes, so other than the fee to enter ($0) it’s free, right?
Yes, the scooter was delivered at no cost to me (other than the ~$1K round-trip airfare to Detroit to visit the manufacturer to meet the team who made it and take a test ride to learn more about it). However, this overlooks two hidden costs: (1) receiving a prize counts as taxable income (28%), and (2) even if I paid nothing to the manufacturer, I still owe sales tax in the state that I took possession of and plan to use the vehicle (9.8% in WA).
MSRP is $9,995 for the vehicle, accessories that came with it (trunk case and helmet) total $410, so although I didn’t pay Current Motor $10,405, the federal government will expect $2,913.40 and the Washington State government will expect $1,019.69, meaning that the “free” prize actually means that I unwittingly entered a lottery that guarantees the government a prize of about four thousand dollars.
Sadness. But I only have myself to blame for ignorance of the tax impact.
Is there a silver lining?
Yes! I must not let myself forget what led me into this situation: research into electric vehicles. I found the sweepstakes mentioned on the 2012 SXSW web site among Bing search results for electric vehicle manufacturers. Specifically, electric motorcycle and electric scooter manufacturers. Did I not desire an electric motorcycle or scooter? Yes, I did. Did I think I had anything to lose by entering the sweepstakes? Ignorantly, no. Did I expect to win? Also, no. Did I regret winning? Still no. The excitement is greater than the pain of the tax impact. When all is said and done, I effectively made a purchase of a $4K electric scooter with 40-mile range from a little-known manufacturer.
What were my alternatives?
The eMoto G6 Lithium is an electric scooter with the most similar specs that I’ve found so far. Both have a motor that can deliver 5kW of power, can travel up to 60mph, have a range of up to 40 miles, are capable regenerative braking, and can recharge fully in 5 hours. It has an MSRP of $5,500, but no clear model year. It is available from MC Electric Vehicles in downtown Seattle. I visited them two years ago for a test ride of the Zero XU and the eMoto G5, but at the time couldn’t bring myself to pay even $4,500.
What’s nicer about the eMoto?
It has more storage capacity under the seat. It is sold and supported through local dealerships. It is distributed by a company located in nearby Kent, Washington. Current Motor’s products are not sold or distributed by any company in Washington State.
What’s nicer about the Current Motor?
If we’re comparing only the out-of-pocket money, the Current Motor’s $4K tax liability is less than the eMoto’s $5.5K. However, MC Electric Vehicles did run a rather aggressive sales discount two years ago that would’ve made them more attractive, had I known about both vehicles at the time.
If we compare their pedigree, well, eMoto only manufactures electric bicycles in Kent, but imports their electric scooters from China. Current Motor might import its batteries from China (pure speculation based on the materials safety document attached to the shipping container), but assembles the scooters in the good ol’ US of A. Those of you who support domestic (American) products, and support replacing Detroit’s disastrous obsession with macho fossil-fueled vehicles with environmentally friendly innovation in cleaner-fueled vehicles, will likely sympathize with a local startup like Current Motor.
Zero Motorcycles’ Zero XU is an electric motorcycle that can also match the Current Motor scooter, with speeds up to 65mph, range of 40 miles, regenerative braking, and charge time of 3 hours. It’s MSRP appears to be $7,700 for the 2013 model year. Two years ago I also test rode one of these at MC Electric Vehicles, but it is available today from a more conventional motorcycle dealership in the area, Lynnwood Cycle Barn. Zero also manufactures its bikes in the United States, as far as I know.
What’s nicer about the Zero?
Other than that it can be bought from and serviced by a local dealership, and that the MSRP is less, not much (for me, anyway). There’s less plastic to break if/when the bike goes down.
What’s nicer about the Current Motor?
Objectively: The out-of-pocket tax impact of the Current Motor is $3K less than the MSRP of the Zero. There’s a little bit of storage under the seat in the Current Motor, but there is zero storage on a stock Zero.
Subjectively: I prefer the scooter/cruiser riding posture. I get vertigo in the sportbike riding posture and have an irrational fear of falling over the handlebars whenever I brake going downhill. Yes, I experience this fear on a scooter or cruiser, too, but much less than on a sportbike. The center of gravity is lower on any scooter than any sportbike, for greater perception of stability. The seat height is lower than the Zero, by almost 4 inches, which means my wife can ride it comfortably, too. (She couldn’t test-ride the Zero at all because of its seat height.)
Compared to purchasing the eMoto and Zero, winning a Current Motor scooter has both objective and subjective benefits. So what would make it compelling to someone who didn’t win the lottery? Why would someone pay for a Current Motor scooter instead of one of the others?
That is a topic that will motivate many posts after this one, once I get the bike legally licensed for operation on the roads of Washington State, read the Owner’s Manual, and see whether the bike will become my new favorite commuting vehicle, or only be enough to run local errands on.
Let me give you a hint of what you can look forward to reading about:
- Whether it can climb the steep hills near where I live
- Whether it can really get me to work and back on a single charge
- How easy it is to learn how to ride, from the point of view of someone who doesn’t have much experience riding scooters
- What interesting places I can reach from a full charge, and how I extend this range with recharging opportunities
- How fast and conveniently it recharges
and last, but not at all least:
- What all the Current Motor Super Scooter’s Digital Dashboard does
What is a digital dashboard?
Imagine that instead of an analog speedometer and odometer, instead of a liquid crystal display that fakes an analog speedometer, your dashboard had the equivalent of a smartphone staring up at you.
Yes, a smartphone. With a graphical display. GPS. Internet connectivity. Downloadable apps. Social networking.
Would you like to know more?