Friday was rained out, but Saturday turned out to be a dry, sunny day, perfect for riding.
Because of the length of this narrative, I will be splitting it into two posts, and will only describe the first ride here. Stay tuned for a description of the second ride.
The first ride
Duvall to Monroe; 9 miles each way (plus one 3-mile side trip); 1 mile @ 30 mph, 8 miles @ 55 mph; elevation change ~20 ft.; partly cloudy with increasing sunshine; wet roads but no new rain; 48° F (9°C); 11am-1pm.
First was the trip planned for Friday, a late breakfast at the Hitching Post Café in Monroe. Designed to be a confidence builder, this trip is 9 miles each way with little elevation change. Shorter than my commute to work, this should be a walk in the park for a vehicle with an advertised 40 miles of range.
However, no trip could be considered complete if the vehicle couldn’t make the steep climb home, so before leaving town, I rode a round trip down to Main Street and then back up the shallowest path home, successfully!
Home to Main St. to Home; 3-mile loop; 0.8 mile downhill 15-20% grade and ~200 ft. descent, 0.8 mile level grade, 0.8 mile uphill 5-15% grade and ~170 ft. ascent, 0.8 mile 2-3% grade and ~30 ft. ascent.
With Thursday’s battery drain mystery not making a repeat appearance (I’d left the scooter plugged in all night and didn’t turn off the circuit breakers to see if that would help), my wife and I headed back down the hill and then north on SR-203 for the lunch expedition.
In Duvall, the speed limit is 30 mph, but north of town, it rises to as much as 55 mph—a grand opportunity to go faster than my 40 mph city test ride back in May, and a fair comparison of performance against the relatively flat streets of Ann Arbor.
Leaving Duvall city limits, there is a slight right turn and then a two-mile straightaway, ideal for gaining speed with few distractions (other than the view of the pastures and sunlight breaking through the cloud cover). I was able to reach about 45 mph at full throttle when I remembered to switch from the low- to high-power setting.
The Current Motor Super Scooter has a two-position switch on the right handlebar that mirrors the turn signals on the left handlebar. The two positions are marked “HI” and “LO”. The LO setting limits acceleration and top speed for improved range. I don’t have numbers for you for the acceleration, but the top speed under the LO setting is apparently 45 mph.
Whether it is safe to switch from LO to HI while in motion is not mentioned in the Owner’s Manual, so because I wanted to be extra sure not to carelessly overload the electrical system on this exploratory trip, I released the throttle completely before switching, then rolled on the throttle again.
The HI setting is described as making full power available, and the scooter is advertised to reach 55 mph, so that’s what I did for the next six miles, following the posted speed limit.
55 mph is reachable on level ground on HI power at WOT. Maintaining it is quite a drain on the battery, however. Leaving Duvall after the hill climb, the battery reported about 75-85% remaining (I forget exactly how much). After 8 miles at 55 mph, not only was the battery was below 60%, but several times flashed a different color. Given that I was not yet at my destination and the battery was already approaching 50%, I was rather nervous about my chances of returning home, especially with the steep hill climb at the end.
The speedometer on the Super Scooter is not a plastic orange needle pointing at numbers painted around a circle. It is one of several possible screens of data displayed on its digital dashboard (at right). The speed is shown as both a number and a green-colored arc.
During the 55 mph stretch of road, however, I began to notice that the green arc sometimes changed color to red. (Later, I would discover that yellow was another possible color.) Having not read anything in the Owner’s Manual about what this color meant, I radioed to my wife who was chasing me on her scooter to let her know I would be pulling over to the shoulder to let the group of vehicles gathering behind me pass so that I could continue with reduced speed. (You know how it is: (1) some people don’t like traveling at exactly the speed limit, and (2) motorcycle speedometers are seldom 100% 90% accurate, anyway.) Despite not seeing any of the textual warning messages the Owner’s Manual taught me to expect in such circumstances, I feared that the red color was warning me about overtaxing the motor and causing it harm by running it at full throttle for so long.
Fortunately, I only had to pull over the once, because I was within a mile of the outskirts of our destination. Monroe “likes its pedestrians”, so it slows the speed limit first to 35 mph, then 25 mph in its residential areas. Maintaining these city-street speeds is easy for the Super Scooter and I didn’t see the red color come back that day (but yellow did appear on my second ride).
Eating at the Hitching Post Café has been a habit of ours for our medium motorcycle trips carrying us away from Redmond through Monroe on our way east on SR-2. Sometimes—as with today—it is itself the destination for our trip. The the staff are friendly, the food is good, the portion sizes are generous, and it’s nice to support local businesses who go out of their way for the customers who go out of their way rather than blindly patronizing the nationwide chains.
After lunch, we decided to avoid the angry red speedometer by traveling under the speed limit, 50 mph rather than 55 mph. This was also to preserve as much battery life as possible for the hill climb to home base at the end of our ride. I must say that being at just above 50% battery before returning home left me a little anxious, even after taking into account the hill-climb test.
Traveling under the speed limit increased the number of times I pulled over to let traffic pass to two. The Pacific Northwest and Alaska have many signs like the one at right along long stretches of 2-lane roadways, but not this particular stretch. Nobody pulled alongside to take pictures, so I doubt they were tailgating just to gawk at the electric scooter.
My Scorpion EXO-900 helmet is already much quieter than my previous Arai Vector-2, but ducking under the wind, but I discovered during my test ride of the Super Scooter back in May that ducking down under the windscreen really drives home just how quiet this vehicle is. First, there’s no vibration from a combustion engine. Second, the reduced whistle of wind around your helmet just leaves the quiet whine of the electric motor and the sound of the tires rolling on the pavement. Everything else you hear is just that much clearer because your electric vehicle isn’t adding much to the cacophony of traffic.
If you ride a bicycle, think of how loud the buzz of your tires and rattle of shifting gears is, yet you can still hear joggers thudding down the trail, the conversations of pedestrians as you pass them. Riding an electric scooter, you aren’t wrapped in a bubble of numbing vibration and thunderous pipes that drown the world out. You’re more aware of the sounds around you simply because you’re not isolated from it by your own noise. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Disadvantage: you’re quiet enough that some other people on the road won’t notice you, so you have to ride more defensively. Advantage: you are better able to hear them coming. The scooter does have a horn, though, so you can still make noises to alert traffic to your presence.
Returning to Duvall city limits, as much as 26% battery remained of 54% at the restaurant, so I needn’t have worried as much as I did, but that’s easy to say in hindsight. At this point, I had three paths to take up the hill to home. The first two, the closest two, were the steepest, approximately a 15-20% grade. The first path had two stop signs along the way, with the first being on a less steep section of road, but the second on a steep incline. The second path had one stop sign and one level segment along the way, but its steep sections were longer. Not yet confident about this scooter’s acceleration and power drain on steep hills, I took the third path at the other end of town, which duplicated the path that I took before the start of this trip—a path I already knew the scooter was capable of climbing successfully.
With 17% remaining in the battery, I arrived home after the ~200 ft. climb from Main Street and plugged the scooter back in to recharge for a second trip in the late afternoon.
Lessons learned (or confirmed) from this trip:
- Maximum speed at LO power on level ground: 45 mph.
- Maximum speed at HI power on level ground: 55 mph.
- Approximate real-world range at maximum speed: 20 miles. Traveling at higher speeds drains the battery faster.
- Effective range of operation is significantly and inversely affected by local speed limits.
- Even if the scooter’s maximum speed matches the speed limit, traffic is rarely patient to travel that slow.
- 40 miles of range is not reasonably achievable in hilly terrain. Compare the topography of Duvall, WA to Ann Arbor, MI.
- The RAM Mount EZ-Strap can be mounted on the rear-view mirror stalk, but it can shake a little. I used it to attach my Windows Phone to the handlebar for its built-in Bing Maps with GPS support. Not like I was going to get lost on a 10-mile trip along one well traveled road, but if the battery’s charge suddenly plummeted, I wanted to know how close I was to a recharging opportunity.
- In daylight, the digital dashboard isn’t difficult to read, as long as the sun isn’t reflected into my face.
- The shock absorbers could be better about cushioning against potholes and shallow curb cuts. Luckily, the county repaved many roads badly in need of repair, but it is inevitable that one will encounter a pothole or road construction or less-than-ideal curb cut.
Questions raised by this trip:
- What do changes of color (green, yellow, red) of the speedometer mean?
- Will switching between LO and HI power mode without returning the throttle to the neutral position cause harm to the motor or electrical system?
- Why do the two speedometers disagree by as much as 1 mph? (Not described in the narrative, but still something I noticed. Leave a comment if you want me to go in to detail about the second speedometer.)
Note: The scooter I have has the standard configuration, which has a smaller battery pack advertised at 40 miles of range. It is not the high-performance configuration, which has a larger battery pack advertised at 50 miles of range. See specs.