Motorcycle-adjacent levels of performance and handling in a step-through electric scooter designed to put some fun back into your commute – that’s the promise from UK startup Zapp and its high-powered i300, which is set to go up the hill at Goodwood.
Price vs range vs performance: that’s the constant compromise in play with today’s electric motorcycles, and the reason why so many of the ones that look so appealing carry ridiculous family-car-level price tags. Realistically, though, not even the most touring-focused electrics are really able to promise the kind of high-speed range most bikers are looking for in a Sunday fun machine. The best application for electric motorcycles as it stands today remains city commuting, which they can handle with aplomb and with next to zero fuel cost.
Zapp has focused the i300 squarely on getting you around town with zero emissions, adequate range, acceleration levels that’ll give you a giggle instead of a yawn, and some proper handling. A power switch, if you will. And on paper, it looks very well specified to do what it says on the tin.
Weighing just 110 kg (242.5 lb) with its two removable 720-Wh lithium-ion battery packs in, the i300 runs a belt-drive electric motor capable of a sustained 7.2 kW (9.6 hp) and a peak of 14 kW (20 hp ). OK, that doesn’t sound like a ton, but it’s a high-torque motor capable of 85 Nm (63 lb-ft) at the crank, resulting at a highly amusing 587 Nm (433 lb-ft) of torque at the rear wheels. In performance terms, that’ll get you to 30 mph (48 km/h) in 2.2 seconds, or up to the scoot’s limited 60-mph (97-km/h) top speed in 4.8 seconds. A handful of throttle will get you well out in front of most traffic at the stop-light drags.
Handling credentials start with the bike’s light weight, and continue with upside-down forks, a preload and rebound-adjustable rear shock, dual-channel ABS braking and the fact that the motor and battery packs are kept low and central for a very agile weight distribution.
Tidy? Well, with a total of just 1.44 kWh of battery storage, it ain’t a lot. You can get somewhere around 37 miles (60 km) out of this thing if you whack it in Eco mode and ride it like a no-fun machine. So you’d need to pull the batteries out and give them a charge in the office to handle the average commute in the USA (39 miles/63 km), but it’ll easily handle the average UK commuter’s daily travel (17.2 miles/ 28km). And it won’t take long to charge – going from 20 to 80 percent in 30 minutes on an average wall plug, according to Zapp.
With its back wheel dangling in clear air under a very thin back seat, practicality does seem to be a bit of an afterthought here. You can fill that space with modular storage options, but the i300 certainly fares poorly against most scoots, which can carry a decent haul of groceries under the seat. Not to mention, that back wheel looks like it could flick a solid trail of water and mud up your back on a rainy day – although surely that’ll be addressed by the time it starts to ship.
It’s still unclear exactly when that will be. Zapp announced its solar-powered factory in Thailand was open back at the end of 2019, but then of course the world turned upside down with COVID. Its latest press release states Zapp will “soon” be announcing some events where buyers can have a look, and the odd test ride, in London, New York, Paris, Milan, Seoul and Bangkok. The website also states that bikes ordered now will take 12-16 weeks to deliver. That’s all we know.
But with prices starting at UK£5,750 (~US$7,000) – and there are several more expensive options – it could well be popular. It’s not an ultra-cheap bike like the remarkable Ola S1, but it’ll zip around a little quicker, even if it runs out of juice quicker too. It should definitely be able to handle the driveway at Goodwood. And it’s sure nice to look at.