Ssssh . . . and away UGO without a rattle or hum
When you're driving the UGO electric scooter at top speed, with the throttle all the way back, you'll notice that something is missing. It's not speed, although there isn't much of that. It's not excitement, although there isn't much of that either. What's missing, as the bike squeezes out its maximum 45kmh, is noise. There is barely a hum. When you're used to associating moving scooters with a sound reminiscent of an infant's screams amplified through a broken loudspeaker, the quiet is disconcerting.
And it seems I'm not the only one to have noticed. The Japanese government is drawing up legislation to ensure electric cars and bikes emit noise. Admittedly they are prompted by safety concerns rather than the fact that I find it eerie; pedestrians have been walking in front of electric vehicles because they can't hear them. The public has been invited to submit suggestions for the noise these vehicles should make.
As well as less noise pollution, the Chinese-built UGO has less air pollution. And if you're not stirred by environmental arguments, there are monetary ones: the absence of CO2 emissions means road tax is €31 and it costs 15c to fill the 'tank'.
As with most scooters, this bike is designed for tootling around the city. It has a 1400-watt motor that charges with a standard three-pin plug. A full charge has a range of up to 65km, although this depends on how you drive. For example, when breezing along at 30kmh, your 'tank' display might tell you your battery is almost full. However, if you encounter a modest incline, or take the bike to its heady 45kmh max speed, the battery indicator adjusts to show you have only half a 'tank' at that rate of output.
And if you time things badly and run out of power, instead of a hike to a petrol station you face the prospect of knocking on a stranger's door with a three-pin plug in your hand and a sorry look on your face. (It has, however, recently been reported that there are plans for a nationwide network of roadside charge-points for electric vehicles, with 1,500 to be installed by the end of 2011.)
When it is time to charge this scooter, it takes eight hours to completely refuel, although a "quick" charge (three hours) will fill the battery to 80pc capacity.
So, on the UGO you won't go very far, you won't go very fast, and, if you run out of juice, you won't be going anywhere for a while. But then this scooter isn't about performance. It is shiny, easy-to-drive and, most importantly for the college-aged people at whom it is aimed, it is cheap.
It comes in green, blue, pink, red and black. Had it been around 25 years ago, a fashion-conscious young driver might have picked their scooter colour to match their Swatch watch; nowadays such a person might co-ordinate it with their iPod Nano.
In terms of driving, there is neither clutch nor gears, merely a throttle to go and brakes to stop, making it very straightforward to operate.
And the scooter sells for €1,480, tax is €31 per annum and it is insured at a low rate; meaning you could be on the road sporting a new helmet and gloves for less than €2,000.
The UGO comes with one-year warranty and one-year roadside recovery. For more information see www.ugo.ie.