Electric Mopeds – making commuting cheap and fun?

The key to a better commute…? (credit)

“Ugh, my commute is killing me! Petrol costs an absolute bomb and I’m spending so much just to get to work and back!”

Xailter’s long suffering friend

After mentioning he should just bike it (until he told me it was legitimately 15 miles each way), I asked him whether he was adverse to riding a motorbike or moped to work. He said sure, but what’s the benefit of them? Well, I said, (in no particular order):

  • They are pretty cheap to buy (compared to a car)
  • VERY cheap to run
  • Have minimal maintenance
  • Insurance is cheap
  • You can skip traffic if you’re okay doing lane overtaking

And best of all, once you do a one day course called the CBT course you can ride an up to 125cc motorbike / moped which can generally do 45-50 mph. The restrictions are that you have to ride with “L” plates and cannot carry passengers and need to renew your CBT every 2 years in the UK.

“Sounds great!” he said and then off he went to look at bikes on autotrader or something.

However, an interesting question came back

“Hey Xailter, have you seen there’s electric ones as well? Are they worth looking at?”

I gave him a blank look and then told him I’d get back to him… but my interest was piqued. Are they any good…? I know all the reasons why electric cars beat the pants off most petrol cars, but does the same logic apply to motorbikes and mopeds? Could I convert another misguided soul to the electric transportation revolution?! The game was afoot!

For this post I researched some popular petrol mopeds and a couple of interesting looking electric mopeds. But I’ll just put this here in bold for all to see:

Disclaimer
1. I have not been paid by any company to pick their mopeds for comparison, I picked ones that looked comparable / interesting to me (as in I would consider either one).
2. I have passed a CBT course and did own a 50cc petrol moped for a grand total of 6 months. I am not an experienced rider, please do your own research before buying anything if you’re interested in the below!

Petrol vs. Electric Mopeds – the contestants!

Let’s have a look at the competition below and their respective attributes!

102 KGWeight115 KG
5.2L fuel tankFuel Capacity4.2 kW Lithium-ion Battery
108cc 4-stroke petrol engineEngine3000W Bosch electric motor
120 mpg (real world)Efficiency ~20 miles / kWh
137 miles (real world)Max Range70 miles (Sport)
106 miles (Eco)
9 NmMax Torque138 Nm
50 mphTop Speed46 mph
26g / mileEmissions (co2)0g / mile
£2,399Price£3,196 (with grant)
A comparison of the different attributes between a popular petrol and electric moped

I’ve picked what is apparently one of the most popular commuter petrol mopeds in 2018/19 and pitched it up against one of the most interesting electric mopeds I found in my searches. I would happily use either one if I had any use for a moped these days, but I hope you’ll agree that this should be a fairly equal match-up. I will, however, be rooting for the electric one because I really do think we need to stop burning petrol to get about. This is purely a theoretical discussion as I have not personally ridden either of these mopeds.

In short, however, the Honda has longer range and is cheaper (much like petrol cars vs. electric cars). But I have a sneaking suspicion that over the life of the moped, the electric one would come out cheaper overall. Let’s dive in and see how the costs match up.

Working out the ‘cost per mile’ for fuel

The Honda runs on good old fashioned petrol. I will be using the price of £1.29 a litre as that has been fairly consistently the price of 95 unleaded petrol in my area for months now. Adjust with your own prices below if you wish. The formula to work out cost per mile goes like so:

( Fuel tank capacity X Petrol price per litre ) / Range of vehicle

For our Honda Vision, using the values in the table above we end up with the following:

( 5.2 litres X £1.29 ) / 137 miles = £0.0489/mile or 4.9p/mile

For an electric vehicle, the formula is similar but involves your electricity rate instead:

( Battery capacity X Price per kW ) / Range of vehicle

For myself (I have a very cheap overnight rate for charging an EV), I end up with this result:

( 4.2 kW X £0.05 ) / 70 miles* = £0.003/mile or 0.3p/mile

*I’m assuming the lowest range for this calculation, highest range (106 miles) would be 0.2p/mile

You may notice that 0.3p/mile is quite a bit lower than 4.8p/mile. However! The electric moped costs an additional £797 sterling! That would buy quite a lot of petrol to fuel the normal moped. Therefore what is the cross-over point, or number of miles you would have to ride to equal the costs based on just fuel?

£797 (price difference) / ( £0.049 – £0.003 ) = ~17,326 miles

Therefore, so long as you ride at least roughly 17,000 miles during the lifetime of your ownership of the electric moped, you will at the very least break even. For comparison, my old and pretty fuel efficient Ford Fiesta 2009 achieved an average of 42mpg. The cost per mile worked out to roughly 14p/mile!

The petrol moped would be 3x cheaper to run than my old car, but the electric moped would be nearly 45x cheaper(!).

The electric moped goes in for the kill

My friend does a 30 mile commute (15 miles each way) 5 times a week and his car gets about 35mpg. This is equal to roughly 17p/mile. With some fancy maths, we can work out that his weekly commute is costing him: £25.50 a week or about £112.20 a month (assuming 22 working days a month). Let’s calculate the payback period for the above mopeds compared to his car.

VehicleVehicle Cost (£)Cost per MileMonthly Cost (£)Payback Period
Petrol Car0
(already owned)
17p112.200
(already owned)
Petrol Moped2,3994.9p32.34~30 months
Electric Moped3,1960.3p1.98 (!)~29 months
A comparison of payback periods between the mopeds and the car

It’s amazing how close the payback periods are actually – I was expecting the higher cost of the electric moped to cause it to take longer to earn its keep. But it’s dead close! Of course, after the payback period of ~30 months, the electric moped runs away from the petrol one with it’s lower ongoing costs. It’s hard to beat £2 a month of fuel costs!

A look at the more interesting features

The NIU N-GT has two 2.1 kWh removable batteries and can operate on only one! (credit)

What really caught my eye on the NIU N-GT was actually the above. Removable batteries. Whenever I read about electric vehicles on more mainstream news websites, in the comments there is the inevitable cry of “but the batteries will die in 12 months and then you’re screwed!”. Yes, lithium-ion batteries do degrade over time. But it’s not that damn fast. I do acknowledge that it’s a pain to remove batteries from electric cars and replace them (you need to take them to the garage). Well here’s a great solution where you can simply buy a couple of spares and your moped is as good as brand new!

Additionally, you can charge the moped one of two ways. You can plug it in (like the image at the top of this post) or you can remove the batteries and charge them with the supplied charger (you can charge both at once). Most electric mopeds I researched had really slow charging rates – as in they had ~30 mile range but took SIX HOURS to recharge! What the hell is with that crap charge rate?

The NIU N-GT can recharge from 0 to 90% in 3.5 hours and has over double the range. That’s a pretty big difference, so kudos to them.

Charge at home and the office?

Due to the removable batteries, this is an electric vehicle you can own if you live in a flat or don’t otherwise have access to a drive. You can also potentially charge for free at work! Remove a battery or two (they weigh 11 KG each apparently, be careful) and find an empty electrical socket (and get permission from your employer) and you’re commuting for free!

If my employer was handing out free petrol I would certainly be taking advantage of that.

And I have to add this, because I’m me, but if you have solar panels you would also be able to top up the batteries at the weekend potentially for ‘free’. Try and create your own petrol at home and see how that goes!

Miscellaneous features

The dash looks cool too! (credit)

I didn’t know where to put this other stuff, but here’s some other interesting features I liked the look of on the NIU N-GT:

  • Has an app that let’s you view stats and battery charge
  • Moped has GPS and alerts if it’s moved
  • Over the air updates – just like a Tesla!
  • The batteries seem to have a slew of charging safety features
  • Regen braking – increases range by converting braking energy to the battery
  • A strong front LED light to make yourself visible
  • It has a USB port so you can charge your phone on the go!

Wrapping up

I’m honestly disappointed I don’t have a need for an electric moped. If I had a regular commute that was <40 miles and didn’t involve motorway driving, I would probably have tried to purchase one of these things already. They really have come a long way in the past few years, and as battery technology improves I think they will become ever more popular to own and ride for the commuter looking to reduce their outgoings.

Add on the fact that, in London, a moped (either of the above models) doesn’t have to pay:

And you may see why it’s time to get commuting on the moped!

Time to share this post with my friend and see what he thinks about it all.


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