While a vintage Vespa has an undeniable charm, the classic scooters aren’t quite as easy to live with as their modern counterparts. Especially the really old models, which have smoky two-stroke engines. Luckily, as with many classic vehicles, there’s a simple solution: convert that vintage Vespa into an electric scooter.
Retrospective Scooters is converting vintage Vespas into electric ones
Converting any classic bike, whether motorcycle or scooter, is significantly easier when you have a kit. Especially if that kit is designed by a specialty shop. And for those seeking to convert their vintage Vespas to electric drive, that shop is London-based Retrospective Scooters.
Retrospective Scooters started out as a restoration and repair shop for vintage Vespas. However, increasingly stringent emissions standards meant many of these old scooters were risking retirement, RideApart reports. So, shop owner Niall McCart roped in friend John Chubb to help engineer a solution.
The project really got underway after the duo met with a QS Motor representative at a Milan motorcycle show in 2017, the New York Times reports. QS Motor is a Chinese company that makes electric motors for scooters and e-bikes. Using one of QS’s motors, McCart and Chubb had a finalized converted vintage Vespa ready by 2018. And shortly thereafter, Retrospective Scooters started selling full conversion kits.
The Retrospective Scooters kits are fully reversible, Scooter Lab reports, and are available for a large-frame, small-frame, and wide-mount vintage Vespas. Each comes with an electric motor and its controller, a new custom swing-arm, a battery gauge, an LED headlight, and either a single or double removable lithium-ion battery pack. And the conversion, which involves removing the original engine, gas tank, and swingarm, Motorcyclist reports, takes about 16 hours.
Retrospective Scooters’ electric motor puts out about 4 hp and lets the converted vintage Vespa go up to 55 mph. The standard 1.8-kWh battery gives a claimed 40 miles of range; two give 80 miles. But if you swap in the optional 2.3-kWh battery packs, the potential range increases to 115 miles. However, the small-frame Vespa only accommodates one pack.
How does the 2021 Vespa Elettrica compare to the converted vintage one?
Getting a conversion kit isn’t the only way you can get an electric Vespa, though, it won’t be a vintage one. Piaggio currently sells an electric Vespa, the Vespa Elettrica.
The 2021 Vespa Elettrica features a 4-kW (5 hp) electric motor linked to a 4.2-kWh battery pack. That’s enough to get the scooter up to either 30 or 45 mph, depending on the trim. But while it’s not quite as fast as the single-battery Retrospective Scooters build, the modern electric Vespa has a longer range. It can go up to 62 miles on a charge, Motorcyclist reports.
Speaking of charging, the converted vintage Vespa arguably out-matches the 2021 Elettrica. Plugged into a wall outlet the Vespa Elettrica fully recharges in four hours. The converted classic model, though, recharges in 3.5 hours.
However, where the 2021 Vespa Elettrica surges ahead is in its other tech. Unlike the vintage model, the 2021 Elettrica has a color TFT display, Bluetooth, and regenerative braking. It also has a front disc brake, a USB outlet, and a “reverse function,” MCN reports.
Is either worth the cost?
Comparing the vintage and modern electric Vespas on cost is understandably a bit tricky.
The base Retrospective Scooters kit starts at about $4800, minus the cost of worldwide shipping and taxes. Luckily, the shop also provides building assistance and a 12-month warranty. As for the donor bike, the average price on Bring a Trailer hovers in the $4000-$5000 range. But it’s possible to find classic Vespas for as little as $3000.
Meanwhile, the 30-mph 2021 Vespa Elettrica starts at $7499, while the 45-mph version starts at $7599. Both come with a 2-year/unlimited-mileage warranty. So, theoretically, the modern electric scooter is still somewhat cheaper.
However, think of it this way. Converting a classic Vespa into an electric scooter eliminates one of its biggest daily-riding hurdles: the old engine. If that was the only thing holding you back from buying one, the Retrospective Scooters kit is a great solution. Otherwise, while the 2021 Vespa Elettrica isn’t quite as fast, or necessarily has more range, it does have some welcome modern touches.
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