Actually, quite a lot. Electric motors, you see, produce maximum torque at zero revs so any electric vehicle with half-decent controller circuitry – even a three-kilowatt one – is going to be startlingly quick off a standing start.
The Spark gets up to 40km/h fast enough to surprise the local GTI Joes in their hot hatches, and hits 60km/h before the laws of physics intervene and acceleration becomes academic. If your reflexes are good enough, robot-to-robot dices can be a blast.
There’s nothing to warm up, so you can use all the power from the moment you turn the key; electrics run at their best stone cold. This one surprised me by recording an indicated 94km/h, after about three kilometres flat out on a deserted M5 freeway on a windstill Sunday morning. That was later confirmed as a genuine 93 by Mr Garmin and his friends in the sky, making the Spark’s speedometer the most accurate yet tested by this publication on a motorcycle.
Stability and handling are way better than you’d expect from a 90kg scooter with 10 inch wheels, thanks to having almost half the weight (the battery pack) concentrated not much more than a handspan off the ground, and the steering is as agile as it should be on a two-wheeler with its axles just 1240mm apart.
Even the braking is better than you’d expect, with a twin-piston floating calliper on a 180mm disc at each end to back up the regenerative braking that turns a light touch on the brakes into free amperage.
About the only practical criticism I could find was that the seating position is very short-coupled for an adult rider. It’s not uncomfortable, but I found it very difficult to adjust the mirrors to show anything other than my own elbows.
Build quality is a cut above most Chinese scoots – the Ewizz is built in China but final assembly of the sophisticated electronics and quality control are done in Cape Town. And there is practically nothing to go wrong; the brakes and suspension are as conventional as they come, and the drivetrain has one, count them, one moving part – the back wheel.
The electromagnetic stator of the hub motor is held by the rear axle, while the permanent-magnet rotor is built into the rim like an oversized brake drum. Annual servicing consists of checking the tyres, brake pads and fork seals; there are no filters or lubricants to replace.
At R35 995 for the electrical equivalent of a 100cc scooter the Spark sounds ridiculously expensive, but when you add up all the money you won’t be spending on petrol and servicing over its lifetime, the numbers look a lot better. A full charge for the 2.9kWh nickel cobalt manganese battery takes about eight hours from a domestic 220 volt supply, and costs less than R5.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room with any electric vehicle: range. Ewizz head honcho Andy Le May quotes about 70km for the Spark 3, his smallest offering, which I thought would be more than adequate for my 34km daily commute.
But that’s predicated on humming around suburban streets at less than 60km/h; my daily ride to work and back is mostly on freeways, which meant I was running the Spark flat out almost the whole way. It got me there and back every day for a week without problems, but the red charge light was on every night when I got home.
Le May agreed that the entry-level Spark was barely adequate for my needs and said I would do better with either a 6kW Volt or a 9kW Lightning. When I’ve ridden the Volt – which we’ve been promised on test in the near future – I’ll let you know.
An odd twist to riding an electric scooter was how aware I became over a week of zero-emission commuting how noisy and smelly conventional vehicles are as you cut through the rush-hour traffic. I know my 850cc V-twin is noisy, but I had never before noticed the smell of hot oil emanating from its engine as I rode it home from returning the Spark 3 to Ewizz.
Ewizz Spark 3 NX.
Motor: 72 volt brushless three phase direct current hub motor.
Front Suspension: Conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Dual hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable for preload.
Front brake: 180mm disc with twin-piston floating calliper and regenerative braking.
Rear brake: 180mm disc with twin-piston floating calliper and regenerative braking.
Front tyre: 90/100 - 10 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 90/100 - 10 tubeless.
Seat height: 820mm.
Kerb weight: 90kg.
Fuel tank: 2.9kWh nickel cobalt manganese battery.
Top speed. (measured): 93km/h.
Fuel consumption. (measured): 7.5kWh per 100km.
Price: R35 995.
Bike from: Ewizz Electric Vehicles, Cape Town.