Episode 103: Electric Scooters with Vectrix and guest Jeff Morrill

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Sean Daily, Green Living Ideas' Editor-In-Chief, talks with Jeff Morrill, Director of Marketing for Vectrix, about the burgeoning market for high-performance, low-emissions, and fuel efficient 2-wheel electric vehicles.

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Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series from greenlivingideas.com. Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.

Sean Daily: Hey everybody and thanks for listening in as always on Green Talk Radio from greenlivingideas.com. This is Sean Daily, your host. Very excited about today’s program because we’re talking about one of my favorite topics as you know from listening to this program. If you have listened to the program before, you know that anything related to electric vehicles and specifically if it has two wheels is a special, a special interest to me. And today we’re going to be talking about electric scooters and motorcycles, and I think one of the things a lot of people that are looking for alternative transportation have been frustrated by the electrical vehicle market and some of you have turned to two wheel options, gas powered, because of the higher fuel efficiency, and I think one of the things most people don’t realize is that there is a greater pollution aspect of those vehicles, which you can find out more about the specifics on that on the greenlivingideas.com site, we actually talked about that. So, you know, there are new entrants in the market and, both on the motorcycle and the scooter areas. So my guest to discuss that topic with us today is Jeff Morrill who is the chief marketing officer at Vectrix, which is the maker of the world’s first high performance electric two wheel vehicle. Jeff welcome to the program.

Jeff Morrill: Hi Sean. Thank you, glad to be here.

Sean Daily: Well it’s our pleasure. You know this is a perennial popular topic with our listeners and we’ve actually spoken on the program to a number of electrical vehicle manufacturers including Bramo and Zapp and Zen and so forth, and I think, you know, specifically on the two wheel side as, which is reflecting also what’s happening on the four wheel side is there’s been a lot of frustration, a lot of desire, a consumer desire I think, to have a fully electric vehicle, but not a lot of availability of product, and certainly not in all the categories that, that people are looking for. So I was very intrigued to hear what Vectrix is doing. I guess my first question for you is a little, to clear up some confusion about is this a motorcycle or a scooter?

Jeff Morrill: Both. It’s, we’ve launched, we are classified with the Department of Motor Vehicles as a scooter because you can step through, there’s no motor and there’s no shifting, so it’s an automatic, so there are different regulations that determine that it’s a scooter, but from a riding experience and performance it’s like a motorcycle. We like to refer to it as the Vectrix ‘cause it’s so new and different, and you really have to experience to really get the full riding enjoyment of it.

Sean Daily: So do you really expect to I guess based on that sort of straddling the middle, I expect that you’re trying to get a crossover from both audiences.

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, we see targets both from the motorcycle arena, scooters and quite honestly we’re bringing new people into the two wheel category, people who really want a real zero mission vehicle, people who have not ever ridden a motorcycle are actually going and getting their motorcycle license, which you do need because we do go 62 miles an hour, we are highway legal, so you have to have a motorcycle license. But a large percentage of our purchasers really want to make a difference in our daily lives and are tired of, you know, having to rely on foreign oil and the high rising prices of oil, etcetera, so they’re out using Vectrix as another alternative.

Sean Daily: You know and it’s interesting too that this vehicle does go 62 miles an hour which significant if you look at, I mean, not just with regards to two wheel vehicles and what there is on the market, ‘cause a lot of the quote/unquote “electric scooters” out there are more of like the almost electrified kids razor variety, you know, and then getting into the, more of like the Maxi scooter, urban type of scooter that people might picture, or motorcycles. Again, there isn’t a lot of availability, but even with regards to cars, the large majority of the electric vehicles out there are in the neighborhood electric vehicle category and those are limited by law to 25 miles an hour. So this is significantly higher than that.

Jeff Morrill: It’s really a, an urban transportation vehicle. We just had a great announcement yesterday with a test with the New York Police Department announcing that they are testing Vectrix in actual patrols, so it’s just symbolic of it’s a real vehicle for real transportation needs, whether it’s police patrols or urban commuting.

Sean Daily: I heard in the, I heard an interview with you and you were talking about I believe it was that police force or perhaps another where they were a bunch of Harley guys, ‘cause, you know, a lot of the police force ride Harleys and those are great obviously solid bikes and, you know, gas powered vehicles of course and they were kind of like snickering under their noses a little bit before they got on the bike and then they wouldn’t give them back at the end, is that, is that right?

Jeff Morrill: Oh it’s funny ‘cause, you know, they’ll look at it and they’ll say “Hey scooter boy and I’ll say, “Well lets go for a ride” and we get on and, in one situation we had two 250 pound officers, one was an ex linebacker and, you know what, they had an awful lot of fun on the bike and we couldn’t get them off, so that’s a good signal to us.

Sean Daily: You know, and that’s another misnomer that I know I’ve come across with people and that I had myself in the beginning is that people say things like, “Well, you know, can an electric vehicle really go that fast? I mean, what’s the power and the performance of this?” and, you know, both on the car side as well as on the two wheel vehicle side, you know, the answer is that all the power is so instantly available and the acceleration is far beyond what a combustion engine can do and is actually a more intense experience.

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, it’s, the foundation of our company really emanates out of innovative technology. The motor for the Vectrix is right on the rear wheel, so the benefit of that is you get your power and torque right where you need it and the acceleration is zero to thirty in three point one seconds on the Vectrix…

Sean Daily: That’s great.

Jeff Morrill: And zero to fifty in six point eight seconds…

Sean Daily: Nothing wrong with that.

Jeff Morrill: Often beating large motorcycles off the line and they’re like, “Hey wait a minute, that’s really electric?” and I’m like, “Yes, they’re real and we’re here.”

Sean Daily: Yeah, there goes scooter boy off in the distance. That’s funny. So I also understand something about there’s a single handed throttle and breaking. It’s, you can do it all with one hand. Is that accurate?

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, we have patented technology with our regenerative breaking for motorcycles, it’s in different electric vehicles, but you can use the throttle obviously to roll backwards and accelorate. You can also use it to go forward and it acts as a breaking mechanism. Once people get used to that they really stop using them as just breaks. We got front row breaks in those situations where you need fast stopping action, but people get so used to it so intuitive, you just roll the throttle up, you’re stopping by putting the throttle in reverse and also recharging the battery up to ten to twelve percent of the total charge. And what’s neat about that is when you’re sitting still it acts as we have reverse on the bike, so you can just roll backwards into a parking spot or not have to, you know, finesse it into a parking spot, you just put it in reverse to turn around, etcetera.

Sean Daily: Which any motorcycles out there will know what you’re talking about in trying, finessing bikes ‘cause they don’t have a reverse gear, so….

Jeff Morrill: Well it’s funny, we’ll be at different shows, whether they’re EV shows or even cycle shows, and people will get off the Vectrix and go ride something else and they come back and they say, “I was using that other bike and I went to hit the reach end breaking and they didn’t have it.” It is symbolic of how intuitive it becomes for riders, and it’s great because you have less wear and tear on the breaks and then less maintenance costs, etcetera, and you’re recharging your battery.

Sean Daily: Now I’m curious beyond the speed we’ve already talked about, being 62 miles an hour, tell us about the distance and range on this bike.

Jeff Morrill: Sure. The range is between 35 and 55 miles. It’s really based on the riding environment. So if you’re on the highway, you’re going to be on the lower end of that. You know, most people, or I should say the average American commute is 42 miles roundtrip, so it’s actually a perfect fit with the Vectrix. If all 42 miles are on the highway, you’d have to, you know, recharge it worked for the ride home, but if you’re on the highway and on, you know, side streets you can easily get up to the, you know, 50 mile, 55 mile range.

Sean Daily: And that’s funny ‘cause that’s, you know, for most people that’s counterintuitive because with gas vehicles it’s the opposite, the more time you’re on the highway the better the fuel efficiency, but I think anybody that’s dealt with like the Toyota Prius or other hybrids is already familiar with that, that phenomenon.

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, we’re finding easy knowledgeable folks that’s very intuitive. We’re actually focusing a lot on training, we’re looking for new dealers around the country and as we sign them up, we go through an extensive training program on a really qualify a consumer, if they’re trying to go as fast at they can from point a to point b, you know, the range is going to be less. We want to be honest and up front. At the same time you learn how to almost create a little competition with yourself, how far can you go with one charge, and it’s really extensive. It can go well above 55, but you become a master at the easy Vectrix techniques by that point.

Sean Daily: Okay. So you’re saying the range is the bottom end is around 35 and the top end is around 55.

Jeff Morrill: Yes.

Sean Daily: Okay. Aright, good, well I have a ton more questions for you Jeff…

Jeff Morrill: Great.

Sean Daily: but we’re going to take a quick break to go into our sponsors, and we will be right back with Jeff Morrill, chief marketing officer for Vectrix Electric Scooters.

Sean Daily: And we are back talking about electric scooters with, and motorcycles and anything electric two wheels, with Jeff Morrill who is the chief marketing officer for Vectrix. Jeff I had some other questions. We were talking before the break about the speed, the distance and the range of the bike. I think that naturally leads in any conversation with regards to electric vehicles, it naturally leads to a discussion of batteries and battery technology. So can you tell our audience a little bit about the battery technology in the Vectrix.

Sean Daily: Sure. We use a nickel metal hydride in the Vectrix V1, we refer to our current product. It is, you know, a common battery out there, battery source out there. Other current hybrid vehicles are using it. We think it’s a great alternative. It delivers a really low center of gravity on the Vectrix for a smooth ride ‘cause all the battery is down low underneath the front seat and it is recharged, a total charge is about 3 hours, and that’s where you get the 35 to 55 miles. What’s great about nickel metal hydride is there’s no memory loss like some cell phones, so I ride to our R & D center about 24 miles away and I plug it in to charge it back up in case at night I want to go to my kids soccer team or soccer game or something like that, don’t have to worry about any memory loss of the battery. It’s actually good conditioning for the battery to plug it in at every opportunity.

Sean Daily: Now I’m curious about that too because I picture, you know, I haven’t had the good fortune to have one of these yet or a vehicle like this, and in terms of plugging it in, I mean obviously at home you’re going to arrange it in your garage or your outside plug that, now you’re parked at your office or at the store or what have you, What’s the availability of plugs and, you know, bringing a cable and all of that, sort of the logistics of that, how convenient or inconvenient does that end up being?

Jeff Morrill: I think it’s actually more convenient than people have realized. I mean, Vectrix plugs into a regular 110 outlet, and if you actually look for them they’re everywhere, whether it’s at a gas station or a convenience store. What we would hope as we, you know, introduce the Vectrix into this country and others is we actually start building charging stations with different businesses or cities to make electricity more available, we’re actually in conversation with some folks to do that now, or even offices or businesses creating charging stations for EV employees to make their life easier to charge.

Sean Daily: Well it would be a beautiful dream of the future, wouldn’t it, to have parking spaces with sort of, I picture a little post at the end of the parking space coming out of the cement stopper and there’s a dual plug there, an electric plug. That would be a good sign I think for our society.

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, I would say there are cities around the world like London that are doing that. And we are hoping to have conversations and identify some cities in the U.S. that want to help lead the paradime ship here and we would love to build out an infrastructure to make electric powered sources available to the riders of Vectrix, both consumers and city fleets.

Sean Daily: Yeah. So I’m, just going back you had mentioned about the, returning to the battery discussion, I had another question about that, you mentioned nickel metal hydride and I have a technology background and have dealt with a lot, with laptops as a lot of people have and different technologies, and I’m just curious about nickel metal hydride. Obviously you said it was a good alternative and I’d say the alternative is to the lead acid technology which has been around forever and, you know, is not the same sort of capacity and things like that, in size it requires more space. But what I’m wondering about is does nickel metal hydride have a memory effect, which is for people who don’t know what effect is it’s where the battery sort of retains if you only half charge it over time, you know, fully, go through a full decharge and recharge cycle, it ends up remembering that it can retain less charge than it really can. Is that an issue with nickel metal hydride?

Jeff Morrill: No, it’s not an issue at all. It’s one of the benefits of nickel metal hydride, and it’s where the benefit for the rider is you can go, you know, to half full charge or three quarters full or a third and then just plug it back in and charge it all the way up.

Sean Daily: And another thing I guess we should mention about nickel metal hydride that I’m aware of is that, you know, lithium ion has had, you know, some exploding issues with certain products on the market, we won’t, they’ll remain nameless, but there have been some issues with lithium ion batteries actually having, catching on fire and things like that, so… And is that, is lithium ion much more expensive as a battery technology to implement than nickel metal hydride?

Jeff Morrill: Actually, you know, there are benefits to that source. Lithium’s not totally readily available to a lot of different vehicle providers today, so it I think is a potential option in the future, and I would say Vectrix is looking at a lot of different battery power sources to extend the range and deliver a great riding experience.

Sean Daily: So Jeff I had a question just, this is something that comes up quite a bit in regards to noise factor or the lack of noise that exists on these vehicles. Some people tout that as an advantage, some people tout it as a disadvantage, particularly with regards to, its been in the noise where there have been visually impaired people that I have, I think it was the Toyota Prius, there was a lawsuit because they couldn’t hear the vehicle coming, it was in its electric mode. Is that something that’s come across your radar screen in Vectrix?

Jeff Morrill: Its actually come across as both a feature and a benefit for Vectrix. We’ve actually added a small hum to the bike so if there’s actually somebody who is potentially blind on the corner street, they or their guide dog would hear a little hum of the bike, and it actually adds a lot more awareness to the driver to make sure they’re alert and what we’re finding is, you know, the Vectrix V1 is, you know, it’s a large sized vehicle, it’s like a motorcycle size, so people tend to see that. There are clearly times where people aren’t paying attention and obviously we’d want to make sure the riders aware and sound or no sound isn’t going to help them in those situations, but we are a big advocate of driver training and safe driving.

Sean Daily: Yeah, okay. I was just curious because I’ve, you know, heard that come up. And it’s interesting to hear that you’ve implemented the hum because I’m mused with other guests before that, you know, there’s an opportunity, a business opportunity around creating a cool vroom, vroom type of noise company that can do audio samples and, you know, allow manufacturers the (unintelligible) and make your bike sound however you want, so…

Jeff Morrill: Well we’ve actually had customers and consumers call us and say, “Hey, can you do like cell phones, like you get a different song, it’d kind of be vroom, vroom?”

Sean Daily: Right.

Jeff Morrill: And while we do not offer that option today that’s a very intriguing idea.

Sean Daily: It’s like, yeah, I want, you can point your finger to the Harley noise, you know, or you can point to the sport bike noise, yeah. That’s funny. So also I’m curious about on the servicing side. Lets say my Vectrix breaks down. This is an issue with any alternative vehicle where maybe there isn’t the same supply change and servicing change that exists with other more conventional vehicles. What happens to me if my Vectrix has an issue and I need it serviced, or just when it needs servicing?

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, I guess an important piece there is we have launched last April in the U.S. We’re delivering Vetrix V1’s in 10 states right now and we’re building out the network of dealers in states, so we’re actually holding off and this is difficult for us but not delivering bikes in a state where we don’t yet have a dealer partner just so we can make sure we deliver what we call ‘the Vectrix experience’ and a high level of customer service, but I’ll take a state where we do have a dealer and what we have is a traditional bricks and mortar dealership structure. We also require them to have a van or a mobile truck unit, and what they do is we call it ‘the Vectrix VIP direct service’, the truck will come, deliver the bike to your home or do a test ride or come if there’s service needed so that you have two options; one, coming into the dealership for service or we actually come to you. It’s an electric vehicle so there’s not a lot of fluids to adjust or components to adjust. We plug in a laptop and run service download programs on our product.

Sean Daily: Oh, okay. Yeah, similar to what a lot of garages have to do these days with various and more advanced cars, being able to, having to use computers to service them.

Jeff Morrill: Exactly.

Sean Daily: Yeah. Very interesting. Okay, well I have, I have two other very important questions for you that will have to wait until after this break. One about the all important question of costs and also about styling, so those will wait until after this last break from our commercial sponsor, and we will be back with Jeff Morrill, chief marketing officer for Vectrix.

Sean Daily: Okay, and we are back with Jeff Morrill from Vectrix. We’re talking about two-wheeled high performance electric vehicles, also known as scooters and motorcycles. And Jeff I had a question for you, just, you know, really where a lot of people I think who are listening to this or have heard about the Vectrix are going to be asking the question of, you know, cost. Well what do these things cost? Can you answer that for us?

Jeff Morrill: Sure, the Vectrix is $11,000 dollars, and we’re finding some states are actually offering rebates. Georgia has got probably the most advanced rebate where there’s a 20 percent tax refund for the purchase of any EV vehicles, so we’re hoping more states and cities have support programs like that.

Sean Daily: I might have to go to Georgia to buy my Vectrix. That’s pretty enticing. And it’s right about in there, I’m pretty familiar with the pricing in this market and so I can say that, you know, based on performance and the features, you know, there are other products out there that are in the thirteen to fifteen thousand dollar range that I’ve talked to on this program and have researched and so forth, so it sounds like you guys are actually priced right in the sweet spot there at that price point. And I’m glad to hear, you said $11,000 dollars and not euros ‘cause I read something online that said you were using the euro, and based on the way the dollar is compared to the euro right now, that would’ve been a lot more than $11,000 dollars.

Jeff Morrill: We’re having currency fluctuations as everyone else is, but it is $11,000 dollars. We do think we hit, you know, hopefully the right price line. It is a whole new category, we’re pioneering the way and we’ve really tried to, really we want to make a statement that the V1 is real and we got top of the line components like Brumbo breaks, Marzoki shocks. We didn’t cut any corners ‘cause we wanted people to have an outstanding all electric ride.

Sean Daily: Now what about tires? You use Perelli, is that right?

Jeff Morrill: Perelli, yes.

Sean Daily: Yeah, you can’t go wrong there. Well that’s good, that’s definitely high performance vehicle. Well and, you know, I added one other question which is actually about, on the styling side, more on the aesthetics, as long as we’re talking about aesthetics. And it seems to me there’s sort of two category, main categories of scooters and urban scooters and one is the more modern urban Maxi scooter look, which is, Vectrix I think is very in line with it’s that beefier almost like kind of hybrid motorcycle scooter look. It’s a very substantial vehicle, it’s got the modern lines and such, and then you’ve got sort of the old school people who like the old Vespa, that throw back look, you know, where you look like you’re going to have that little, you know, the little half helmet and the cup of cappacchino, you know, in one hand and one hand on the scooter…

Jeff Morrill: Right, right, right.

Sean Daily: If you’ve been to Italy you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Jeff Morrill: Yup.

Sean Daily: Maybe a cigarette in there or two. You know, so I’m just curious, are you, do you guys have any plans that you can talk about with regards to possibly doing more of a classic styling in the future?

Jeff Morrill: Actually we see a lot of different options from a future design perspective. We are like any great company working on lots of new products all the time, and we actually featured a concept, a new concept for a super bike at the Milan Ikna show probably 60 days ago and we’re going to have it on tour in the U.S., it’ll be at CES, our booth there in early January in Las Vegas, and we would anticipate, you know, again in a pipeline of new products over the next, you know, coming years so that we can continue to meet different rider needs with an all electric vehicle.

Sean Daily: Okay. Well that’s good to know. I’m glad I asked the question. So for those of you quadrophinium mod head types out there, there is hope for, for you yet. And I think, well I also read something I wanted to clarify with you, which was something about a potential three-wheeled option for this, is that still in the works?

Jeff Morrill: Yes, actually we introduced it at Easy S in Anaheim last month, or earlier this month I guess and we have a concept bike that we are now starting to take deposits on. It is two wheels in the front and has a great riding experience offering more stability. There’s patented components to an independent wheel action that we have on our Z3 models. Again, it’s not yet available. We’re starting to take deposits today at myvectrix.com or you can go to vectrix.com to get to it, and we would see that as a great riding option, if you pull up to a stoplight, you hit a button and if the bike stabilizes it automatically locks in a vertical position, this can only happen at three miles per hour under, but you can, you’ll not have to put your feet on the ground or not have to worry about backing up and people are actually amazed when they see somebody stop and not put their feet down and then they read on the back a little banner that says “100 % electric”, and their head just kind of spins and you see them all roll down their window and say, “What is that?” It’s a Vectrix.

Sean Daily: Yeah, that’s cool. They’re definitely head turners, I mean anything along these lines are now, people are really, you know, amazed that they even exist. It still seems very futuristic to people even though, you know, electric vehicles have been around since the 20’s. It’s, you know, to actually, to see them in use, it’s really, it still represents the unrealized promise and potential of the future with regards to sustainable transport, so it’s exciting to see companies like Vectrix producing products, and that leads me into my last question, which I really think is the most important question of all, particularly for somebody who’s very interested in a vehicle like this. Are these available right now? Can I get one?

Jeff Morrill: Yeah, we, if you go to vectrix.com we show all the states where we have dealers in. We’re currently delivering bikes in California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.

Sean Daily: That’s great. And so there’s no current wait list for the most part?

Jeff Morrill: There, the only wait list we have is in states that we have not yet gotten a dealer infrastructure in and we are, one, looking for new dealers in other states like Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, but we’re also in conversations in a lot of those to get dealers set up as the demand is growing everyday, and we have people drive across country and buy a Vectrix in our flagship store right in downtown Newport Rhode Island.

Sean Daily: Now that’s funny you guys are in Newport Rhode Island, I grew up in Barrington Rhode Island, so…

Jeff Morrill: Oh did you?

Sean Daily: Yes, yes I did. I’m in California now, but that’s my, that’s my (unintelligible)…

Jeff Morrill: Small world, huh?

Sean Daily: It is a very small world. Yes, well great, well Jeff thank you so much for being on the program with us today and sharing information about Vectrix. It’s very exciting to see the product shipping on the market and representing part of the future of two-wheeled electric transportation.

Jeff Morrill: Great, we, thanks for having me and we’ll be in California in January, we’d love to get you on a Vectrix to actually ride it.

Sean Daily: Well you know I’ll be there, I’ll definitely love to be a guinea, well not a guinea pig I guess since you guys have been around for a while but I’d love to get my crack at it, so you can count on that. My guest today has been Jeff Morrill, chief marketing officer at Vectrix. You can find them online at www.vectrix, v-e-c-t-r-i-x, dot com or myvectrix.com. Jeff thanks again.

Jeff Morrill: Thank you.

Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today. Remember for more free on demand podcasts, articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com. We’d also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions. Send us an email at [email protected]