We have a plethora of options for getting around in an urban area. Buses, taxis, Uber, monorails, light rail and dirigibles (well, probably not the last one) make travel in big cities easier. But for those looking for a bit more freedom and fun, there are motorized two-wheeled options: motorcycles and scooters. While electric motorcycles are still a bit pricey (but exciting to ride), scooters that need to be plugged in instead of gassed up are appearing on the streets in larger numbers. So how useful are these battery-powered bikes? I decided to test the $3,000 Mahindra Genze 2.0 in Las Vegas during CES earlier this month to see if I would miss hitting the pump.
The annual CES gadget extravaganza extends beyond the Las Vegas Convention Center, spanning almost the entire city with events and vendors setting up shop at various casinos and centers. For myself and other attendees, that means long taxi lines, Uber and Lyft drivers "getting lost," and one limited monorail system. None are especially reliable when you you're in a hurry. So when given the chance to ride an electric scooter the entire week I was in Vegas, I jumped at the opportunity.
I quickly realized I had made the right decision. The Genze might only have a range of about 30 miles, and its top speed is just 30 miles per hour, but it made getting places a joy instead of an anxiety-inducing affair.
On my first trip I started up the bike with a PIN, put on a helmet and rode off toward the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Its torque behind its silent acceleration won't win any awards, but on surface streets it's enough to keep you from getting run down by cars. Everything's going great until you hit that top speed. I've noted this before, but if you're used to riding a motorcycle or scooter, Genze's top speed of 30 mph can be jarring. The scooter maker places this limit on the bike so it can be sold to riders without a motorcycle license. Most of the time this wasn't an issue, but I did end up on a few roadways where the top speed was 45 mp\hour and I felt guilty for impeding traffic.
But when I wasn't blocking traffic, I was happy to be making my way toward my destination on my own terms. The extremely upright sitting position of the bike takes a few miles to get used to. After that, navigating through traffic (but not lane splitting, which is illegal in Nevada) was a breeze. One thing I did appreciate is how comfortable the seat was. It's cushier than what you'll find on most scooters and motorcycles and really, after a long day of sitting on the floor of a convention center or on a folding chair, anything remotely comfortable is appreciated.
The large "trunk" was also a welcome addition. I could throw my backpack into it during rides knowing that its deep recess and my relatively low speed would prevent items from popping out onto the street. While it's nice the vehicle offers more storage than the average scooter or motorcycle, I still have one complaint: There's no way to lock your helmet to the bike. Sure, you can buy aftermarket locks, but this nonetheless seems like an oversight. I was using Genze's helmet and I made it look like it was locked to the bike when it was parked. In reality, though, anyone could have walked by and taken it. The problem is, I wasn't about to lug it around to all my meetings and events.
And there were oh-so-many meetings and events. This was CES, after all. Traversing the strip and points beyond generally wasn't too taxing on the battery. But there was one day when I had to ride up past downtown Las Vegas after making a few trips between casinos. The bike does have an Eco mode with a 30-mile range. But I'd rather have quicker acceleration, so I spent nearly the entire time in the quicker-off-the-line Sport mode. That left me with a range of about 20 miles on a day when I traveled about 19. I ended the evening wondering if I would have to call for a ride. But the scooter ultimately summoned the juice I needed and got me back to my hotel with charge to spare.
That experience is a reminder that I couldn't just pull into a Chevron station, gas up and continue on my journey. With any electric vehicle, the owner needs to know the limits of its range. While commuting with the Genze would be no problem for me in San Francisco, any after-work leisure rides would require me to charge the battery at work.
The Genze battery pack is removable and can be plugged into any outlet. Like the Zero motorcycles, it takes a standard three-prong power cable. The port can be accessed without removing the battery so the bike can be charged in garages. And while removing the battery is a simple affair, it's best done in daylight the first time you do it. After unlocking it, the giant block of electrons has a lever that you can't see at 11PM in a dark hotel parking lot. Once I found it the first time, I could have located it blindfolded. Just be prepared for its considerable heft. Genze says it's less than 30 pounds, which I can only assume means it weighs 29.9999 pounds.
Basically, this thing is heavy. And after a hard day at work, it feels even heavier. Placing it back in the bike is easy, at least: Just slide it in the bottom and push it up. Easy peasy; not stressful.
And that's actually pretty much how the entire week went. The Genze made my week at CES less hectic, and for those 15- to 30 -minute rides between meetings I felt temporarily off the grid -- no small feat at the country's biggest tech show.
While it's not quite up to par with its gasoline-based counterparts, the Genze electric scooter is a great way to get around a dense urban environment for those ready to make the electric plunge but don't want to make a huge investment in an electric car or motorcycle. Its low speed means anyone with a license can buy and ride it. (Although I advise that everyone riding a scooter or motorcycle take a safety class.) The trunk is also great for shopping, and the battery (while heavy) is easy to charge at the home or office. I would not recommend it outside of a dense city or if your daily ride is only a few miles roundtrip. But if you want to take full control of your transportation and you can deal with being unconnected for at least a few minutes, the Genze is worth checking out.