Do burglars dream of electric scooters?

Dave Wilson is disappointed when he discovers the limitations of the technology used in battery-powered scooters.

<b>The things that I love, and hold dear to my heart, are just borrowed, they’re not mine at all – Dottie Rambo.</b>

Last Saturday, in a brave parental attempt to alleviate the boredom of the Easter break, I purchased a small electric scooter for my children.

The specification looked impressive. With just a six hour charge to its small rechargeable power pack, the 250W motor would power the scooter a distance of anywhere between ten and fifteen miles. I couldn’t believe it. And all for the rather inexpensive price of £100 from the chap who owned the shop at the end of the road.

After the prerequisite charging period, the teenage son was duly installed on the scooter for a test drive. Rather zippy at first, it rapidly became obvious that, while it might not be a bad little toy for going to and from the local shops less than a mile away, the battery lights would wane and the power would drop off long before the ten or fifteen mile mark. Especially if an overweight editor of a web site was riding it.

To make things worse, the sealed battery unit, I learned later, would only recharge 300 times. After that, unless you had the engineering savvy to retrofit a petrol engine to it, the scooter would be no more use than a two-wheeled bike with no pedals.

Rather miffed by the whole affair, I decided that a trip to the cinema to watch a Hollywood horror film with my son would help assuage our disappointment with the vehicle. So off we went.

Upon our return, I was rather astonished to discover that my house had been burgled. Nothing of value was taken, of course, apart from the red scooter, together with its recharging unit. Fortunately, my son wasn’t too upset about the affair and neither was I. Because the scooter, after all, had been an enormous white elephant.

The police arrived on Sunday afternoon to take fingerprints. They couldn’t get to the house on Saturday, they explained, because when the public houses shut in the nearby town on a Saturday night, their resources get a bit drained dealing with the drunks. Which was a bit of a shame because on Sunday morning, a rather refreshing rain had removed all chances of getting any fingerprints off the outside surface of the doors that the criminals had levered open to get into the house.

Eventually, of course, I have no doubt that our brave boys in blue will apprehend these offenders. Because being rather mentally retarded, the next time that they attempt to burgle a house, they are more than likely to bring the rechargeable electric-powered scooter along as a getaway vehicle.

That means that even if, once again, it takes our highly mobile petrol-powered police a day to get to the scene of the crime, it’s highly likely that the criminals won’t have travelled much further than a few miles on the bike without having to stop to recharge the battery.

<b>Reader replies</b>

Sir:

It’s another case of a queered pitch, I fear.

Electric vehicles – and in particular electric bikes – can be well engineered to do a useful job. There are a million or two doing useful service out in the Far East, and about 2 in the UK. This is largely because, unfortunately, there are lot of cowboys who supply underpowered, lousily engineered electric junk.

And I am afraid I must include all the Sinclair products I have tried at least on the fringe of that cowboy group. So electric bikes, which could serve to increase our health, decrease traffic congestion and global warming, and generally save the planet, continue to get terrible press and another percentage point or two drains away from their already miserable street cred every year.

Buy, borrow (you can even borrow my 5 year-old Sanyo if you give me a call) or get someone to give you, a decent electric bike for a trial – something eg. from Sanyo, Yamaha, Heinzmann. Don’t touch anything that doesn’t have proper bike frame, NiMH battery and torque multiplier (that means you HAVE to pedal – any system where you don’t pedal is less safe and won’t go very far and will burn out batteries after a couple of years). You will be impressed – it feels like ‘cycling with seven league boots on’ – especially when you try going up steep hills.

Please, if you possibly can, try out an electric vehicle which really works properly, and give it some good press.

Neil A. Downie

Sir:

It’s a shame it had not been snowing when your scooter was stolen. That way you could have followed the tracks and apprehended the thief. I remember reading a true story of how a thief was caught that way, after stealing a wheelbarrow.

Ian Hobson