FREMONT--Electric scooters are all the rage in China, but they have yet to take off in the United States.

Enter GenZe, an all-electric motorized two-wheeler being marketed to college students and urban dwellers as a fun, clean way to zip around campus or city streets at a top speed of 30 miles per hour.

And zip it does. During my test drive I never went more than 10 miles an hour, but it felt like I was going much faster. I've never driven a motorcycle or moped, and was apprehensive about operating the GenZe. But it was easy to drive and intuitive to understand. It had the open, airy feeling of being on a bicycle. The vehicle weighs about 200 pounds and has a cast-aluminum exoskeleton; it's solid without feeling clunky. I made turns with ease and even though there is both a front and rear break, most times I just let up on the throttle to come to a full stop.

The GenZe name is a double entendre -- it refers to both future generations as well as zero emission vehicles. It's manufactured in Michigan; sales and distribution are overseen from a vast warehouse in Fremont where I took my test drive in the parking lot. It has a range of roughly 30 miles per charge.

The company has a showroom on University Avenue in Palo Alto, near the Stanford University campus, and is taking pre-orders for deliveries later this year. The GenZe costs about $3,000.

"Electric two-wheelers are at the nexus of next generation mobility," said Alex Boyce, GenZe's brand manager, in an interview. "You don't have to worry about oil changes or smog checks, or the traditional hassles of car ownership like parking. We're looking forward to Stanford students getting back on campus. This is a whole new market segment in the United States."


Advertisement

China accounts for 98 percent of worldwide sales of electric motorcycles and electric scooters, according to a recent report from Navigant Research. But rising gasoline prices, congested city streets and parking issues have caused more consumers elsewhere to rethink the car and look toward two-wheel vehicles -- known in the industry as "PTW" for power two-wheeler -- as a possible solution. Navigant Research forecasts that global annual sales of e-scooters will grow from 4.1 million in 2014 to 4.6 million in 2023 as the consumer markets increase.

"In many areas, the use of e-motorcycles and e-scooters is permitted on roads and on paths designated for bicycles and scooters, broadening their appeal for younger motorists," said John Gartner of Navigant.

From a regulatory perspective, the GenZe is a moped, not a motorcycle. In California, drivers need to be 18 and get an "M2" licence from the DMV. An M1 license covers motorcycles; an M2 covers a motorized bicycle, a moped, or a motorized scooter. And yes, you should wear a helmet to protect yourself in a possible accident.

The GenZe has three main features that the company likes to highlight: a storage bay where you can easily fit items like a laptop, groceries or gym bag; a removable lithium-ion battery that can be charged from any 110v socket, and a 7-inch touch-screen display that, eventually, will integrate navigation functions and a host of other apps. When you park the GenZe, you can take the battery, which is the size of a small briefcase, with you and charge it at work, in class or while sitting at a coffee shop.

The company stresses that the GenZe is engineered, rigorously tested and manufactured in the United States to the highest international and federal motor vehicle standards, with safety at the forefront of the design. The Twist 'N' Go system to start up the GenZe--simply twisting the throttle and driving away -- means there are fewer elements the driver needs to worry about compared to a motorcycle, and the low center of gravity enables a quick transition from a standing stop to a stable rolling condition.

And what about the key, or concerns about the GenZe getting stolen? The touch screen is the key: drivers need to logon with a four-digit passcode in order to operate it.

Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.

The GenZE
GenZe: Refers to both future generations and zero emission vehicles
Speed: Up to 30 miles per hour
Distance: Roughly 30 miles on a full charge
Designed, engineered and assembled: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Introductory price: $2,999
For more information, go to: http://www.genze.com/