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January 17, 2007
Review: the GreenEmotor e-runner 160

The GreenEmotor e-runner 160

(Author’s note: I am in no way affiliated with or related to Green Elec-Motor or its employees. GreenEmotor has not sponsored or endorsed this review; and any errors in specifications are my errors.)

For the past week, I have been commuting to work and running errands (including grocery shopping) using a new toy: an all-electric scooter made by GreenEmotor Inc., a start-up company in Santa Clara, Calif.

I am not talking about a tiny stand-up scooter, like a Razor with an engine on the back; or a small sit-down scooter that fits in the trunk of a car. This is a full-sized scooter that can carry two full-grown adults, except that it does not use a single drop of gasoline.

What it is

GreenEmotor scooters are available in two different engine sizes and two different styles, for a total of four combinations, each in several different colors. Here are the combinations, with vehicle weights and list prices:

The “160” model uses a 1,600 watt battery, providing a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour. The “220” model uses a 2,200-watt battery, providing a maximum speed of 42 mph.

The “E-runner” is the more basic style, with analog dials on the dashboard (versus digital on the “E-cruiser”), no clock, a different headlight, and various other cosmetic differences. On the plus side, the “E-runner” includes a small lockable glove box in the front, while the “E-cruiser” has an open drink holder. Both styles include a small lockable trunk underneath the seat and a small cargo rack on the rear.

Differences aside, all GreenEmotor scooters use a sealed brushless direct-drive electric DC motor powered by a set of silicon lead-acid batteries (which I will refer to simply as the “battery”). According to the manufacturer’s specs, a scooter will run for about 40 miles on a full charge. The life of the battery is 400 “deep cycle” charges, although battery life will be greatly increased if you charge the battery between every trip.

(The salesman warned me that lead-acid technology is very susceptible to cold weather. Below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the battery will operate at only 40 percent of capacity. If my math is correct, this amounts to only a 16-mile range on a full charge. The company is currently working on a next-generation model that uses lithium-ion batteries, which will run for about 60 miles on a full charge and not be subject to cold-weather degradation. However, the lithium-ion option will cost roughly twice as much as the lead-acid option.)

Using the supplied cable and transformer, the scooter can be plugged into a normal 110-volt home electrical outlet. Charging time is 6-10 hours for the 150 and 2-4 hours for the 220 (the 220 apparently comes with a rapid charger). When the battery is 90 percent charged, the system automatically switches to “trickle” mode, so you can leave the scooter plugged in continuously when not in use without fear of burning anything up.

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The charger plugs into a socket under the seat

The company tells me that (in California, at least) their scooters have been approved by the Department of Transportation for use in both bike lanes and on the street. As far as I know, this is a unique distinction. Because bike-lane use requires a maximum speed of no more than 25 mph, scooters include a “speed limiter” switch that limits the maximum speed (more on that later).

All scooters are fully equipped to be street legal, with headlights (including high-beams), tail lights, turn signals, a horn, and rear view mirrors on both sides. Speaking again for California, minimum driver age is 16 years old and a license is required, along with a helmet (a full helmet, not just a bicycle helmet).

Despite their electrical power, GreenEmotor scooters can be operated in rain or shine, although a vehicle should not be left out for long periods in either rain or direct sunlight.

The physical size of the scooter is 70 inches long by 27 inches wide by 47 inches high. Both front and rear tires are standard tubeless 3.5” x 10” at 36 PSI. Scooters can carry a maximum of 400 lbs, and are rated to climb up a 20-percent (1:5 gradient) slope. Torque is 18.45 foot pounds.

What it does

The GreenEmotor scooter operates just like a normal gas-powered scooter. When you turn the key clockwise, the vehicle switches on noiselessly. (The same key locks the underseat trunk and the 160’s glove box). There is no time required for the engine to warm up. The only way that you know the scooter is on is that the battery meter ticks over and a small red light on the dashboard lights up.

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The e-runner 160's dashboard

There are brakes on both the left (rear brake) and right (front brake) handlebars. The throttle is on the right handlebar. The left thumb accesses the turn signals, high beams and horn. The right thumb accesses headlights/parking lights and the two controls that turn the speed limiter on and off. Your feet don’t do anything.

Pushing a button near your right thumb turns the speed limiter on. Pushing a nearby switch turns the speed limiter off. These can be thought of as “low gear” and “high gear,” although no actual gear shifting takes place. The manual describes these two different modes as “start” (or “climbing”) mode and “high speed” mode respectively.

“Start” mode (i.e., low gear) is recommended for climbing hills or starting from a dead stop. “High speed” mode (i.e., high gear) is recommended for flatter roads.

Note that the scooter’s rating of 40 miles per charge refers to riding in “start” mode (no more than 20 mph constant speed). Operating in “high speed” significantly increases the draw on the battery.

When you release the throttle, the scooter automatically slows itself down with a recursive brake feeling. Even without using the brakes, this will ultimately bring you to a complete stop.

When you apply either of the hand brakes, power is automatically cut off. The front is a disk brake; the rear is a power drum brake.

When parking, you can use either the regular kickstand near your left foot, or a rear kickstand that takes weight off of the back tire. When the regular kickstand is down and the power is on, the rear brake light automatically illuminates and the throttle is disabled. When you remove the ignition key, you can lock the handlebars in a hard left position, making the scooter harder to steal.

GreenEmotor claims that a scooter will pay for itself within a year; with a “fuel” cost of only $1 per 450 miles.

With a brushless direct-drive engine, maintenance is minimal. Scooters come with a one-year unlimited-mileage warranty on everything except the tires and the battery, which is warranted to 3,000 km.

How it did for me

On the day that my demo E-Runner 160 scooter was delivered to my house, we were holding a family gathering. Just about every cousin, aunt and uncle was excited to take it out for a spin around the block. I even took my 78-year-old mother-in-law around the block as a passenger. Everyone agreed that it is a joy to ride, and everyone commented on how quietly and smoothly it operates.

Russell with Pat, his 78-year-old mother-in-law

Since then, I have been using the scooter continuously for the past week. I’ve used it to commute back and forth from work (5 miles down busy Stevens Creek Blvd.), to run various errands (including grocery shopping) and for miscellaneous joy riding.

It is indeed a joy to ride. I am excited every time I get to ride it somewhere, and my wife tells me that I always come back beaming from ear to ear. It is a pleasure to be able to take that quick run to the grocery store for a single item without feeling guilty about wasting gas.

The scooter is allowed in both bike lanes and the street; but I tend to ride it in the bike lanes, which feel safer to me. I am thus able to avoid the danger that normal scooter riders face when operating a small hard-to-see vehicle in heavy traffic surrounded by larger automobiles. At the same time, I can leave the bike lane and join normal traffic when I want to make a left turn. I have ridden the scooter day and night, in light and heavy traffic, and I have felt perfectly safe in all situations.

The scooter looks more like a small motorcycle than it does a scooter. If it wasn’t for the silent operation, onlookers would never know that it was electric. The scooter attracts a lot of curiosity and attention, whether I am driving it down the road or leaving it parked outside of a store.

My overall impression is very positive. The GreenEmotor scooter is very easy to operate and ride.

I would not call it an “automobile replacement” – and the manufacturer wouldn’t either – but it is certainly a handy “automobile supplement.” I find it perfect (and guilt-free) for making short trips and errands such as driving one of the boys to or from school, going shopping, running errands, or even commuting to work.

Detailed Observations

After a week of riding here are some more detailed observations, including a few downsides and quirks that need to be mentioned.

I am 6’ 0” and there is just enough room for me to sit comfortably. With my butt at the end of the single-rider bump in the seat, my knees barely avoid the dashboard. My knees have to stay at a 90-degree angle or tighter, resulting in some leg cramps after a while of riding. Lately, I’ve taken to stretching my legs by jutting my feet slightly out to the sides (there are no driver foot rests on the outside of the vehicle body).

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Legroom is tight for a 6' 0" rider

However, the ride itself is smooth and comfortable. Certainly I’ve only driven on paved roads, but I have yet to feel saddle-sore in any way.

The rear-view mirrors stick out to the sides as far as the handlebars. If I try to set them to see behind me, all I see are my own arms. If I set them out wider to avoid reflecting my arms, then I create a rather large blindspot and can’t see directly behind myself. It would be nice either to have mirrors that stick out more to the sides, or that have a wider-angle view.

The rear view mirrors are so close in that I mainly see my own arms in the reflection

The trunk under the seat is large enough to hold one gallon of milk, but not two. I can use it to hold my lunch, as well as my helmet and gloves when I’m not riding. I am able to secure my briefcase on the rear cargo rack using a couple of bungee cords.

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The rear cargo rack. I was able to attach a briefcase securely using bungee cords

I have ridden the scooter as both a driver and a passenger. There are hinged foot rests for a rear-riding passenger, but they do not lock in an outward position. As a result, it is sometimes difficult for my feet to find these foot rests, as they have a habit of swinging back into the closed position.

The manual says that the scooter will accelerate from 0 to its top speed in 5 seconds. My own experience is more like 30 seconds from 0 to 50 kph on level ground.

Balance-wise, the scooter prefers to take turns in as upright a position as possible. Making a right turn from a bike lane, I can’t go any faster than 30 kph (18 mph) and still expect to end up in the bike lane when I’ve finished. I can make standard left turns at a maximum of about 35 kph (22 mph).

When I first started riding, I assumed (mistakenly) that the two speed modes were mainly for limiting speed in a bike lane. Consequently, I used the scooter almost exclusively in “high speed” mode to get the maximum speed. I had difficulty accelerating from a dead stop (especially if going even slightly uphill) and the engine would die intermittently while I was stopped at a traffic light.

(When I called to ask, the salesman told me that the intermittent power outage could be a result of the scooter getting confused about which speed mode it should be in. He pointed out that there is a reset button between the rider’s feet.)

After a few days, I finally read the manual and began using the two speed modes correctly. Now I always use “start” mode when starting and accelerating from a dead stop, then switch to “speed” mode once I’ve hit the lower gear’s top speed of 30 kph. I find that I can use “speed” mode for all cruising once I’m moving, even up and down hills.

In practice, “start” mode gives me a top speed of 30 kph (20 mph), while “speed” mode gives me a top speed of 50 kps (30 mph) on level ground.

For reasons that I do not understand, the battery gauge is rather quirky. With the throttle engaged, the gauge will tick over to what I assume is the current charge. However, the gauge will read differently depending on whether I am in “start” or “speed” mode (lower in “speed” mode). On the other hand, when I release the throttle, the gauge jumps back up to fully charged, even when I know that the battery is not fully charged.

As an experiment, I left the vehicle in my driveway over the period of one night in sub-50 degree clear weather. The next day, I commuted without having charged the battery.

As I wrote previously, “speed” mode creates a significantly higher drain on the battery. I have learned to pay close attention to the battery gauge whenever I have the throttle turned, and to keep the scooter in “start” mode when the battery gets too low.

I should also note that the scooter does not provide any gauge or light that tells you which speed mode you are currently in. The only way to tell is to engage the throttle to maximum and see how fast you are able to go.

One last quirk is that, as I mentioned previously, applying either hand brake cuts off the power. Therefore, whenever I apply either hand brake, the power light on the dashboard goes out (although the headlight stays on) and does not go back on until a few seconds after I’ve let go of the brake handle. This is very disconcerting when I am stopped at a traffic light and I have to keep the brake applied because I’m on a slope. With no power light on and no noise, I am never sure if the engine is actually on or not. (This is especially disconcerting when you are on a scooter and there is a large car behind you waiting to move. In my case, my paranoia is increased because of the number of times that my engine actually did die during the first few days when I was operating it incorrectly.)

As I look back at these nits, however, all of them fall into the “quirky” or “wish list” category. Overall, I am enjoying my GreenEmotor scooter immensely. After a week, it is still a joy to ride.

Russell, beaming from ear to ear




Wish list:

[NOTE: In my review of the e-runner 220, I have included more observations about the e-runner 160]


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