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March 13, 2007
Review: the GreenEmotor e-runner 220

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The GreenEmotor e-runner 220

(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.)

In a previous review, I wrote about my impressions of GreenEmotor’s entry-level all-electric motorbike, the e-runner 160. The company was kind enough to let me test-drive the next-higher model, the e-runner 220. In this review I share my impressions of the 220, as well as some additional observations about both e-runner models.

The e-runner 220: how it compares and how it performs

The e-runner 220 is absolutely identical in appearance to the e-runner 160. Both scooters have the “e-runner” body style – GreenEmotor’s entry-level style – with a smaller size, analog dials, and turn signals that hang from the main body.

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The e-runner 220 (left) is identical in physical appearance to the e-runner 160 (right)

The significant difference is on the inside: the 220 has five lead-acid batteries instead of the 160’s four, providing 2,200 watts of power versus 1,600 watts. This results in three fundamental differences. The first difference is that the 220 weighs about 40 lbs. more than the 160 (275 lbs. versus 235 lbs.).

The second difference is that because batteries are housed under the main saddle, the 220 has almost no trunk space under the seat. When I drove the 160, I was able to use the underseat trunk to store my helmet, my lunch, or even a gallon of milk when I went grocery shopping. With the 220, there is barely enough room to store the wall charger. The trunk has a depth of about 5 inches.

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The e-runner 220 (left) has a very small trunk compared with the e-runner 160 (right)

To compensate, I ended up taping a milk crate to the rear of the scooter (the rear cargo rack is pretty small by itself). While this enables me to store groceries and other items, I miss having the ability to lock things in the trunk when I leave the scooter unattended.

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I taped a milk crate to the rear cargo rack

The third difference is the most meaningful: the 220 is able to go much faster than the 160. The manufacturer indicates a top speed of 42 mph; on level ground, I have been able to cruise at a sustained speed of more than 45 mph (75 kph). This higher speed is much more useful when I need to exit the bike lane and merge with automobile traffic (e.g. when making a left turn or passing a parked bus). With the 160’s top speed of 30 mph, I was often hard-pressed to keep ahead of the cars behind me. With the 220, I can cruise comfortably along expressways.

From a stopped position, it takes me about 30 seconds to go from 0 to 45 mph on level ground, including the gear change from low to high. If I actually start from a dead stop in high gear (which I don’t recommend), it takes me about 25 seconds.

I took the 220 up an extended incline of almost 20 percent (1:5, the maximum slope that these scooters are rated for). The engine was powerful enough to get the bike all the way up the hill, but the speed kept decreasing, so that by the time I reached the top I was going less than 20 mph in high gear.

When I got my first 220 test model from GreenEmotor, I noticed right away that it was unusually noisy. I chalked this up to having a used demo model. GreenEmotor was quick to replace my unit with another 220, which ran much more quietly.

Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks of constant use, the front tire began to make an occasional squeaking noise, while the front brake made both a mechanical and a squeaking noise when applied. Again, GreenEmotor came out and took a look at it. They told me that the brake fluid was low and they corrected it.

Now, after more than a month of use, the rear wheel has begun to make an occasional squeaking noise. If I actually owned this unit I would probably be making adjustments and oiling things, but for now the squeaks do not interfere with the scooter’s general operation.

Additional observations about both the 220 and the 160

Having now ridden GreenEmotor scooters for more than two months, I can make some additional observations. While these experiences relate directly to the current e-runner 220, they are just as applicable to the e-runner 160.

I have ridden the GreenEmotor both day and night, in sun, wind, fog and rain with no problems. Because everything electric is contained and sealed, there is no danger riding even in the pouring rain.

The small size of the e-runner style is still a tight fit for my 6’0” long-legged body. When I sit normally in the saddle, my knees are right up against the dashboard. There are no external foot rests, so my legs become cramped after riding too long. Lately, I have begun sitting farther back on the passenger part of the saddle. This gives my legs much more room to spread out, and I am still able to operate all controls with no problems.

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By sitting farther back on the passenger part of the saddle, I gain several inches of leg room

The mirrors continue to be almost useless to me. They are truly “side-view” mirrors; they are very close in on the sides, and they do not have any wide-angle capabilities. It is impossible for me to see what’s directly behind me. Instead, I have to turn my body to see what’s behind me, which is never very fun as I’m trying to navigate a small motorbike among cars in traffic.

The battery meter is also very misleading. In short, it doesn’t really tell you how much power you have in any meaningful way. When you are coasting with the throttle disengaged – or applying either brake, which automatically shuts off the throttle – the meter will read “full,” no matter how discharged the batteries actually are. If you engage the throttle while in low gear, the meter will read differently than if you engage the throttle while in high gear.

As far as I can tell, what the meter tells you is how much drain you are putting on the battery at a specific moment in time. Thus, when you first engage the throttle fully, the needle will sink down into the red because you’re using a lot of torque for acceleration. After you’ve hit a sustained cruising speed, the needle will move back up into the green because you have more inertia.

The bad part is that you have to be very careful in keeping track of how much power you actually have left. The battery meter itself is rather misleading; although the green takes up half of the dial, you cannot rely on the battery still being half-charged when the needle moves into the yellow. It’s more like about a 25- to 30-percent charge remaining. In other words, just because you reach your destination before the needle moves into the yellow, that doesn’t mean that you have enough power remaining for the return trip.

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The battery meter does not accurately tell you how much power you have left -- the line between green and yellow does not indicate a half-charge remaining

I found this out the hard way, as on numerous occasions I have run the battery down to almost nothing. The lead-acid batteries are rated for about 40 miles per charge. However, this range has certain caveats. “40 miles” refers to using low gear only. Since I do most of my riding in high gear (and this would be the only reason to have a 220 instead of a 160), I find that I can actually go about half that range. Additionally, “40 miles” refers to weather temperatures of at least 50º F. Below 50º, the lead-acid batteries will operate at only about 40 percent of their normal capacity.

I have ridden at 11:00 at night and wondered whether I would have enough power to get all the way home. I can preserve battery power by reducing the throttle or using the low gear (or both). These conservative practices will create less drain on the battery. On the other hand, it’s not too fun to be driving slower than 15 mph in the middle of the night.

What does the bike do when the batteries run dead? It “sputters” just like a car running out of gas. The red power light on the dash board starts blinking, and the bike makes a sputtering sound. I have had this experience when engaging the throttle fully. The power needle drops completely into the red, the bike gets no power, and it acts as if I hadn't done anything at all. However, if I ease up on the throttle and let the bike accelerate more slowly, the needle will move up and the bike will continue to operate. In summary, it’s all about how much drain you are putting on the battery at a specific moment in time.

People have asked me how the engine “size” compares with a normal motorcycle. Honestly, I have no idea. If I had to guess, I would say that it is roughly equivalent to about an 80 cc. engine. But again, that’s purely an educated guess.

One problem that I didn’t notice too much on the 160 became more significant with the 220. The kickstand parks the bike in an almost vertical position, so that it is very easy to knock over. This may be more apparent with the 220 because it’s a heavier bike (or it may be that this particular kickstand is longer). Anyway, I now constantly park the bike with the sturdier rear kickstand, which completely elevates the back tire off the ground. This kickstand requires a little more muscle to apply, but it is much more stable.

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The precarious front kickstand versus the more stable rear kickstand

A last point I want to mention is that the supplied keys are very cheap. I don’t know what metal they are made of, but it is soft and flexible. I noticed this right away and tried to use extreme care with both the ignition and the trunk.

The key finally broke off – in the lock – one day when I was opening the trunk. Again, GreenEmotor was very responsive. They actually came to my work, fixed the lock, and gave me another key.

After that, I went to have more copies of the key made. As a warning, you cannot get these keys copied at a normal hardware store. I actually had to find a locksmith with the necessary slug. On the positive side, the key copy is actually stronger than the original, and that is what I now use exclusively.

Summary

Most of the comments above actually repeat observations that I made in my original review of the 160. After several more weeks, I am able to elaborate on them more.

I am purposely pushing the limits of these scooters as part of my review. It would not be my normal practice to intentionally run the battery down to nothing. As well, I am purposely being particularly critical about such things as the mirrors and kickstands.

Overall, I continue to enjoy riding these motorbikes. While they might not suit everyone’s needs, they are ideal for my particular commute and driving style. As the weather continues to get warmer with the coming of spring, I’m sure that I will enjoy these vehicles even more.

So which model would I recommend, the 160 or the 220? If you intend to operate completely as a motorized bicycle, never exceeding 25 mph, then the 160 will certainly suit your needs. In addition to the cheaper price (a $500 difference versus the 220), the larger trunk space can be a huge advantage.

On the other hand, I am constantly merging with automobile traffic during the course of my commute. For my safety (and paranoia), the ability to match highway speeds of 40 mph and more is a critical advantage with the 220. Now that I have ridden the 220 (and compensated for the lack of storage with a milk crate and backpack), I imagine that it would be very difficult for me to go back to a 160.

Overall, I think the term “scooter” is actually a misnomer for these vehicles. When I mention “scooter” to people, they immediately think of a small stand-up skateboard with a motor on the back. These vehicles are more accurately described as “motorbikes.” They are small motorized cycles about the size of a Vespa.

Along the same lines, my unit has “Go beyond hybrid” emblazoned on the sides. Again, I think that this does not send a clear enough message to observers. These motorbikes are completely electric – they use no fossil fuels and they generate no exhaust. They plug into a standard 110-volt household outlet for recharging.

These are definite advantages to people who regularly run short errands or commutes, and who want to do their part to help preserve the environment.

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A poster at Green-Elec-motor's headquarters

 

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