Piaggio powers up

The Italian marque bolts into the EV era with scooters for the city

Motoring 11 May 2022

The new Piaggio 1 electric scooter
Vespa Elettrica
Vespa Elettrica charges with a cable and plug hidden under the seat
A range of coloured liveries are available for the Piaggio 1

The sentiment for electric vehicles (EVs) differs according to who you talk to, but one trip on the Vespa Elettrica or Piaggio 1 will have sceptics firmly converted (and with a big smile to boot), because the delights of riding Piaggio’s electric scooters are undeniable. 

Piaggio has spent the last few years developing a series of fully electric scooters to suit a range of riders, having understood that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t apply in the EV world. In turn, it has become a pioneer in the rapidly changing electric two-wheeler market. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the Italian marque’s track record of adapting to the demands of society, which has seen it go from building locomotives to the Vespa and microvan Ape – both transport solutions designed for a post-war Italy – and now, petrol-free iterations created for a more eco-friendly tomorrow. 

Preparing for an electrified future is vital to the survival of any manufacturer today, as EV uptake continues to rocket (electric car sales in the UK increased by 76.3 per cent in 2021, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders data shows), and nations around the world look to ban the production of new fossil fuelled-vehicles. But maintaining brand hallmarks and reputation while doing so is a challenge in itself, and this – as you’ll see from the Vespa Elettrica – is where Piaggio really understood the assignment. 

Yes, in addition to the Piaggio 1, which we’ll come back to later, the manufacturer has created the first electric-powered Vespa, first available in 2019, and now, in 2022, really coming into its own. With its iconic steel body decked out in a special grey livery and customisable contrasting trim, retro controls and a digital display on the dash, the Elettrica preserves that sense of style that has seen the Vespa become as much a fashion icon and subculture hero as it has a functional mode of transport throughout its 76-year history. 

Looks aside, you can expect a typically swift acceleration, as well as a confidence-inspiring low weight and powerful brakes – perfect for the challenges of urban riding. The 55-mile range and top speed of 43 miles per hour (70kw/h version), too, are just right for navigating the city. This is thanks to the 4.2 kWh lithium battery – which charges in four hours – and proprietary brushless motor, equipped with KERS (kinetic energy recovery system), which harvests power under braking to recharge the battery on the go. The sound (or lack of it) of the Vespa Elettrica is a far cry from the usual buzz of an internal combustion engine, which makes for a truly pleasant riding experience.

While the Elettrica meets the demand for a cool, retro-styled electric scooter, the Piaggio 1 is designed as a lightweight, low-cost, modern machine that outdoes its petrol-powered competitors as a brilliant introduction to two-wheeled vehicles. Piaggio knows that there is a whole set of young riders who are the future of the motoring market, and as such, it offers a selection of bright colour combinations for the Piaggio 1’s livery to appeal to this style-conscious audience – and if that’s not a clear effort to seek out Gen Z, then consider that the marque debuted this scooter on TikTok. 

The Piaggio 1 has a range of 34 miles, and although it’s well priced, the manufacturer hasn’t compromised on build quality to achieve this, which is evident in the complete silence while running, smooth ride and responsive acceleration. There’s also a keyless ignition and a removable battery that can be charged indoors – ideal for city-dwellers who might live in apartments where a standard charging cable won’t reach. This difference in charging capabilities (the Elettrica comes with a cable and plug under the seat), will likely be the deciding factor for many on which one to invest in. 

Back to that approach of designing for different riders; the Piaggio 1 is available in two other iterations – the 1+ (which isn’t available in the UK) and the 1 Active. Both have a higher-capacity battery, which offers a longer range (60 miles for the 1+), and, for the 1 Active, a higher top speed of 40 miles per hour, with a 52-mile range. 

The era of electric vehicles is only just beginning, and Piaggio has already made its mark.