Monday, May 14, 2007

As Gas Prices Soar, Mopeds Become The Alternative Transportation For Many

Although very popular in Europe, especially in Britain and Italy, mopeds have made only a small impact into the American motoring scene up until very recently. Now high gas prices are driving up the sale of the little two-wheeler 80-100 mile per gallon moped gas scooters.

Vespa has always been one of the biggest sellers in the moped market, but at about $2,500 for classic restored or used mopeds they don't come too cheaply. But the Chinese have been able to take advantage of this hot new market with models that retail for about $1,300, but can be found at discounts of hundreds of dollars below this price online by some dealers or direct importers. Some brands like Geely, NST and Roketa, Strada and Tank offer very good products for a very reasonable price. The styling of these small scooters or bikes is also far better than old-school styled Vespa products, although Vespas remain a popular cultist classic. In Portland, Oregon for example, the local Vespa dealer sells more scooters than any other dealership in the U.S.

Although Vespa has had a very long run as a major scooter producer, the newer Chinese designs look far better in the styling area, and have some interesting features such as locking trunks on some models. Geely, which is also a major Chinese automobile brand, produces some scooters with turbo charged engines, with a top speed of 45 mph compared to the 30mph top speed of the nonturbo models 49cc models. One model by Baron even features a sort of removable raintop design, as well as a higher level trunk.

Licensing varies from state to state, but some states allow persons to drive a 30mph, 37-50cc with only a driver's license, with no motorcycle endorsement required. But other states may allow a larger engine before a motorcycle license and insurance is required.

There is also a great selection of small engined motorcycles from China, including some models with fully sutomatic transmissions. prices for these often beat their Japanese and German badged competition by hundreds if not by thousands of dollars.

There are even a few good quality electric mopeds that feature fully functional foot pedals, allowing them to be considered a street legal vehicle that do not even require a driver's license. However security for these mopeds might be a challenge for an owner. They are too big for bicycle racks, yet sometimes only weigh a little over 100 pounds and are an average of 48 inches long, and could be easily stolen if not properly secured. But with a claimed top speed of 20mph under electric power on a 3-6 hour charge with a claimed 37 mile driving range, they don't seem like a bad pollution-free vehicle alternative at all. And if the charge is lost, they can still be driven with the pedals like a bicycle.

As gas prices continue to rise with no real end in sight, and as the weather warms up, the roads should be seeing more mopeds, gas and electric scooters, and small motorcycles on the streets than ever.


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