Electric road quads fit the second car bill

The latest green motoring craze to hit London is available in the West Midlands thanks to a Shropshire engineer.

Electric road quads fit the second car bill

The latest green motoring craze to hit London is available in the West Midlands thanks to a Shropshire engineer.

Colin Roberts, of Hi Tech Supplies of Telford, sells the two-seater electric road-legal quadricycles from his lock-up.

He buys Gazelle petrol ATV buggies from China, and spends two to three weeks converting them to electric.

Electric quadricycles have proved popular in London because of the huge savings on petrol. They are exempt from road tax and the congestion charge, and get free parking, although they still need to be insured.

As the average commuting speed in London is 10mph, electric buggies are the perfect solution for getting to and from work.

With a maximum speed of 40mph, the Gazelle is ideal as a second car to zip round town or for the school run. They can have a towbar fitted, off-road tyres are available, and they have storage space on the back.

A Government scheme is being introduced to provide electric charging points across the country. Cities involved include London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Riding in one of the buggies, it was obvious that its 10kw BLDC motor (equivalent to a 300cc petrol engine) had enough zip to quickly pull out of junctions and motor happily up sloping roads. Disc brakes and independent suspension, with rear-mounted drive, mean it handles most terrains.

A fun ride, with regenerative braking and six batteries, it has continuous power of 10kw and peak power of 20kw with a 72v/12v converter. It has many advantages over its rivals, which include the Renault Twizy, the Gem range from America and the G-Wiz, built in India for GoinGreen.

In the Twizy the passenger has to sit behind the driver: in the Gazelle it is side-by-side. The Gem can reach speeds of 28mph compared to the Gazelle's top speed of 40mph and the G-Wiz sells at £9,000, compared to the Gazelle at £7,995.

"The next motor will be quieter," said Colin, after our test drive. "At the moment it sounds a bit like a milk float."

It looks nothing like a milk float. It has a hood with zip-off doors which turn it into an open top buggy.

Colin began by selling the petrol versions, but fuel consumption let them down so he started electric conversions.

The buggy has no gears or gear box, just a switch. "The reason for keeping the key is because you've got a steering lock and that disables the control to the motor," Colin said. As an automatic, it's easy to drive, has a dash-mounted switch for reverse and comes with a three-year warranty.

"This is the first ATV," Colin said. "The basic electric quadricycle. The vehicle has deep-discharge batteries, meaning you can run them down to 75 per cent power.

It charges from a 13amp socket but you need a separate socket from your fuse box and an RCD breaker.Colin's buggies, which he believes are the cheapest on the market, weigh about 560kg.

He believes electric transport is still in its infancy. "Until the price of oil goes through the roof people will only consider it when they know they are going to save a lot of money.

"The main purpose of it is as a second vehicle. You need one vehicle to go on holiday or get to Manchester for example.

The second one is usually used for shopping, getting to work locally or picking up the kids from school. So you've got one car wasted on the drive, costing a lot of money."

While the Gazelle is all about saving money. Its brushless three-phase DC motor is over 90 per cent efficient and is driven by a belt drive to the final differential gearbox. It has a battery pack and contactor supplying current to a controller, which is all the latest technology from China.

"It costs 50p to charge if completely flat," said Colin. Charging takes six or seven hours. An amp meter on the dashboard shows usage while a volt meter acts as a fuel gauge.

"The amps go from 50 to 100," said Colin. "If you travel at 30mph you'll go further than if you were travelling at 40mph."

The Government intends to eventually electrify the whole of the country, so we could all end up with an electric vehicle on the drive. But which should we choose now?

Colin said the Gazelle was competitive with the Renault Twizy because, although they sell for £6,690, customers must lease the batteries for a minimum of three years at £40 a month. "On top of that it doesn't include the doors (£455) or alloy wheels (£350). You couldn't take it off the road. It has tiny little wheels. It's just suitable for towns and cities.

"The Gem is available from £10,150 with a top speed of 28mph. It is being sold to golf courses and resorts. Again it's got tiny little wheels that you can't take off road. I believe they're way over-priced."

Compared to a full sized electric car, such as a Nissan Leaf, which costs £25,000, Colin said: "The full size electric vehicle depreciates so much that they're not viable as an alternative to a petrol car. Also the battery replacement cost is very high. I don't think that the normal man on the street is going to buy that, even with a £5,000 grant."

The Gazelle is available in blue, orange, red or yellow, and takes between one and three months to deliver, depending on colour choice. Go to www.gazelleatvbuggy.co.uk

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