As city population density increases, running a quick errand in your car can become a nightmare of traffic congestion and parking searches. Automakers have launched personal mobility concepts to address future transport needs, but few have reached production. Indian automaker Mahindra steps in as one of those few with its GenZe 2.0 electric scooter.
More than a simple sit-down electric scooter, the GenZe 2.0 incorporates a set of well-thought out high-tech features.
Mahindra GenZe, based in Silicon Valley, brought a preproduction example of the GenZe 2.0 scooter around to CNET so I could gain some initial riding impressions. The '2.0' is not entirely accurate in the conventional sense, as the first GenZe product is an electric bicycle.
30 and 30
Two important specs for the GenZe 2.0 are its 30 miles of range and 30 mph top speed. I consider that range perfectly in line with this scooter's mission as city and suburban transportation, and frankly wouldn't want to ride something of this modest size for many more miles.
The 30 mph top speed will be a bit more limiting, especially if your neighborhood has many 35 or 45 mph streets. GenZe's reason for that top speed, programmed into the driveline, is to keep this scooter accessible for the widest range of riders. GenZe staffers told me that this top speed makes it so riders won't need a motorcycle or driver's license in most states. In California, riders would need an M2 class license, designed for mopeds and scooters.
The basic design of the GenZe 2.0 is the tried-and-true flat-floor scooter design, similar to those offered by Vespa, Honda and and many other makers. That makes it easy to jump on and go. The seat is cushy and comfortable, and a bin behind it holds groceries or loot. Production versions will offer a locking lid and a soft top for the bin.
The entire frame of the GenZe 2.0 is actually made from aluminum, helping to keep the scooter's total weight down to 215 pounds. Large wheels, 16 inches up front and 12 inches at the rear, add to stability and riding comfort. A full suspension enhances ride quality, and disc brakes front and rear make for quick stopping power.
GenZe hides a removable 1.6 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack under the seat, which powers a hub-mounted electric motor. The hub-mount means there are no drive chains or belts to deal with. It takes about 3.5 hours to charge the battery pack from a conventional 110-volt wall outlet. Recognizing that city dwellers wouldn't likely have access to an outlet where they park, GenZe made the battery removable, so you can carry it up to an apartment or office.
Removing the battery may serve as security when the GenZe 2.0 is parked, but it also requires a key and entering a PIN code on its touchscreen instrument cluster. That's right -- there's a 7-inch LCD mounted on the handlebars, which not only shows speed and charge level, but includes subscreens with an eco-score, preferences and an onboard owner's manual.
To get riding, I chose from three drive modes on that screen: Safe, Econ and Sport. Safe is designed for inexperienced riders, with a low-torque start and throttle deactivation when you pull the brake lever. Econ maximizes the scooter's range, and Sport gives it more torque from start, getting it from zero to 30 mph in 8 seconds, according to the specifications.
After choosing a mode, I had to move a thumb switch on the handlebar to F, for forward, and a twist of the throttle got me going. The GenZe 2.0 takes off gently, even in Sport mode, the electric motor making for smooth acceleration. The quiet of the motor adds a sense of smoothness to the experience. I found that, when starting on grass or a slight incline, Easy mode didn't supply enough torque to get it going, so I switched to Sport mode.
The GenZe 2.0 shows very good stability. Getting started, I was able to pull my feet up at just 1 mph. Powering up to its top speed, I felt no undue vibration from the frame. A GenZe staffer advised that I didn't need to lean in the turn, and could just turn the handlebars. At the GenZe 2.0's speeds, that proved true, making is easily maneuverable.
I felt some concern taking turns on leaf-carpeted parking lot, as it felt like the wheels would slip out from under me if I turned too hard, but that's a common problem with any two-wheeler on a low-traction surface.
The brakes grabbed pretty hard, something that could be toned down in the production version, but they brought the GenZe 2.0 to a quick stop. Overall, the ride was very comfortable, as the suspension and tires soaked up the bumps toward which I purposely aimed. The electric throttle lessens the drama of riding, making this scooter an easy proposition to jump on and get going.
Impressively, GenZe includes a full set of lights -- brake, head, and turn signals -- all of which are LEDs. Signaling for a turn activates a corresponding visual alert on the touchscreen, so you're less likely to leave a blinker on as you go tooling down the road.
More impressive, GenZe built a Canbus network into the scooter, the same standard used on cars. A GenZe staffer told me that a later version of this scooter will include built-in GPS and a data connection, so that it will work with an associated app. That app will not only let you see the scooter's location and charge level remotely, but include navigation designed to route you onto streets appropriate for the GenZe 2.0's maximum speed.
With this scooter, the engineers and designers at GenZe addressed most concerns someone would have for an urban environment. There are many high-tech features not seen on competitive scooters. Personally, I would like to see a more futuristic design, something with a greater wow factor, but as a transportation solution, it's hard to find fault.
Better yet is the price. Mahindra will only be asking $2,999 for the GenZe 2.0 when it becomes available later this year.