TEST DRIVE & REVIEW: Terra Motor’s A4000i iPhone-Connected Electric Scooter
Terra Motors, Japan’s very own electric vehicle startup (no stranger to Akihabara News), is preparing to launch their A4000i smartphone-enabled electric scooter this summer, and they recently invited us to the MONO startups space in Tokyo Bay to get up close and personal with it.
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The eye of the beholder.
At first glance it looks exactly like its press images. “That’s the point of press images, fool!” cried the readers. Yes, but Press images are usually photoshopped to make the product look better than it actually does. To their credit, Terra Motors has made the A4000i just look as sexy in person as it does online (as sexy as a scooter can be anyway). It has presence. Its design is original enough to stand out amongst other scooters, but traditional enough that nobody would mistake it for anything than what it is. The pearl white did well capturing what little light was available, and the blue accents just work.
[SEE GALLERY LINKS BELOW]
The speed of Electricity
Despite looking similar to it’s fossil-huffing rivals, the A4000i was designed and developed as an all-electric vehicle from the get go. It is propelled by a hub motor built into the rear wheel that produces just under 1KW of power and is capable of launching it forward at a vision blurring 65 km/h. Okay. Maybe not that vision blurring. But it’s quick enough to beat a bicycle and it puts out less carbon dioxide! (cue comment flood).
Powering it all is a 48W 40ah Lithium Ion battery that is supposedly good for 65km on a single charge (at 30km/h). It takes about 4.5 hours to fully charge on a Japanese 100V socket, and there are currently no quick charging options available. The battery is removable, so you can take it into your workplace/highrise apartment/nearby coffee shop and not have to worry about finding a power socket to park near. While 65km isn’t really a massive distance, scooters are not really meant to be cross-country grand touring bikes, so the range should be adequate…hopefully.
Terra Motors is a Japanese company, and the A4000i was meticulously developed over 2 years. Despite the company’s small size, there is nothing inferior about the quality of the product. They work with local parts supply and engineering companies to manufacture/source components, then the actual bikes are manufactured in Vietnam. Build quality is solid, the plastics feel hardwearing and nothing creaked/squeaked or cracked even when subjected to this reviewer's rough inquisition. Even the finicky little indicator and light switches felt fairly robust, which was a bit of a surprize.
The electrical components shouldn't need any servicing for the life of the bike. Parts like Tires and brakes are all generic parts that can be found on most standard Japanese scooters, so just about any bike shop would be able to hook you up, and the ubiquity of the parts should keep service costs to a bare minimum.
One of the biggest selling points of the A4000i is its companion app and iPhone connectivity. It is currently compatible with every iPhone from the 3G through to the 5s. The bike connects to the phone via bluetooth and relays data which can be displayed on the screen when placed in a special waterproof slot on the handlebars. The phone functions as a data display and can indicate battery life, speed, a trip log, and efficiency reports. There are no features controlling the bike’s performance or riding dynamic so you can ride it without an iPhone. In japan where the iPhone owns the lion’s share of the smartphone market, it’s less of an issue, but Terra Motors is targeting Vietnam and other Asian markets where Android has a significant user base. The lack of support could be a dealbreaker for some customers.
The bit you’ve all been waiting for…
It rides damn well. The electric motor has torque that 125cc petrol engines couldn’t possibly imagine. While it doesn’t “launch” as such, it gets underway very rapidly. Power delivery is linear, smooth and predictable. There is no need to rev it up, it just goes. The throttle is also very easy to control making it a very stable riding platform. Because it’s an electric current not a flow of gasoline, the precision with which your right hand can modulate the power output is almost unworldly, especially if one has had experience riding (underpowered) scooters. This precise throttle control means that even at very slow speeds, the A4000i is exceptionally controllable.
The frame is balanced and feels very solid, which makes for a confidence inspiring experience. That these things could be said about the bike’s riding dynamics after an extremely short ride on a wet surface is a testament to just how much effort went into the A4000i’s development and engineering. Terra says that its linear and stable characteristics will last the duration of it’s charge, and as the battery runs out, it won’t introduce any surprising and potentially dangerous motion (or lack thereof). They do still advise that, when riders are approaching the end of their battery, they shouldn’t stay on the road until it actually dies on them.
Shut up and Take my money!!?
Their Japanese pricing is likely to be around ¥400,000 and ¥450,000 (~$4,000 - $4,500), which puts them right at the very high end of the 125cc bike market and way above the price of their greenhouse gas spewing rivals. Terra Motors claims, however, that within 12-14 months, a regular scooter will have caught up through the cost of fuel and consumables and actually begin to cost riders more. In fact, they have a nifty little calculator on their site that gives you an idea of the running cost difference between their electric scooter and a typical gasoline burner.
The bike is scheduled for release sometime in June-July this year In Vietnam, followed by Japan and Italy; the lining up of dealers and finalizing the business side of things are underway for those markets. When they have concluded the back-room cloak and dagger negotiations, they will release more info on actual release dates and final market prices. They are also looking at other Asian and European markets to expand into later in the year. If things go well, you may be seeing A4000i’s in The Philippines, India, France, and possibly Holland before the year is up… though take that as hopeful speculation, not fact.
The A4000i is a solid, excellently built little ride. It will get you from A-B as well as any scooter can, and do it cleanly. With the climate change situation looking pretty dire, we need to see a shift away from fossil fuels across every industry and a change in mindset from both manufacturers and consumers. Terra Motors, a tiny Tokyo startup, has taken the first bold steps toward making those changes…
They also made a pretty nice scooter.
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All Photos: Nayalan Moodley, AKA DarcNoodles - Darc.jp
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