If you live in Southern California, you are constantly reminded about the severity of this year's El Niño.
On the news, you can witness, via video, beach front land mass slip-slide away into the Pacific Ocean. El Niño has become more than just a weather phenomenon, it has turned into a full-fledged over-the-top media spectacle, on a par with the Super Bowl, the O.J. trial and the Academy Awards.
As with most news coverage of the three deadly "D's" (death, disaster and decadence), a certain amount of collective hand wringing occurs in order to parcel out the blame, necessary fuel for the popular cult of victimization. The back story of El Niño is the damage capitalism and technology has done to the environment. We are the villains, collectively, Americans and their fossil fuel addiction in particular. The victim is Mother Nature, and El Niño the behavioral result of a century of physical abuse.
Yet if capitalism and technology are the villains, they are also being asked to become heroes. In fact, Microsoft, with its "Heroes" campaign, is kind enough to invite we little people along on their ride. But for those who prefer to save the planet riding solo, there's a new environmentally friendly scooter/cycle -- the Lectra electric motorcycle from Electric Motorbike (EMB).
The centerpiece of the Lectra is its variable-reluctance brushless electric drive system. EMB's press release states that the "absence of permanent magnets and a new patented rotor structure that combines with custom integrated control circuitry provides unique superior performance at a competitive price." Translated, it means the bike is cheap with reasonable power delivery. It costs only $3995 USD, and can reach boulevard cruising speeds of 30 to 35 mph.
The Lectra features high-power, lead-free batteries. EMB says the battery system will not spill or leak and, with proper care, will last for 9000 miles. Charging the Lectra is easy -- run an extension cord from under the seat to almost any electrical power outlet (90-260 volts, 47-63 hertz) and plug in. It lasts about 25 to 40 miles without a re-charge. A state-of-charge meter tracks the level of stored energy, and if the Lectra runs low, a reserve mode can be initiated to help you reach the nearest power outlet. In many areas of the U.S., a full re-charge will cost around 20 cents.
This bike isn't about power and handling, but it performs both competently. Acceleration was enough to keep up with traffic in residential areas, where 25-35 mph zones are the rule. We reached a top speed of 40 mph (in a 25 mph zone) indicated before we spied one of Glendale, California's Finest lying in wait. Handling is similar to a scooter. It's easy to ride, but much more stable, like a motorcycle. This ain't a knee-draggin', peg-scratchin' beast. But it does something that no other two-wheeled transportation device can claim, something we think is very cool. It sounds like George Jetson's car (Rat's right, Rorge). It's a competent scooter, limited in speed and range, but it's more than that, it's a nod to the future.
For more information on the Lectra call EMB at (707) 82E-BIKE (823-2453) or visit their website at www.electric-motorbike.com
Manufacturer: EMB Incorporated
Price: $3,995 USD
Engine: Electric, 24 vdc, 2-phase brushless design, air cooled
Battery: 104 amp/hour, maintenance-free batteries
Range: 40 miles (64 km)
Re-charge time: 4.25 hours standard
Wheelbase: 52 in (1321 mm)
Front Brakes: Dual caliper, floating 190mm disk
Rear Brakes: Electric assisted rear 110mm rear drum
Claimed weight: 340 lbs (154 kg)
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