Friday, February 24, 2012
The original Solex was created in 1954 to serve as affordable daily transportation for the French working class after WWII. It became incredibly popular, not just in France, but across Europe and in the US as well. But as France grew wealthier in post-war era, labor became more expensive, and the Japanese started importing their marvelous small motorcycles and mopeds, sales fell. Solex was bought by Motobecane, who in turn were purchased by Yamaha. Production was moved to China for a time, and licensed to Impex of Hungary, who produced classic models from 1993-2002. Eventually all production of gas models ceased and the Solex name was sold be Cible, whose Sinbar-Solex division has resurrected the name for the new eSolex.
It's a sharp looking bike- not surprising, as it was styled by Pininfarina, who were responsible for countless Masaratis, Ferraris, Fiats, Lancias and other sharp looking cars. Styling is modern, yet it still has the classic Solex look. What had been the gas tank of the original Solex now contains a 37 vold lithium-polymer battery pack. Power comes from a 400 watt brushless DC motor mounted above the front wheel- just like the gas models. Top speed is listed as 36 KpH (23 mph) and and range as 25-40 km (roughly 15-25 miles) with a promised battery life of 500 charge cycles.
The original Solex had a 1.4 liter fuel tank, and on a good day was capable of over 200 mpg, giving it a range of a range of perhaps 80 miles on a full tank- or two to three times the range of the eSolex. But even that is an understatement, since the eSolex requires several hours to charge, and a gasoline powered Solex can be refueled on the go. By carrying a couple of 1-liter spare fuel bottles, a range of almost 200 miles between fuel stops was possible. I think I noted in an earlier post that I had a neighbor back in the 1980s who disappeared one summer, only to show up again at the end of the summer having driven his Solex from Detroit to Los Angeles and back!
So no, the eSolex isn't really a replacement for the original gas powered moped. But it is a lot cleaner (the gas version has a pretty dirty 2-stroke engine), simpler to maintain, and probably not bad for short commutes and shopping trips. If you'd like to try one- well, it's not sold in the US yet. With a retail price of 1150 Euros (about $1584 at today's exchange rate) plus import fees and such it would probably retail for in the neighborhood of $2,000, which would make it pretty expensive for a low end e-bike. But someone looking for a very stylish e-bike might just go for it.