Shanghai gets a new batch of shanzhai Vespas. They're candy colored dream machines. Inside: how to get your hands on one...
Shanghai’s full of Vespa knock-offs, electric scooters that are styled up to look like the classic Italian brand. This is the latest and it’s the best-looking we’ve seen. Check out that fake chrome detailing and the delicate slope of the front board. Sweet ride.
It’s the obvious nods to the Vespa Supersprint that set this model apart from the other retro scooters you see around town. This model has an extended narrow seat and a longer footboard, which makes it perfect for two passengers. You can expect to get about 45km per battery charge, and it will get up to about 60km/hr on a flat straightaway.
They’ve already sold about 100 at our go-to scooter shop, Scooter Home
on Xietu Lu. They’re 4500rmb, compared to about 3000-3500rmb for other retro scooters. The specs are about the same, so you’re paying a premium for its good looks.
Colors range from classic black, brown and tan, to deep hunter green and navy, but our favorites are the brighter models — turquoise, mint green, and even Barbie pink for the truly fearless. Scooter Home can get you any of the colors below within a week (you have to leave a deposit). If you want one straight away, you’ll have to take whatever they’ve got left in stock.
For 4500rmb they give you a full setup, including charger and lock (sometimes his wife will throw in a poncho), but don't expect them to budge on the price — we expect this price to stay the same throughout the summer until more places start stocking them. You can also find them at Scooter Home’s satellite shop on the northeast corner of Shanxi Bei Lu and Wuding Lu, but that place has less of a selection and only basic maintenance facilities. But it’s worth a try if the main store is out of the color you want.
The battery is located inside the frame — you can’t remove it from the bike to charge so be sure to have a designated spot to plug it in (we usually charge ours twice a week, overnight). The bike's pretty long, so don’t expect to fit it in any elevators.
If you need a longer charge, you can top up the battery with three extra packs, giving you an additional 45km/charge (for a total of 90km/charge). Three extra packs will cost you 850rmb.
They have only minimal space for storage — in the seat compartment and on the side. In total you can probably only fit your charger, your lock, and a small poncho, and that's it.
This model is adorned with fake chrome-bordered reflectors, lights and brakes, and other small details like the front wheel fin that builds that vintage vibe.
For first-time scooter riders, be aware that carrying passengers is actually illegal on electric scooters in Shanghai, and you’re only supposed to ride them on bike-friendly streets in designated bike lanes. You don’t need a license for an electric scooter (you do for anything that runs on gas), but laws concerning foreigners and scooters are constantly changing and we recommend inquiring with your local authorities to double check any other restrictions before you buy one.
Sweet safe summer rides ahead...
Turns out scooters that can reach speeds over 20km/hr, weigh over 40kg or are wider than 30cm, will be reclassified in September, which means if you want to be totally legal, you'll need a motorcycle license to ride one, and maybe a license plate and insurance. No one knows how stringently this will be enforced — if at all — it's all currently being debated. Just a warning out there to all our two-wheeled friends.