Electric two-wheelers. Are they there yet? Are they finally good enough for us to get rid of our fuel guzzlers and hop on the silent mobile?
Recently, a whole bunch of electric vehicles have been hitting the market like the Hyundai Kona, the Revolt RV400 and the just-announced Bajaj Chetak EV. The sheer number of launches and EV attempts from mainstream brands leads us to believe that there is a definite market for them and they must bring in a substantial amount of cash, because, let’s face it, they ain’t doing it to combat climate change or reduce pollution. To add to the mix is Ampere’s Zeal, which we have been zipping around on for the last few days to see if it can get us away from the drink.
Design and Build
One of our favourite bits about the Zeal is the subtle yet decently attractive look of the thing. It’s compact, and there is nothing that makes you think it is an EV. Very handy if you are the kind who does not want to stand out or answer questions about the thing while standing at a red light. Keen eyes though still manage to figure out that the zeal is something different from anything else on the road, or should we say, keen ears are what get people there. So you might wanna prepare yourself to answer at least a few questions.
In terms of looks, it’s a really normal looking scooter, and that’s a good thing.
When it comes to build quality though, things don’t look that peachy. The panels don’t feel too sturdy and creak slightly while riding through bad roads That is further exaggerated by how silently it runs, making the creaks more prominent, which in a normal petrol-powered scooter might have been drowned out by the engine sound.
The worst instances of build done wrong, though, is on the switches. They not only seem oddly placed, but also feel cheap to the touch while using. A bit more thought and redesigning needs to go in that department.
A few tweaks here and there and a few changes in materials should fix all the issues. Until then the Zeal seems to be a bit on the backfoot compared to its petrol-powered rivals.
Ride and Feasibility
Compared to the last electric scooter we tested, the Zeal is a very capable vehicle. Within city limits, barring any highways, the Zeal makes for a good workhorse of a machine.
It has decent acceleration and pulls you to comfortable speeds pretty briskly, even in the low-powered mode. We will say that the throttle response is a bit choppy and uneven, making it slightly inconsistent. Let’s just say it takes a while to get used to.
Breaking completely shuts off the throttle, which is not ideal as many riders use the breaks and throttle simultaneously for stabilisation. Between that and the choppy throttle, riders coming from a similar fuel-powered scooter may have some unlearning to cope with.
While on the subject of the breaks, we must say that although they are good enough, they do lack the feel. Since even slightly pulling on the lever cuts off the electric motor, it makes it difficult to know if you’re slowing down because of the breaks or because of the engine cutting out. And when we say the breaks are good enough, that is mostly because you’re never really doing speeds that could get you into trouble.
A bit more feel on the levers would be great, giving the rider more feedback and confidence while riding.
What the Zeal excels at, though, is weaving a way through stationary traffic like nothing else we have ridden. Weighing in at 78Kg, with most of it down low, it is easy to flick around. Add to that its compact dimensions, and we have a vehicle that’s well-suited to a packed city like Mumbai.
Excellent though it may be in heavy traffic, the Zeal is certainly not one that can take on highways of any sort. It’s not even something you should try. We did manage to get it up to 52Kmph but it took its own sweet time getting there. The Zeal feels most comfortable under 35Kmph.
And now we come to the heart of the scooter, the battery. The Zeal has a 6V/30 Ah battery fitted to it with two charging methods. Method one is charging the scooter directly using its charger that plugs in under the seat. Or, (and this is what we suspect most people in India would do) you can remove the battery and take it home and charge it using the charger if outlets are unavailable where you park. The second method may sound more convenient, but you should probably know that the battery is quite heavy and removing it is not the most streamlined of affairs. But still, it is great to have that option.
When it comes to how much distance you can cover on a full charge… well, there are two figures… because there are two modes, obviously. In low power mode, where acceleration is gentle and the top speed ranges anywhere from 35-40kmph, we got a good 67km. While in high power mode where, yes, you guessed it, acceleration is more immediate and top speed is anywhere from 45-52kmph, we got a respectable 56km.
The speed and battery figures are actually quite good for a scooter in this class. But, let’s be honest, it’s not for everyone. It should also be noted that it works best when fully charged with acceleration and top speed figures reducing with every bar that drops in battery.
The ideal user for the Zeal would be a college student who does not need to commute more than 10-12 km a day within city limits and, if possible, weighing not more than 55kg. A very niche buyer to be sure!
On the other hand, for the vast majority of the populous, who weigh more than 55kg and need to commute long distances within the city and on highways, it’s a tough sell.
Like most scooters in this price range, the Zeal is pretty bare-bones when it comes to features. But it does have a couple worth mentioning. First off, it has two horns — one for each thumb. And in a city like Mumbai, it’s the most useful tool considering how silent it is. It’s one of the most essential features to keep you from getting into a crash with a pedestrian who has wandered into your lane because he didn’t hear you. No joke.
Secondly, the Zeal has a smart key. You can activate or deactivate the alarm systems using this key. The alarm system itself is quite sensitive, making it a must have feature on any scooter these days, considering all the people who taper with vehicles inadvertently and even treat it as a park bench to lounge on these days. You can also use the smart key to start the scooter without turning the key the old fashioned way, essentially giving you key-less go.
While on the subject of features, we should probably also mention the features it lacks. For instance, the battery indicator is displayed in bars rather than percentage, which would ease range anxiety. And although it may seem like asking for too much, it would be nice if the Zeal could display the distance before the battery dies.
Compared to how much of an improvement the Zeal is to the electric scooter we tested last year, we can safely tell you that it’s a significant improvement. It’s not yet in direct competition with similarly priced fuel-powered scooters, but it is on its way and might even surpass them in a couple of years.
For now, it can appeal to a very niche crowd. The crowd that does not need to commute much, the crowd that commutes only within the city and the crowd that does not want to contribute to polluting the city air. And those who buy it, might even end up enjoying it!