With the prospect of a post-lockdown return to work on the horizon for everyone, city-dwellers are now faced with the problem of how to get there.
Although caution appears to have been thrown to the wind by many, there are still plenty who are keen to stick to the rules both for their own safety and for that of others, meaning no more hopping onto crowded buses or squashing into packed tube trains (despite compulsory mask-wearing).
So what are the alternatives for those faced with a daily, cross-town commute?
Driving a car through central London was frustrating enough before Coronavirus, so a new surge of motorists heading for work in the hermetically-sealed safety of their tin boxes is likely to make it untenable; walking, meanwhile, is not usually a practical proposition for those with journeys of much more than a few miles, and many people simply feel too vulnerable to mix-it with the traffic on a bicycle.
Taking to two wheels in a different format could, however, provide the answer – and an electric moped seems like a good way of doing so.
The NIU NQi GTS Sport pictured here could hardly have landed at a better time. Affordable, simple to ride, decidedly nippy and costing peanuts to run, it’s the sort of machine that could change your attitude to city travel to the point that you might never contemplate going back to the ‘old ways’ again.
NIU is a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer that was launched six years ago. Having raised $11m through crowd funding, it went on to take a staggering $13m worth of orders in a one-day sale of ‘limited edition’ scooters a year later and was listed on the NASDAQ by the end of 2018.
The firm now claims to have more than 1m vehicles on the road in 38 different countries, with its latest offering being the nifty NQi GTS Sport.
The styling might not be for everyone (‘seriously ugly’ is how one friend described it) but fit and finish are pretty good, the electric motor is a quality Bosch unit and, while few electric mopeds will set the pulse of any die-hard, traditional motorcyclist racing, this one does exactly what it’s designed to do – which is to get one or two people from A to B with the minimum of fuss and at minimal expense.
It’s unlikely that anyone will develop feelings of deep affection for a NIU, and it probably won’t be regarded as cool – but, as a no-nonsense ‘personal transportation system’ it certainly seems to fit the bill.
Prospective riders without a motorcycle licence and those who passed their driving test after February 1, 2001 will need to complete the Government’s Compulsory Basic Training course (CBT), but riding the NIU requires no special skills – if you can handle a bicycle, you’ll be fine.
Forward motion is achieved by simply switching on and turning the handlebar twistgrip. The rear brake is on the left, the front one on the right, and there are three different modes enabling the rider to choose between maximum battery range, maximum performance or something between the two.
Acceleration in any of the three settings is sufficiently brisk to outpace city traffic (not difficult in central London , where the average rate of progress is around 7.5mph), with ‘sport’ offering a fair degree of exhilaration.
The fast charger provided with every NIU will top the batteries up to full capacity in the space of three-and-a-half hours, providing enough juice to cover 60 miles and giving a top speed of 45 mph.
And, to help prevent your NIU from disappearing as soon as you complete your first journey, it can be Cloud connected to a smartphone app that sends ‘live security updates’ as well as providing remote information on remaining range and battery condition, route history and mileage. There’s even a built-in USB port beneath the handlebars along with a handy cubby hole which, among other things, will carry a takeaway coffee (just remember to check the lid).
One of the downsides of the NIU against a conventional, petrol-engined scooter include the fact that the usual under-seat storage space is taken-up by one of the two, monster batteries (the other is under the footboards) – but one of the benefits are that both batteries are easily removable, so they can be brought inside for charging.
And at around £2,900 to buy outright (including a 20 per cent OLEV grant), with running costs of less than £1 per 50 miles, no congestion or ULEZ charges to pay and ample free parking, we reckon the NQi GTS has to be worth considering as a quick, convenient and naturally self-isolating way of getting around in your ‘NIU’, post-lockdown life.
The NIU range is available from urbanebikes.com. Showrooms in London and Rye, Sussex. Test rides of up to two days duration can be arranged.