Yamaha unveils its first no-emission electric scooter
TOKYO (AFP) Oct 09, 2002
Japan's Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. on Wednesday unveiled a zero emission battery-powered scooter, targeted at women consumers looking for a sleek, environmentally friendly vehicle.

"Today's short-hop commuters have a lot of concerns, including for the environment, and we felt a responsibility to respond," Yamaha president Tooru Hasegawa told reporters.

The "Passol", weighing in at 44 kilograms (97 pounds), is some 40 percent lighter than Yamaha's standard 50cc petrol-powered scooters and can move with a very quiet hum at 30 kilometers per hour (19 miles per hour).

With one charge of its lithium-ion battery -- estimated cost: 12 yendollars) -- the Passol can travel 32 kilometers, Yamaha said.

Yamaha hoped the sleek, scaled-down frame, Yamaha would catch the eye of space- and fashion-conscious consumers, Hasegawa said.

"We hope to make it easier for people who had never had an interest in motorcycles to enter into the two-wheeler world," he said.

The vehicle is to sell for 200,000 yen (1,625 dollars), plus 15,000 yen for the charger starting in November, with an initial target of 500 units to be sold through a limited release in the Tokyo area.

The price is slightly higher than Yamaha's normal 50cc scooters which range from 144,000 yen to 189,000 yen, but without the need for petrol, running costs are negligible.

The charger, which weighs about two kilograms, is portable and can be plugged into standard electrical outlets but it takes two and a half hours to get a full charge, the company said.

Yamaha's electric scooter comes years after rival Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s "CUV ES" electric scooter, which it developed in 1994, but only 200 units were put on the market before selling out.

Honda gave up on the machine, which cost 850,000 yen, weighed 130 kilograms and could travel 61 kilometers on a single charge.

"The price was too high and it was not seen as practical for the average consumer," said Honda spokesman Shinichi Kobari.

The limited range and need frequently to recharge the battery, which required collection and proper disposal at the end of its working life, led the company to focus its business on leasing them to tourist spots.

Honda has discontinued sales, but still conducts research and development, Kobari said.