PLUG-IN SCOOT­ERS

GQ (Australia) - - FRONT PAGE -

HOME­GROWN, ECO-FRIENDLY AND SPORT­ING SLEEK EURO­PEAN LINES, IN­TRO­DUC­ING A NEW SILENT FORCE MAK­ING SOME NOISE.

MAquiet mo­tor­bike is like Billy Con­nolly with­out f-words, or a box­ing match with no punches thrown. Yet the idea of a sound­less, elec­tric scooter isn’t such a loss. While mo­tor­bikes bark and bel­low, scoot­ers sound like a com­par­a­tive sneeze. Silent or not, though, a scooter needs a nice thick ve­neer of cool to be a choice of trans­port for a man. Which is some­thing Vespa – neck and neck with Pi­ag­gio to be the top-sell­ing brand in Aus­tralia – has al­ways done a fab­u­lous job of. The lat­est player in this mar­ket – con­ceived, de­signed and sold in Aus­tralia – has cloaked it­self in the very leather jacket of cool it­self, by choos­ing the name Fon­zarelli. The com­pany’s founder, Michelle Naz­zari, says her team were in­spired by what a great guy Happy Days icon Henry Win­kler is, but also by his role as The Fonz. “Win­kler is very stylish and yet a bit of a bad boy, that’s Arthur Fon­zarelli, and that is very much like our brand,” she says. It’s hard to imag­ine The Fonz aban­don­ing his awe­some Tri­umph for a whis­per-quiet Fon­zarelli 125 elec­tric scooter with a top speed of 75km/h. That said, its retrochic design, portable bat­tery packs and in par­tic­u­lar the ‘Forza’ but­ton (which pro­vides a sud­den zap of power) are all prov­ing pop­u­lar with blokes of the fic­tional char­ac­ter’s de­mo­graphic. “We were ex­pect­ing roughly a 50-50 male fe­male skew, but so far our sales have been 90 per cent men,” says Naz­zari, claim­ing Syd­ney and Mel­bourne as pri­mary mar­kets. “It’s funny be­cause in ev­ery other state be­sides Vic­to­ria and NSW, peo­ple are al­lowed to ride a scooter, up to 50cc, on a car li­cence and we can re­strict our bike to have a top speed of 50km/h, so peo­ple in those states can have one. But in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, you have to get your bike li­cence. If it was a na­tional law, scooter sales would take off,” ex­plains Naz­zari. “As traf­fic gets worse and petrol prices con­tinue to rise, scoot­ers are be­com­ing more and more pop­u­lar.” Petrol prices are no longer a con­cern for a Fon­zarelli owner, of course, who sim­ply slips the lap­top-sized portable bat­tery out of his bike and charges it in the wall socket at his lo­cal cof­fee shop, or pub. Recharg­ing from dead flat to 80 per cent full takes an hour, get­ting you around 50km of range, and it’s cheap, with a to­tal power bill for the bike com­ing to no more than $1 a week – a lot less than even the most miserly petrol scooter. While bathing in the self-as­sured green glow of pro­duc­ing no emis­sions, the Fon­zarelli 125’s pi­lot can also choose from a va­ri­ety of sounds the bike can be set up with to alert pedes­tri­ans, in­clud­ing The Jet­sons ‘whoosh’ or an op­tion known sim­ply as ‘The Blade Run­ner’. At $4490, the Fon­zarelli 125 is slightly cheaper than an en­try-level Vespa. But be warned – own­ing a scooter of­ten leads to buy­ing an ac­tual mo­tor­bike. fon­zarelli.com

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