With me working from home in Lennox Head and my husband Jimi using our only vehicle to commute to his office in Byron Bay five days a week, I often felt isolated.
Our closest amenities are around 3.5km away, as are Lake Ainsworth and Seven Mile Beach where I love to swim. We also see a secondary means of transport as being important in case of emergency.
So, after a couple of years of compromises, we decided it was time to buy a second vehicle. The challenge was finding one within our budget that would also not have too great a burden on the environment.
The hefty price tags of electric cars – even second-hand ones – immediately removed them from the equation. ICE cars, like our current a 1.8L Toyota Corolla sedan, are costly to register, insure, fuel and service. And even those with smaller engines or hybrids still produce significant emissions.
We briefly considered an electric push bike, however quickly disregarded this due to the limited top speed and storage space. And for not a lot more, I could buy a moped, which was my preference.
Mopeds are familiar to me as they are commonplace in my hometown of Toulouse in the south of France where the streets are narrow and parking is scarce. Their compact size also requires less parking space, therefore freeing up space in our garage.
Set on buying a moped, we decided on an electric model over an ICE equivalent due to the lower environmental footprint and ability to charge directly from our 13kW rooftop solar system during the day, effectively for free.
Our resolve was strengthened following a test drive of an S1 made by Fonzarelli – an Australian-owned and operated company based in Sydney. So much so, that in late 2017 we placed an order directly with Michelle Nazzari, the company’s owner.
It was great dealing with Michelle, and supporting an Australia EV manufacturing start-up gave us an added sense of satisfaction.
I was home alone when the moped arrived a few months later, but was so excited that I attempted to remove the 100kg machine from the box by myself.
Needless to say, that didn’t begin very well! Fortunately, when a passing neighbour saw me struggling, he gave me a helping hand. I followed the instructions to the letter, however couldn’t seem to start the thing.
Following numerous attempts and a few YouTube searches, I realised that it was in fact already on, it just didn’t make a sound! With a pull of the throttle, I slid silently out of the garage and off to the beach.
Driving the S1 is a dream. Having only one gear makes for a cruisy ride and its reverse mode makes parking much easier. It’s also great not having a tailpipe. I used to return home after a trip on my old petrol moped in Sydney stinking of petrol fumes!
I find being able to plug in using a standard three-prong, 240V plug really convenient. It’s far easier to seek out a power socket than a service station when the battery is running low. And a full charge of the 3.3kW Panasonic lithium-ion battery takes less than two hours.
The S1 has a maximum speed of 80km per hour and a maximum range of 100 kilometres thanks to adjustable regenerative braking in both wheels.
This was important for me as it enables multiple trips to Ballina along the coast road, a round-trip of around 25km. I’ve found that longer trips north to say Bangalow can get a bit tiresome though, especially on the Byron Shire’s less well sealed roads!
Fonzarelli offers a range of purchasable accessories, including a top box which I opted for. This provides lockable storage space, in addition to the under-saddle storage where the battery is located. Together, I find there is enough space to store my helmet, charging cable and a little beach gear or groceries.
The downsides of owning a moped. Well, wet weather can certainly make things uncomfortable and potentially a little dangerous, especially when it gets heavy.
Also, the low light emitted from the single headlight makes driving at night difficult given the limited distance in front of the vehicle that it illuminates.
Finding a mechanic who is familiar with the technology proved to be a challenge initially.
Fortunately, Michelle was very accommodating and happy to guide our local motorcycle mechanic through the steps for servicing. I suspect this will only improve over time as the technology becomes more commonplace.
We really love being able to demonstrate to friends, family and curious onlookers the many benefits of EVs, and love the feeling of not being reliant on fossil fuels to get around.
Next up for us – trading in the Corolla for an electric car!