Vectrix Electric Motorcycles Files for Bankruptcy (again). We Examine Why

Last week, Vectrix Motorcycles filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, ending its 8-year company history and dreams of creating user-friendly maxi-scooters for commuters around the world.

Nikki rides the Vectrix VX-1 Maxi Scooter (NiMH) Image by SurperDel on Photobucket

Nikki rides the Vectrix VX-1 Maxi Scooter (NiMH) Image by SurperDel on Photobucket

With estimated liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million, the company — whose Vectrix MaxiScooter is sold in both the U.S. and Europe — is likely facing liquidation of its remaining assets.  Back in 2009, the company filed under Chapter 11 for bankruptcy protection and underwent severe restructuring involving a large sale of many of its assets.

Over its eight-year history, Vectrix has sought to encourage commuters out of their cars and onto two wheels with an easy-to ride, easy-to maintain maxi scooter. With a step-through underbone design, the Vectrix VX1 Maxi-Scooter was designed to appeal to non-bikers, while its twist-throttle single-gear drivetrain and hand-operated brakes meant almost anyone could ride it.

But what went wrong?  Why didn’t Vectrix kickstart an electric scooter revolution?

Just too expensive in the UK

The first challenge for anyone considering a Vectrix Maxi-Scooter was its price. With gasoline 250cc maxi-scooters costing as little as £4,000 in the UK and vespa-style 250cc scooters selling for £3,000 or less, the £5,995 Vectrix VX1 was simply too expensive for many commuters to consider.

Then there’s fuel economy. While there’s a fairly large difference between the fuel economy of a petrol car and an electric car, most maxi-scooters and scooters today are capable of fuel economies ranging from 70 mpg all the way up to 100+ mpg.

For most commuters, the switch from a petrol car achieving 40 mpg to a scooter achieving over 100 mpg is more than enough. Worse still, with such a high fuel economy it takes a long time for any fuel savings of the £2,000 additional purchase price to pay off, especially if you’re commuting a short distance every day.

Worst still, electric motorcycles or scooters aren’t eligible for any kind of purchase incentives, meaning there’s no way to alleviate the impact of a higher sticker price.

Scooters aren’t big in the U.S.

With the exception of a few states out east, California and the Pacific Northwest, there aren’t that many places where two-wheeled commuting is practical.  At least, that’s the impression we get looking from the outside in.

That’s partly down to traffic conditions, traffic congestion and vehicle size, but it’s also due to commuter expectations and lifestyle.  For the most part, while many Americans enjoy the pleasures of two-wheeled transportation, it tends to be in the form of a weekend pastime, not a daily commute.  Furthermore, european-style scooters are generally ignored in deference to more traditional full-size motorcycles.

Europeans love scooters, but Americans prefer motorcycles

Europeans love scooters, but Americans prefer motorcycles

Had Vectrix been European, rather than U.S. based, we think things may have been different, especially had it been based in scooter-friendly countries like Italy, Germany or France.

Reliability woes

Another challenge facing Vectrix from the start was one of reliability. With numerous problems with early bikes, including battery pack failures and power control circuitry problems, Vectrix maxi-scooters built up a poor reputation among many EV enthusiasts. With patchy support from franchised dealers, we know Vectrix riders whose bikes spent weeks and even months off the road while problems were diagnosed and repaired.

What’s more, early VX1 Maxi Scooters used troublesome NiMH battery packs instead of the lithium-ion battery packs used by later VX1 +Li models. These early battery packs had insufficient battery management which lead to poor range and ultimately broken battery packs and frustrated riders.

Tough competition

Worse still, despite being one of the first Maxi-Scooters to the market, the VX-1 faced tough competition in the marketplace, both from other electric scooter brands but more commonly from electric motorcycle brands like Zero and Brammo.

With more conventional motorcycle styling and riding characteristics, the Zero and Brammo ranges of electric motorcycles — both of which have dramatically refined their designs, specification and performance on an almost yearly basis for the past six years or so — proved a more sensible buy for most two-wheeled commuters.

What’s more, while Zero and Brammo produce commuter-friendly first-bikes for those making the transition from four to two wheels, both firms also make powerful road bikes designed for hardened bikers.  Essentially, both firms gain far more market share because they appeal to a wider market segment.

A true shame

We spent some time with the Vectrix VX-1 MaxiScooter back in 2010, and loved its easy-to use controls throttle-controlled regenerative braking, low centre of gravity and step-thru design.

Since then, we’ve ridden a large number of far more capable electric motorcycles and scooters and have to admit that when faced with faster, longer range two-wheelers, the Vectrix VX-1 has failed to keep up with the competition.

At the moment, there’s no news what will happen to what remains of Vectrix — or what will happen to service provision for existing owners. For now, the prognosis isn’t good.

Do you own a Vectrix Maxi Scooter? Do you agree with our take? What would you like to see happen next?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Randy Spencer

    Love mine, got it the day of the first Bankruptcy announcement, dealer was shocked at the loss and called me an ambulance chaser, but I have been very happy. I got the 2007 in 2009, and despite a rough time at the DMV due to a 2007 VIN issue with Vectrix all was well. Then after they reformed I had a battery failure and was one of the few to get a whole new battery pack. It is still running GREAT and I hope to have it continue for the next many years. I love no noise, exhaust, leaking. Just plug it in and go riding. Added a motorcycle lift to my RV so I can take it when I go traveling. Only issues have been regular motorcycle issues, bleeding the brakes, replacing corroded switches, keeping the bike clean.nnnDon’t know why people prefer motorcycle bodies, the full body faring means I can ride in really chilly conditions. I had motorcycles and would pick up city papers to stuff down my jacket when riding home at night to maintain body heat. Ended up getting the Honda Pacific Coast for the full body fairing, now I ride electric and get a rebate on my electricity and got a write-off on my taxes for the initial purchase. If I keep riding it, the savings over gas will make the bike free, and I got a bike! Only so many days you can drive a car w/o being annoyed stuck in traffic…nnn -Randy

  • youwho

    Bought a 2007 just a few weeks ago – it’s a lot of fun and still gets enough range to get all around town. Hope there will still be some kind of support out there, but I will do what I can on my own to keep it running, including a possible change from NiMH to LiMn2O4 (LEAF modules).

  • James Barbour

    Love mine too. It’s a 2008, bought two years ago and just converted to LiFePO4. It’s paid for itself already, is a blast to ride and gets people talking. nnI really hope someone does something with the intellectual property – if it was competitively priced, with the right battery and dealer support the VX-1 could yet be a viable proposition.

  • I like maxiscooters more than motorcycles, (easier handling, protection from the elements, and space for bags and little things). nBut here is no one making electric maxiscooters. nI wish some company could buy Vectrix and continue the evolution.

  • Chiefton

    I am selling my 2009 Vectrix. Any Takers? Does have battery issues. Would be a great parts bike for someone who has one with the same issues. I have it listed on Craig’s List.

  • John Kraemer

    to all you vectrix owners we have just purchased a huge lot of vectrixn scooters and parts and will soon be up and running if you are in need nof a scooter or parts please contact me at [email protected] nthanks njohn

  • jean michel Urbani

    I ve spent 6 years 50.000 km on this bike and sold it because of the bankruptcynThis bike worked perfect until the day i sold it , it way difficult to leave itnthe nimh pack worked well if one snoothly used the bike in the last 40 % of th charge and avoid charging th bike in hot batt weather conditionsnit paved the way for the others makerni bougth a bmw c evolution that it better but clearly a child of th wx1nthx vectrixnjmichel urbani france

  • mario cantu

    The VX-1 is an all-electric scooter capable of transporting two passengers. Vectrix has upgraded the VX-1 to use Li-ion batteries, dubbing the new models the VX-1 Li and VX-1 Li+. The Li model will travel 40-60 miles per charge and the Li+ model will travel 55-85 miles per charge. The Li will reach 60 miles per hour in 6 seconds, while the heavier Li+ will take 6.25 seconds. The VX-1 has a unique throttle that incorporates regenerative braking – twist to accelerate or brake.

    I have for sale 24 new pieces in box
    but they do not work or are expired batteries

    In May 2010 27 power units Make Model 2010 Vectrix VX-1 Maxi Scooter All Electric Version, the total units are under guard in our warehouse in Laredo, Texas were purchased.

    · During 2012, 27 units were sent to the factory where they performed an upgrade of VX-1 to VX-1 Li, consisting of the following:

    1. Change to 30AH Lithium battery

    2. New VIN issued for 2012 Model (US VIN)

    3. New Charger for Li Version

    4. New Cable Harness

    5. Upgraded Motor Controler

    I’m asking 7,000 dollars for each or make an offer