With the recent heat waves across Europe, and the real effects of climate change starting to become more apparent, lowering emissions is at the top of everyone's agenda right now.

Piaggio was one of the first to get on board with the production of zero-emission electric scooters with their Vespa Elettrica, a rather boutique offering that focused more on cutting-edge style than real-world performance. That is about to be remedied with the introduction of the Piaggio 1, a much more practical electric scooter that is a big step in the right direction when it comes to an affordable alternative to a traditional combustion machine.

We recently got our hands on the Piaggio 1 Active, a slightly more powerful version than the default 1, so let’s take a look at it, shall we?

Italian Style

The first obvious strength the 1 possesses, is its visual styling. The low-capacity electric scooter market is currently dominated by Chinese models, which all look alright themselves but, in my opinion, can't quite match up to this. While the Piaggio 1 active is constructed in China to keep the costs down, the Italian design is very evident.

Some manufacturers tend to radically redesign their electric offerings, but Piaggio has stuck with its familiar style, and I think that is a good thing. If I'm buying a Piaggio, I want it to look like a Piaggio regardless of the type of engine powering it. Overall, this scooter looks clean, sharp, and stylish and gets a thumbs up from me.

An Affordable Electric Option?

Let's deal with this issue straight away. One of the weaknesses of electric bikes, in general, has been their large upfront investment costs. They are often far more expensive than their combustion counterparts while offering much less in the way of performance. The Piaggio 1 Active is actually a good step forward on this score.

The Government is still offering their OLEV grant to subsidise the initial cost of qualifying electric vehicles and thankfully the 1 Active fits the bill, which takes the purchase price down to £2,500. Pretty reasonable when you think that the traditional Piaggio ZIP 50cc is £2,150 while being significantly less powerful. The 1 Active suddenly feels like a viable choice.

If we factor in the long-term savings in maintenance and petrol costs, even with the rising energy bills, one of these is going to be more economical in the long run.

Electric Performance

Powering the Piaggio 1 Active is a 2kW electric engine with three different ride modes and a removable 2.3kWh lithium-ion battery under the seat. The battery itself is nice and easy to remove and can be charged in or out of the scooter. It weighs 15kg but even fully loaded with battery the scooter only weighs 94kg total, so it is as light as a feather.

The Achilles heel of all electric scooters is usually their power, and nothing has changed here. The maximum speed of the 1 Active is just 38mph, although I was able to squeeze 43mph out of it on a downhill section of the road. On the other hand, one of the strong points of electric engines is how readily available that power is. The acceleration is great, and this scooter will swiftly reach 30mph. Admittedly from there, it will take a bit of effort to reach maximum speed, but it can handle those 40mph stretches of road very well.

Clearly, this is a scooter that is designed as an urban run-around or for very short commutes, It excels in slower moving traffic with its agile handling and slender frame. It isn't the kind of thing that can deal with faster-moving roads. Meaning that trips down the dual carriageway or any kind of lengthy tour are not on the cards.

Battery Power

According to Piaggio, the battery range will cover around 40 miles in sport mode and up to 50 miles in eco mode. While this sounds good, the problem with the eco mode is that it limits you to an 18mph top speed, so more than likely you will be living in the sports setting.

One nice feature is that you can switch between sport and eco modes seamlessly while riding, simply hold down the mode button on the handlebar and it will shift over. I can see the eco mode potentially becoming useful in a situation where you come into some very slow-moving traffic; you can change across to preserve a bit of battery life and then switch back when it's time to accelerate again.

Another clever bit of technology to help preserve the battery life is the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) which will actually put some charge back into the engine when not accelerating. Combined with some occasional eco usage, this is going to be the way to squeeze as much as possible out of the battery.

I spent most of my time on the 1 Active in sport mode with the throttle fully pinned and realistically, that is the way most people are going to be riding to get the best performance from it. In that case, from our testing, you are more likely looking at around 35 miles on a full charge rather than the estimated 40.

Brakes and Suspension

Piaggio's website is a little vague on the tech specs here, but I can see that there is a single-arm spring damper on the front and a dual shock on the rear for suspension. It's a pretty basic set-up but for the demands, you will be putting on this little scooter, it is perfectly adequate. I tested it on some bumpy back roads, as well as on some smoother town surfaces and it handled them all comfortably.

The brakes on the other hand are one of the standout features here. We have a 175mm disc on the front and the rear and the stopping power for this lightweight scooter is actually pretty great. A small squeeze on the back brake will bring you to a swift and responsive halt. I have ridden low-capacity electric scooters in the past where you really had to crunch down on the brakes to get anything to happen, so this is a nice improvement.

There is no ABS on the 1 Active, it uses a combined braking system, so when you squeeze that rear brake it will automatically apply a bit of the front brake alongside it. In fact, if you are used to riding a scooter that does require a heavy hand to get it to stop, you can actually lock the rear wheel on this if you're too sharp on the levers. A nice gentle squeeze is all it takes, and the response is excellent.

Seating and Storage

The seat height is 770mm, which sounds low, but because the seat is quite wide, I did find my legs being splayed out a little. I am average height, around 5' 10 and I could just about flat foot it, so if you are a shorter rider, have a sit down on one and see how it feels. For me, there was plenty of leg room but again, taller riders may struggle.

Another win for the 1 Active is that it actually has storage space. Piaggio claims you can fit a full-size helmet under the seat, but I believe that is for an open-face helmet only. We tried to fit one of our closed-face helmets in there and it wouldn't quite shut. Still, the fact there is storage at all is great, considering most of its low-capacity electric rivals have none due to the battery position.

LCD Screen, Keyless Ignition and a Reverse Mode

The LCD screen on the 1 Active is quite impressive. its 5" display is quite sizeable for a small scooter like this, and the speedo is large and easy to read. The battery life displays as a bar with its current percentage, again very easy to read and see exactly where you are at.

One of the cool features Piaggio has used here is a twilight sensor. The idea is that it can detect the amount of light in your surroundings and adjust the screen for optimum clarity. It works very well too, the screen was crystal clear with the summer sun beaming down on it, and when we brought it back indoors, still crystal clear.

The keyless ignition system is pretty basic, a fob with a button will activate it, then you manually turn a dial on the front to stop and start. I'm not sure how useful that is when with the same effort you may as well be turning a key but at least you will never have to worry about leaving a key in the ignition.

Finally, while we are talking about some of the tech features, the 1 Active has a rather unique reverse mode. I'm not sure how useful this will be either, as when you are at a standstill, you have to hold down the brake and then hold down the mode button for a few seconds to engage the reverse function. You can then reverse and when you want to ride away, once again hold down the brake and hold down the mode button for a few seconds to get back into sport or eco modes. The thing is, with its 94-kilo weight, this scooter is so easy to manoeuvre that I found it was just easier to do it manually and ride away, rather than mess about with mode changes. Still, it is there and perhaps someone can get some use from it.

An Economical Conclusion

I think the main selling point here, aside from reducing your emissions, is the overall economy of this scooter. We've already talked about the very reasonable £2,500 starting price but a full charge of Piaggio's 1 Active will cost you roughly 42p based on current average UK energy prices. With a claimed 40-mile battery range, it is without question going to be cheaper than any petrol alternative.

If we compare this to a 125cc petrol-based scooter, you can expect to travel roughly 40 miles on a litre of petrol, which with average UK petrol prices (as of July 2022) will cost you about £1.88p. Over three times more expensive. Of course, these prices are in constant flux right now, so things may change but even with surging energy bills, the 1 Active is going to be significantly cheaper.

Final Thoughts

The Piaggio 1 active is not going to be for everyone. The 40-mile range and 38mph top speed are going to limit the kind of riding it can comfortably perform and the riders that will want to use it. However, if you are looking for something that can do short commutes into town or easily nip to the shops, this could be ideal.

It is eco-friendly, inexpensive to buy, and cheap to run. For what it is, it performs well with responsive brakes, sharp acceleration at low speeds, and a comfy seat. As far as low-capacity electric scooters go, I don't think any of its rivals can compete with the Italian styling either.

Overall, this is a solid addition to the category and a step in the right direction for zero emission transport in general.