Review: Rallying across Europe on the Kumpan Electric 1954L

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The Kumpan Electric 1954L poses in the Swiss Alps(Credit: Spiros Tsantilas/New Atlas)

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Initially designed for inner city commuting at moped speeds, the 1954L electric scooter found itself venturing on an 1,800-km (1,119-mile) odyssey across three European countries as it powered our participation at the 2016 WAVE Trophy. This is our conclusive report on how it coped with this adventure.

Kumpan Electric has been manufacturing e-scooters since 2009 in Remagen, Germany, and the 1954L stands out as the biggest among its three-model lineup. Powered by lithium-ion batteries (51 V, 29 Ah), its brushless rear wheel hub motor produces an average power of 2 kW (2.7 hp), peaking at 2.8 kW (3.8 hp). This is enough for a top speed limited to 45 km/h (28 mph), although it can also be ordered at an even lower state of tune with a 25 km/h (15.5 mph) max speed.

The same model in Canada – where Kumpan exports as well – indicates a maximum velocity of 65 km/h (40.4 mph), so apparently the Euro-spec version that we rode is intended to be marketed as a moped. According to European legislation, this vehicle class limited to 45 km/h targets a wide range of potential customers, from teenage riders that can be as young as 14 years old in some EU countries, to congested commuters who can ride the moped legally with their car license. Also the ABS braking system is not compulsory yet for this class.

The intended use for these two-wheelers is primarily commuting, as their limited top speed is marginally enough for city streets. They are not allowed to venture on highways or any other high-speed road. In this sense riding one vertically across Germany, all the way down to Switzerland sounds like a really bad idea.

The under-seat compartment of the 1954L can accommodate a maximum of three batteries, resulting in a theoretical range of 150 km (93 mi). Experience suggests that these values usually prove to be quite lower in reality, so we started planning with a range around the 100 km (62 mi) mark. Given that our daily WAVE routes never fell below 200 km (124 mi), and on a couple of occasions would be as long as 350 km (217 mi), our scooter was outfitted with a special pizza box (made by Mop 'n Roll) that would carry a second set of three batteries. These would still not suffice for a very long day, but we could also rely on pre-planned charging stops along the way.

In practice the batteries easily achieved the 100-km target, regularly managing 120 km (75 mi) in the German plains. Climbing over the Alps and into Switzerland was a different story though, with the range now reduced to less than 90 km (56 mi). Still this result is more than satisfactory, especially if we take into account the total weight that was carried at all times. Six batteries alone make for almost 60 kg (132 lb), plus four chargers, and of course a 15-stone rider with his gear; all these add up to the equivalent of two full-sized adult passengers.

The average charging time for one battery is around three hours on a standard home socket. This can be done with the battery (or batteries) on the scooter via a central connector under the seat. Should there be more than one unit in the battery bay, a single 8 A charger will understandably need significantly more time to do the job. A total of three chargers, one for each battery, was the most efficient solution we employed during the WAVE Trophy in order to make the most out of every charging opportunity.

The starting price of the Kumpan Electric 1954L in Europe is €3,999 (US$4,450), while in Canada it sells for CAD$4,799 (US$3,675). The basic kit includes one charger and one battery with a theoretical range up to 50 km (31 mi). A minimum of 30 km (19 mi) is easily achievable, even riding two-up. Solo riding on a flat route can deliver ranges much closer to the theoretical value.

With a size and shape directly comparable with a modern four-stroke Vespa, the 1954L offers ample space for one or two persons regardless of size. It can cope with anything the city may throw at it, offering plush suspensions and brakes that are responsive and accurate enough to handle without the ABS safety net. Lightweight and flexible with its small 12-inch wheels, it is very easy to use and really excels wherever speed is not the predominant parameter.

Actually, our experience with the 1954L proved beyond doubt that it can cope with much more than the typical city environment. As much as it shines with its ease of use in its natural habitat, it has no problem tackling any kind of b-road either. Also it proved comfortable enough to get us through some 8-hour rides painlessly – something that I wouldn't say for a number of big motorcycles I've travelled with in the past.

The only real limitation is speed. In small streets the scooter has more than enough power to move swiftly and escape from any tight situation – it can even break speed limits. But things are very different when you hit a big avenue, where the 45 km/h (28 mph) cap means that every other vehicle can and probably will overtake you.

Acceleration is as lazy as one would expect from a 3-hp engine. With fresh batteries it'll reach a 47-48 km/h (29-30 mph) top speed, and after the first 20 kilometers or so it settles below the 45 km/h mark. The 1954L will gladly start on an uphill and when the gradient becomes too steep there's a secret weapon.

A discreet two-way button at the right-hand side of the handlebars offers a boost function that releases the engine's peak 3.8 hp for 10 seconds. Used repeatedly, this extra juice proved enough for all the intimidating climbs that were involved in crossing the Alps. The same button pressed to the left activates the cruise control – a feature I often found useful on the long straights of the WAVE route, but that may not see so much use in the stop-and-go city environment. Still, it is a nice treat that is rarely seen on small city vehicles.

Speed is the most accurate indicator of the batteries' charge level. Although the dashboard includes digital read-outs of each battery's charge level, often these would prove to be inaccurate. On the other hand, the scooters' top speed draws a very realistic image of how much juice is left in the batteries. As soon as the maximum speed fell below 30 km/h, we knew it was time to charge (or switch to fresh pills). There was still some distance it could cover before running out completely, but our travelling speed was becoming alarmingly slow and climbing uphills almost impossible.

For the task at hand it was a very good thing that the batteries discharged linearly, so there were never any sudden drops in their performance. Every battery has a small digital indication of its status, which proved to be totally accurate. Six batteries that charged at least twice daily during the 10-day trophy make for a solid sample, indicating that LG supplied Kumpan with fine quality parts. Also the German-made battery management system did its job perfectly, as every time the three units in use would discharge evenly.

We would definitely not suggest city scooters for long travels; not only Kumpan Electric's 1954L of course, but any vehicle restrained to 45 km/h, electric or not. The fact that this scooter was able to effortlessly complete the long journey of the WAVE Trophy is no less a testament to its build quality.

Company website: Kumpan Electric

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