Sol's Pocket Rocket straddles the awkward space between e-bikes and e-motos
It's too fast and powerful to be an e-bike, but so underpowered that you'd hardly call it a motorcycle. Sol Motors claims this bizarre looking "no-ped" represents a new category that's emerging in urban transport, and that might be the right way to look at it.
The Pocket Rocket is a wacky looking electric contraption out of Stuttgart, Germany. Its "tank" is a single fat tube with a headlight at one end, a battery in the middle and a red ring of tail-light at the back that kind of does make it look a bit like you're sitting on a saddled-up missile, Wiley E. Coyote style.
The rest of the triangular frame is simply a bent piece of metal pipe, with the simplest of twin-shock swingarms supporting the hub-driven rear wheel and a nifty design at the front that pokes the steering head straight through the main tube and gives you a short-travel front end suspension underneath.
There are two versions available – one rocks a 6-hp (4.5-kW) hub motor capable of 50 km/h (31 mph), and the other flexes on you with a mighty 8.5 hp (6.3 kW), and is capable of 80 km/h (50 mph). It weighs a friendly 55 kg (121 lb), and travels somewhere between 50-80 km (30-50 mi) on a charge, meaning it'll comfortably hit the commuting sweet spot for the majority of people.
With up to 150 Nm (110 lb-ft) of torque, this darling thing can even hoik up a wheelie, provided you put it in the designated Wheelie mode. Mind you, leaning back with a large metal tube poking out from your crotch and rising up does make Pocket Rocket wheelies look like something a ninth-grader would draw on a classmate's yearbook.
Other mode choices are Eco and Sport. Beyond that, it's simplicity itself, with rude metal pegs jutting out as your footrests, a pair of brake levers on the bars and a slot to stick your smartphone in if you want a dash.
As a low-cost, zero-emission urban transport option, it'd rock the job if you can handle that minimalist style. But there's a problem here: even the lower 6-horse version equates to nearly 4,500 watts, which is several times more power than you're allowed on an e-bike more or less anywhere that's got regulations. So you're going to pay motorcycle-level registration fees on this thing, and need a license to ride it.
Let's leave aside the fact that it's going to be pretty expensive – somewhere around US$6,000 for the 6-hp one and US$7,500 for the 8.5-hp version. Battery costs will come down one of these days, and that's a key expense on any of these kinds of machines, so e-bikes are going to expose a ton of people to the fun and ease of electric commuting. People will want to take a step up, and while you could step up to a full-blown electric motorcycle, we suspect there'll be plenty of people who'd be interested in something in between.
This commuter class of electric scoots and low-powered e-motos like the Pocket Rocket feels to us like something that deserves its own registration class – something cheaper that reflects the fact that they're incapable of highway speeds, and really not a great leap above a bicycle. It feels like a class of vehicle – humble, practical, clean – that Western society is going to need if we're going to break out of the gasoline age. Food for thought.
Source: Sol Motors