John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It has all the ridiculousness of the Segway, and none of the romanticism of the classic Italian scooter.
Here's why you always lock your scooter and your Segway separately: Left to their own devices, they might get frisky and pop out one of these things, a weirdly shrunken, automatic-balancing Franken-Vespa.
The goofy-looking "Zero Scooter" is made from real Piaggio parts and retails for a little more than $4,000, which in fact is cheaper than a Segway available online but more expensive than a 2013 Vespa. Looking like a scooter rammed into a Segway and knocked off the front handle and the rider, as well as many other parts, the personal-mobility device is being marketed by Barcelona-based Bel & Bel. The company's fabrication department is something of a specialist in making these surreal automotive products, such as swanky chairs that incorporate vehicle bodywork and this "Monowheel" reminiscent of the humiliating (but super-green) "IT" from South Park.
Bel & Bel knocked out the first Zero Scooter for an electric-vehicle conference in late 2013 as an experiment in the creative reuse of motor parts. It has since released a limited series that's on offer at Maxihobby. The specs aren't half-bad: The contraption whirs along at 12 mph and has a range of roughly 20 miles on a battery charge. It can also power up slopes of up to 30 degrees, quite a helpful ability in hilly cities.
The problem is that the design drops the main point of owning a Vespa – riding in pairs in a romantic European fashion – and replaces it with the inherent ridiculousness of the Segway. Imagine the disappoint on the face of your lover when you approach from the front looking like you're on a classic Italian scooter, only to pull up in something that turns out to be twice as short and built like a metal giraffe: