The storm was looming. Dark hurtling towards me, lightning streaking, the grumble of thunder loud enough to reverberate in my helmet. Reaching my destination, I quickly negotiated with the owner to park the motorcycle in his garage/storage area and settled in to wait out the storm.
Two hours later, I was back on the road, with some trepidation. The Vmoto Super Soco TC Max I was riding is fully electric which, for one thing, means that other than other than a low-pitched whistling sound when opening the throttle, it is close to completely silent. Powered by a 72V/45Ah removable polymer lithium battery, the central motor that connects to the rear wheel with a toothed belt has a motor rated power of 3900W. Peak power is listed as 5,100W and rear wheel peak torque is listed as 180Nm.
Navigating Joburg’s rush hour on a motorcycle can be daunting, especially after rain. With the TC Max, my anxiety and, therefore, cautiousness was dialled up because of the silence factor but it was a relatively easy ride.
The TC Max weighs in at 101kg with battery, is well balanced on a 17-inch tyres with 90/80 on the front tyre and 110/70 on the rear. It has a 240mm disc combined brake system (CBS) front and rear, though I did find it stopped better when using the rear brake. This took a bit of getting used to since I generally use my front brake more. In addition, the rear brake lever is mounted on the handlebar, replacing the clutch of motorcycles with a fuel internal combustion engine.
Coming from a “normal” motorcycle, the electric version was a lesson in conscious riding. When starting up, I generally twist the throttle once or twice before engaging the gearbox. With the TC Max, which is keyless, you “unlock” the immobiliser/alarm on the key and press the power button on the “tank”. It’s so silent that the backlit LCD screen is the only indication that the motorcycle was on. Press the Parking switch and a Ready light comes on, meaning you are ready to pull off. Twist the throttle and off you go, all in total silence.
The LCD indicates speed, remaining range, battery capacity and driving mode, among other indicators. There are three riding modes, which you select with a button on the right handle bar, switching between 1 (eco or “saves more energy”), 2 (“optimises energy performance” and 3 (“provides high performance”).
When I picked up the TC Max, it was charged — according to Vmoto, a full charge takes four to five hours to fully charge — and indicated a range of 100km. On back roads, in mode 1, with the throttle fully open I got up to 60km/h. In mode 2, that increased to 80km/h and, on the highway, in mode 3, I reached just under 100km/h. The trip from pickup point to home was about 17km and, because I was mainly in mode 3, I used up about 45% of the battery.
Over the course of the course of the week I eventually settled on mode 2, which I found had enough power to overtake when needed, though I also avoided the highways.
It is a good-looking motorcycle, the design drawing from cafe racer aesthetics. It has intelligent wide-angle daytime running LED headlights, and is available in phantom black, electric yellow, neon orange or cosmic grey bodywork. The controls on the handlebar are simple — indicators, light switches, alert switch, parking switch and riding modes — and easy to reach. The seat is comfortable and there is a mudguard over the rear wheel. Accessories available include a rear carrier, a cushion seat, windscreen and headlight protector.
There's a slot on the side to plug into the charger, which sits in a storage compartment above the battery where the fuel tank would be. You can also take the battery out to charge it when out and about.
A few years ago, I wrote a column debating whether an electric motorcycle would work in a South African context, particularly in a city like Johannesburg. My existing doubts have nothing to do with the TC Max and more to do with our electricity and road safety issues. The TC Max works as the perfect commuter motorcycle for an eco-conscious rider, particularly if you don’t travel long distances. I used it primarily to go to the gym and meetings in my neighbourhood.
Price: R105,300 (including VAT) or from R2,235 per month