“It’s a shame that the market has been distorted by the stand-on scooter trials,” says Tony Lewis, a Founding Partner at electric moped company Silence UK.
“The word scooter has been hijacked, when I think about scooters, I think of a Lambretta. When most people hear ‘scooter’ they think of the things that people stand on. And, whilst they’ve achieved something, I don’t think they’re going to fix the inherent issues we have.”
Those issues Lewis is talking about are, of course, congestion and pollution. For him, and the rest of Silence UK, it seems painfully obvious that electric mopeds — whether shared or privately owned — will be instrumental in reshaping our roadways to be better for everyone.
Auto Futures sat down with Lewis shortly after the company announced the S01+, a faster, more luxurious version of its best-selling e-moped.
Telling the Silence Story
“Silence is probably now 11 to 12 years old and was formed by Carlos Sotelo, an ex-Paris-Dakar racer and engineer,” explains Lewis.
“I think people probably expected him to go into full-on motorcycle retailing or some sort of promotion but he wanted to dedicate himself to improving urban mobility in an eco-friendly manner.”
Silence UK, meanwhile, was launched last year to serve as the official importer of the company’s mopeds to Britain. The original Silence mainly focused on 125 cc-equivalent electric mopeds for businesses.
“Everyone from Spanish Mail, Spanish Post, to local police forces, to delivery businesses,” explains Lewis.
“Then, in more recent years, [it] has developed the S01 as a more retail-focused 125 cc e-scooter for the retail market but also the European market.
“It’s fair to say that nearly all of our competition is from the Far East and, in terms of size and fit for Europeans, and for European roads, there was a need for a European designed, engineered, built, and distributed product.”
Lewis explains that every part is designed and manufactured in Barcelona by Silence and, when external components need to be brought in, it uses “really high-end kit” such as Bosch motors and Pirelli tyres.
“The heart of the bike is the unique battery system and that’s something that attracted us,” says Lewis.
“It’s unique in that it’s detachable and re-attachable within seconds so you can take it into your office, home, into a restaurant and charge it up. It makes it really flexible and, from our point of view, democratises the use of EVs. John Edwards, who used to be the Managing Director of Land Rover, and I, we’ve had experience with EVs when the first question to a customer was ‘Do you have off-street parking? If not, we won’t be introducing you to our new electric vehicle.”
That battery has also been developed in-house by Silence and can also be pre-heated and cooled to avoid damaging the cells when in use. According to Lewis, it’s these sorts of features that make Silence and its mopeds stand out from the crowd.
“I read a report once that said the UK was either the first or second-largest market for sports bikes,” explains Lewis.
“It was the same with us. When we launched, the biggest volume opportunities were in business but our biggest, earliest, and most consistent sales have been in retail because we’re a nation of people who actually like nice things that do the job.
“Our S01 has got great range, great acceleration, it more than keeps up with regular traffic, it’s well-specced, and it has the connected app with great features on it. I think Brits like that.”
Of course, liking nice things is hardly exclusive to British people, but Silence certainly seems to be ticking a lot of very large and important boxes for motorists — especially in the current climate.
“The current times have changed the consumer,” says Lewis.
“Remember the last fuel crisis when people were queuing down the road — probably nine months ago? We sold four bikes in an afternoon in London to people who said ‘I just need to get around. I need to get around on something that’s good.’ Similarly, we’ve now got inquiries from people who have just had it with petrol at £2 per litre and paying £12 to drive into Birmingham.”
In fact, Lewis says that Silence is seeing remarkable success in the market.
“In the 125 cc-equivalent section, we regularly have over 30% market share. In the months that we do that, it might only mean that we’ve supplied 20 S01s but that market is growing all the time. It’s one that the MCIA (the Motor Cycle Industry Association) describes as vertical market growth.”
However, Silence still believes its largest opportunities lie in the business-to-business realm.
“But then you’ve got the vehicles below [the 125 cc-equivalent] which tend to be distorted by what’s going into the delivery market,” Lewis explains.
“So, if one of the big food delivery companies buys a couple of hundred electric bikes that month, it’s going to look quite distorted, but we see ourselves making progress there.
“We’ve supplied [grocery delivery company] Gorillas with its first units and they’ve got more units on order.”
Silence isn’t finished there, however. The company also has a four-wheeler in the works.
“t’s been teased but we’re launching a four-wheeled derivative called the S04. The right price point has yet to be announced, but that gives people four-wheel, enclosed electric eco-mobility. It’s perfect for cities, clean air zones, congestion charge zones, and ULEZ zones.
“It certainly fits into my basket of requirements, its at a reasonable price point that isn’t £30,000, £40,000, or £50,000 and, when you’re paying £2 per litre for diesel, it could make quite a difference. It’s perfect for going to work the shops, the gym, anywhere within 50 miles.”
A Silent Revolution?
It is clear from talking to Lewis that Silence UK isn’t simply trying to sway commuters and (perhaps to a lesser extent) teenage boys away from their 125 cc scooters to electric equivalents.
Instead, the company is approaching the UK market from a more holistic point of view. It is understanding the market and the changing needs of consumers.
“S04 is next but we’ve got to continue to make a success of the products we have now,” says Lewis.
“I think we’ve dipped our toes in the water with Gorillas. We’ve got some agreements with people like the Co-operative Group in the Midlands, who are giving access to their employees for loans to buy the bikes to make their commuting easier and more eco-friendly.
“We’ve also done a deal with Solihull Council on sharing concepts. We’ve got vehicles on trial with other fleets throughout the UK. We know these bikes have had robust performance in European markets over many years.”
According to Lewis, one fleet based near Barcelona has clocked up more than 100,000 kilometres on short delivery trips but its vehicles still have 87% battery capacity.
“Our big push is into fleets, making them aware that we’ve got a great product for them that overcomes a lot of issues, as well as retail continuing and the arrival of the S04.”
With petrol and diesel prices continuing to rise and car sales continuing to fall in the UK, Brits should get used to seeing electric scooters on the roads — and not the ones you stand on.