A new Australia producer of electric mopeds was officially launched last week and it’s already making waves in one of the world’s most discerning moped markets.
Brisbane-based Benzina Zero held it national launch in its home town on 15th September, amid strong initial growth in the Australian market.
However, Benzina Zero – particularly its very distinctive Duo model – has received its most passionate response in Italy, arguably the home of premium mopeds.
Company co-founder Joe D’Ercole was in Italy four weeks ago and travelled around on a Duo.
“He had people literally yelling from balconies for him to stop so they could come down and look at it,” the company’s other founder, Ben Silver, said.
“Its simple U shape frame is unique and people in Italy wanted to know what it was, where they could get it and how much it costs.”
With an initial container of Benzina Zero bikes already unloaded in Italy and a second shipment currently on the water, the southern European country is one of five markets initially being targeted by the company.
It has also signed with distributors in Singapore, the Philippines Hong Kong and the UK, as well as handling its own distribution in Australia. That global reach is set to expand quickly, with ongoing discussions with distributors in 20 countries.
In Australia, Benzina Zero has nine retailers already confirmed – primarily in south east Queensland but also two in SA and one in NSW. Another three retailers are set to come on line very soon – putting the company well on track to achieve its goal of 25 Australian retailers within this financial year.
Benzina Zero has launched into the market with three initial models: the Duo (including a more powerful Duo+ version), the City and the Sport.
It joins Fonz and Super Soco as Australian manufacturers of electric scooters and o is seeking to differentiate itself by exclusively using Bosch motors, as well as LG and Samsung batteries.
The Duos and Sport have two, 35-amp-hour batteries, while the City as a single 35-amp-hour battery. The Duo and City both have top speeds of 45kmh and are classified as mopeds under Australian regulations, while the Duo+ (top speed 65kmh) and Sport (75kmh) are defined as motorcycles.
The Sport and City have more conventional moped designs, with body panels and their batteries positioned under the seat.
“The Duo’s design is so unique and so simple, the batteries sit on the floor. It’s such a bare-framed bike, without conventional body panels, you can’t put the batteries anywhere else,” Ben said.
“But the benefit of that design is two-fold. By having a very simple, clean design we got front and rear loading, which does not happen on the other bikes.
“The second thing is, by putting that battery weight as low as possible, you have a much better handling bike. Low centre of gravity is always a good thing for safety and rideability.”
Ben said they sourced off-the-shelf mopeds as their starting point for the designs of each of the three models.
While the frame designs remained much the same, Ben and Joe changed and upgraded almost all the components, to meet the regulations and anticipated consumer expectations of its target markets.
“There was a number of critical alterations to bring the bikes up to a specification we were happy with, including better batteries, motors, brakes and suspension. That conversation started back in 2018, when Joe and I started working together,” Ben said.
Ahead of His Time
Joe had his first foray into moped sales back in 1987, as a Vespa retailer.
“However, it was a bit too early. Brisbane in 1987 wasn’t remotely interested in what was Europe was doing,” Ben said.
“When everything kicked off again in 2000, the city had gained a lot more interest in what was called personal mobility back then, rather than micromobility.”
Ben and Joe have been friends for 20 years and when Joe set up a series of scooter shops in Brisbane, Ben came on board as general manager.
The business evolved from Scootopia to Scooter Life and, over its lifespan, sold around 18,000 petrol motor mopeds and scooters.
After a stint as a Holden dealership manager in the NSW regional town of Tenterfield, Ben travelled around Australia, then returned to Brisbane in 2019 and started working with Joe to develop Benzina Zero.
The pair was inspired by trends in other countries towards electric personal vehicles and, while private use of e-mobility in Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world, businesses in this country were showing much greater inclination towards the shift.
“There are a lot of businesses taking really decisive action about how they can electrify their fleet,” Ben said.
“They need to get goods to people and people are watching how they are doing it.
“Overall, we made decisions about Benzina Zero based on Australia being a technology taker, and that the move to electric vehicles would flow through to the Australian market.
“If we entered the market four years ago, we probably would have been too early. Now we’re at a point where the transition in Australia is well underway.”
Benzina Zero translates from Italian as ‘zero petrol’ and Ben said his interest in producing electric mopeds sprung from a number of personal ideologies about sustainability.
“Everyone needs to work from ideology as their starting point, you just have to make a good business case around it,” Ben said.
Benzina Zero has an agreement with a factory in China to manufacture its vehicles and has introduced the Duos to the market at a recommended retail price of $4,650 plus on-road costs for the standard model, and $5,250 plus on-road costs for the Duo+.
Benzina Zero will be exhibiting at the 2022 Micromobility Conference and Expo.