We've already taken a look at the Super Soco CU Mini, an AM licence electric moped that we liked for its lightness, nippiness about town, comfort and competitive price, although it lacked hill climbing prowess. Competitor company NIU have now sent us their beefier-looking and heavier UQi GT SR model.
Legally speaking the NIU UQi GT SR is in the same 50cc-equivalent moped class as the Super Soco. That means 16-year-olds can ride it (as long as they have a CBT certificate and insurance) and that you're restricted to a top assisted speed of 28mph. AM licence mopeds also mean that if you passed your driving test before February 1, 2001, you can legally ride with no L plates, without taking compulsory basic training (CBT) or a full moped test - but again you of course need requisite insurance.
Like most of these relatively low priced e-mopeds, there is no drivetrain as there is only a single gear, so you are relying on the torque and speed range of that very beefy looking Bosch rear hub motor to do all the work.
Let's take a look at what the extra weight and price of the UQi GT SR bring to the increasingly populated electric moped space. (At £1,999 it costs around £245 more than the Super Soco CU Mini).
Who are NIU and what's the UQi GT SR?
Whilst e-mopeds may not hit the headlines as much as e-bikes, e-scooters or electric cars they are slowly growing in popularity in the UK. However, it is the Far East where they have really taken off and so it's no surprise that NIU is a Chinese-based company. It was founded in 2014 by two ex-employees of consumer electronics giant Xiaomi and now claims to be one of the largest electric vehicle manufacturers in China. Whilst NIU are known for electric mopeds and electric scooters, they also recently branched out into e-bikes and even speed pedelecs.
The build of the UQi GT SR is pretty conventional by electric moped standards, with a steel frame, mag wheels and heavy sprung suspension. The drive system however is certainly a step up from the Super Soco, featuring a Bosch 1,500W rated, gearless rear hub motor. The 1,488Wh battery is tucked under seat and, despite its 10.4kg heft, is surprisingly easy to lift out using a sturdy handle, making indoor charging convenient. There is clever provision to charge the moped whilst the battery remains locked under the seat too, as a small cutout in the frame allows the charging cable to be fed in.
This is all a step up in power and battery capacity compared to the Super Soco which aims to keep its price as low as possible by using a 600W motor and a battery around two-thirds the size of the NIU. As we see, the NIU not surprisingly trumps the Super Soco for power but not for price or weight (70kg, as far as we could tell, as it's quite tricky to weigh, versus the Super Soco's 50kg).
On the road
The UQi GT SR feels stable, fun and easy to use even though, for a motorbike, it has a short wheelbase. Like the Super Soco, it's so comfortable and easy to ride. Turn it on with the electronic key, sit on the plush seat and just turn the throttle gently to zoom silently off.
The acceleration feels quick yet well modulated, so you can make a good getaway before cars at lights. But it's certainly not scary quick, so it's an ideal moped for beginners. On the flat you are soon up to 30mph, where the motor power tails off smoothly. The speed will slow on steep hills, but not to crawling pace like it did with the Super Soco - 20mph is more the norm with 15mph the minimum we sunk to on the very steepest Pennine gradients with an 80kg rider on board. There is a small seat and footrests for a pillion passenger and whilst decent speed can be maintained on the flat with a small passenger there is a marked effect on hill climbing speed and of course range.
The huge capacity 1,488Wh battery - several times bigger than what you expect to find on an e-bike - took the test rider (without pillion passenger) nearly 30 miles and included a climb of around 800 feet (240m) to a local beauty spot on a sunny and still but freezing day. (If you want to winter ride on a moped, invest in much warmer clothing than you would use for e-biking....) That's around half as efficient as an inefficient e-bike, but that's the cost of not having to pedal and that super-plush, super-comfortable ride, along with a motor big enough to give good acceleration and speed. There is also a lower power 'get me home' setting that means you can limp home if capacity is getting perilously low.
The test rider loved the safety aspects of the UQi GT SR. The powerful (and eye-catching) headlight is wonderful on unlit roads and the rear light highly visible from a wide range of angles. Indicators are easily visible even in strong sunlight, whilst the dual rear view mirrors do a good job of letting you kow who is doing what behind you. The suspension and wide, heavy tyres smooth out even the bumpiest of road surfaces and the combined brakes (squeezing either lever activates both front and rear brakes) makes for progressive but extremely powerful braking even though there is no ABS.
Other useful features include a very stable centre kickstand, a steering lock, an app with GPS tracking, an electronic alarm and motor lock (activated from the key fob) and a USB charging port, all of which make for a very practical overall package.
Who would use the NIU UQi GT SR?
If you value a greater feeling of comfort with more effective suspension and more speed than most e-bikes provide, then e-mopeds are definitely worth a look and the NIU UQi GT SR is the best we have tried so far. If range is a concern, note there is a longer range version with a 2,016Wh battery that should give around a third more range. (The SR in this model's name stands for standard range. The ER offers extended range.)
Speed pedelecs represent the natural competition for e-mopeds. They are lighter, just about as fast and present the opportunity for some exercise too. Unfortunately, S-pedelecs are incredibly difficult to insure in the UK, despite the fact it's entirely possible to register them for road use - an utterly ridiculous situation.
As it is, the NIU UQi GT SR is a very attractive option for clean, green commuting and represents great value for money, especially when you consider it costs a fraction to buy and run compared to an electric car and will perform many of the same short haul urban trips in about the same time. Highly recommended.