The world’s most iconic scooter — perhaps even its most iconic two-wheeled vehicle — is Italy’s Vespa. Invented by the Piaggio company, it defined inexpensive and stylish transportation from its release in 1946, and that definition stands.
It’s no surprise, then, that the next icon should also come from Italy. It’s the “Scooter Elettrico Me” (that’s the “Me Electric Scooter,” if you don’t speak Italian), and it has a lot in common with its 70-year-old ancestor. And we don’t just mean sleek Italian design.
It starts with the innovative nature of the construction process. Piaggio had been an aircraft manufacturer (some well-placed Allied bombs had cut that business short), and it used what it knew about lightweight, strong aluminium construction to break out of the bicycle-with-an-engine mould. The Me actually begins with a mould, building its strong and superlight chassis from sheet moulding compound — the fiberglass of the future, known for its durability in applications like stadium seating and shower stalls — to create something that looks like an iPhone at a yoga class.
The revolutionary materials enable convenient step-through design in both scooters, and driving the rear wheel directly rather than with a chain keeps the profile and maintenance simple. With the Me, that drive is a 1.5kw electric motor, with none of the smell or waspy buzz of the Vespa. And with none of the pollution. A Li-ion battery powers the Me for 50 miles (plus another few in recovery mode) and a retrofuture LED pixel display shows just how many miles you hold in reserve. Between rides, the Me plugs directly into a 220v outlet, or the battery (at a not-insubstantial 30 pounds) can be removed for charging elsewhere.
The Me, like the Vespa, cries out for customization, and the company behind it is set to produce replaceable covers, which will be cheap enough to change with the whims of fashion. Another thing the Italians have always done well.
If you would like to comment on this or anything else you have seen on BBC Autos, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.