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Review: Fonzarelli NKDs electric bike

Happy Days fans are in for a rude shock … Arthur Fonzarelli couldn’t actually ride!

Yes, that’s right, Henry Winkler, the actor who played Fonzie or “The Fonze” in the Happy Days TV series from 1974-84 couldn’t ride a motorcycle.

Henry Winkler as the Fonze or Fonzie in Happy Days on the Triumph TR5 up for sale on eBay
Henry Winkler as the Fonze on a Triumph TR5

He crashed several times in shooting, found Harleys too heavy to handle and blamed his inability to co-ordinate clutch, brake and throttle on his dyslexia.

Fast forward from the ‘50s era show to the 2020s and swap Fonzie’s Harleys and Triumphs for the first Australian electric motorcycle named in his honour and he might have been just fine.

The Fonzie NKD is a midi-sized hybrid scooter/motorcycle with twist-and-go automatic transmission and a light weight of just 101kg.

Even the dyslexic Fonzie surely couldn’t fail to ride this bike.

The Fonzie NKD is assembled in Redfern, Sydney, and comes in several models ranging in price from $8990 to $16,990.

The entry level NKDa is a city commuter bike with a top speed of 80km/h and 50km of range.

My test bike is the NKDs with 100km/h top speed and 100km of city range. In matte black with Pirelli dual-sport tyres it costs $11,365.

The NKD+ and NKDx also have a 100km/h stop speed but increased city range of 150km and 200km.

Selecting options such as tyres, saddle and handgrips will increase the price.

You can’t actually buy one off the floor. Instead, you have to order and wait about three months for it to be built to your spec.

Included in the price is contactless ignition, a phone charger, LED lights, adjustable footpegs and even reverse gear although I have no idea why you would ever need it on a bike this light.

For $11,365 I found the instruments crude and simple, the adjustable suspension rather basic and the finish fairly “industrial”.

While the Fonzie NKD may be named after TV’s coolest hero, its styling is as far from the slick-haired, leather-jacketed rocker as you can get.

It’s got a modern “urban construction site” look with exposed wiring, painted sheet metal panels and fenders, and exposed tubular chromoly frame.

While the NKD is diminutive by comparison with most motorcycles, it is neither a mini-bike nor a monkey bike.

The NKD is probably best referred to as a midi-bike. 

It sits on smallish 12-inch wheels, has a motorcycle-type body and features scooter-style front and rear brake levers on the handlebars with no clutch or foot brake.

Even though it looks on the small side, it should suit all but the tallest rider. I stand 183cm, yet I felt quite comfortable and relaxed on the bike, although the seat is a little on the firm side.

Not that a hard seat is a drawback as the limited range means you won’t be seated for long.

Like the price, the range is flexible and depends on many factors.

While a petrol bike has greater range on the highway than the city, the reverse is true with all electric vehicles.

I found I could only get about 60km of range when cruising down the highway, but close to the 100km in urban riding.

That’s because of the brake regeneration capturing kinetic energy to recharge the Panasonic Lithium-Ion 3.5kWh battery.

Cleverly the Fonzie crew have added a little red lever on the brakes which allows you to select the amount of regenerative braking you want from coasting through to heavy retardation.

It takes some time to get your head around the range issue and a lot of trial and error. 

Twice I was caught out limping the bike home as the battery light flashed red at me.

That can be quite unnerving as there is little you can do when you run out of battery. It is not as if you can walk to a servo and get a can of fuel to get you home again.

Range is also affected by your riding behaviour, hilly terrain, temperatures (you go further when it’s warm), rider and pillion load, and the amount of constant throttle such as on a highway.

There are selectable three riding modes (Eco, Street and Beast) which will also affect range as well as throttle response.

Charging takes several hours to go from flat to full. It comes with a bulky external charger which will plug into any AC outlet. You can also buy an onboard charger compatible with EV charging infrastructure so you can charge while away from home.

The claimed top speed of 100km/h for the NKDs is also flexible.

I accidentally nudged 115km/h on a downhill section of highway before I realised and rolled off the throttle.

Happiest going downhill

Acceleration off the line is brisk like most electric vehicles as you have instant maximum torque as soon as you twist the throttle.

Beating Porsches at the traffic lights is a no-brainer — at least for the first 50m.

After that, throttle response becomes fairly limp and roll-on acceleration for passing is a slow affair.

However, you will have no trouble running with the traffic in most situations.

Of more concern was the slight hesitation and hiccuping in the throttle on my test bike.

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When throttling on from the traffic lights, there is a moment’s hesitation before sudden torque that almost pulls your hands off the grips, so hold on tight.

You get used to this.

But on several occasions I experienced throttle hesitation and even hiccuping or “bunny hopping” when accelerating at slow speed. That could just be an issue with this bike that could be adjusted by on the controller.

Despite the scooter-sized 12-inch wheels, the NKDs handles potholes way better than many scooters.

There is no nervousness or kickback in the steering thanks to the wide handlebars, conventional forks and single rear shock.

However, handling and ride comfort are compromised by the basic rear shock, adjustable for compression only.

It’s fine for most urban duties and surprisingly stable on the highways even when being buffeted by trucks.

The single disc front brakes are ample for this size bike, but I was surprised there is no ABS.

There is minimal underseat storage unlike most scooters and nowhere to hang your helmet, but there is a pillion perch where you can tie down some luggage.

You can also buy a lockable tank tag to store gloves, phone, etc.

On my test bike the mirrors were placed underneath the bars which looks cool but is impractical as you have to lift your hands to see what’s behind you.

Similarly the bar-end indicators look cool, but your hands can slightly obscure them.

The instruments are cheap and nasty looking and have so much reflective glare from the sky that it is difficult to see what speed you are going. 

I quite enjoy the quiet operation of an electric motorcycle and this is especially quiet with its belt drive.

I’m sure the neighbours had no problems with me tearing around a slippery grass paddock on the Pirelli dual sport tyres. I had a blast without blasting the neighbours!

Riding a quiet electric bike also allows you to enjoy your surrounds a little more and relax, as well as being more observant to traffic noise that could be a safety hazard.

Or you can use your helmet intercom to enjoy some classic rock and roll while riding without the angry noise of an engine and exhaust pipe to drown out the music.

Happy Days indeed!

Key facts

  • Price: $A11,365
  • Warranty: 2 years/10,000 km.
  • Motor:  Mid-drive permanent magnet three-phase brushless.
  • Power: 9.6kW.
  • Top Speed: 100km/h (claimed), 115km/h (tested).
  • City range: 100km (claimed).
  • Gearbox: automatic, belt drive. 
  • Weight: 101kg.
  • Suspension front/rear: Adjustable hydraulic telescopic fork; adjustable mono shock with remote reservoir.
  • Brakes front/rear: hydraulic 220mm disc brakes, adjustable levers, regenerative braking.
  • Dimensions: 1930mm (L); 810mm (W); 1140mm (H); 1340mm (WB); 860mm (S).

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Subscribe to an electric motorcycle

Riders can now subscribe through Blinker.com.au to hire the fun, dual-sport Grom-sized Fonzarelli NKD, the first Australian-made production electric motorcycle.

The Special Edition is capable of up to 120km range and 100km/h top speed and is now available through Blinker in Brisbane and Sydney for $120 a week.

The electric mini bike and a range of electric cars are being offered for subscription for the first time in Australia.

Blinker boss Michael Higgins says Aussie motorists will be able to experience electric vehicles without the added costs of buying one.

Subscription costs cover registration, insurance and maintenance, which is low for electric vehicles anyway. 

Subscribe online

Fonzarelli NKD electric mini motorcycleFonzarelli NKD

Customers can subscribe either online, or by visiting a Blinker partner dealership. 

Michael says the interest in electric vehicles has increased substantially in the past year and would continue to rise as “more people move towards a sustainable lifestyle”.

He says the adoption of electric vehicles “removes the need for fossil fuels, using batteries for power, ultimately reducing the impact of greenhouse gases and pollution on the environment”.

However, there are still issues with coal-fired power generation and the disposal of batteries. 

Fonzarelli electrics

Fonzarelli X1 electric scooterFonzarelli X1 electric scooter

If you are interested in buying a Fonzarelli NKD the Entry model costs $A9990 and has 60km of range and a top speed of 80km/h, while the Special Edition costs $14,990 and reaches 100km/h in five seconds.

The Redfern-based company makes the Fonzarelli in Adelaide and has also produced three electric scooters ranging in price from $5490 to $9890.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Fonzarelli NKD is first Aussie mini electric

Fonzarelli has produced the first Australian-made production electric motorcycle, the fun, dual-sport Grom-sized NKD capable of up to 120km range and 100km/h top speed.

Founder Michelle Nazzari says their NKD mini-bike is now available through Fonzarelli retailers and online, starting at $A9990. She says they will be “ready for summer”.

The Redfern-based company has already produced three electric scooters ranging in price from $5490 to $9890.

Fonzarelli X1 electric scooter
Fonzarelli X1 electric scooter

Now their NKD will beat the Savic Cafe Racer to the market as the first Australian electric motorcycle, albeit a mini version.

Dennis Savic Orders accepted for Aussie electric motorcycle
Savic electric motorcycle

Powered up

The NKD is powered by a mid-drive brushless motor producing 9.6kW of power and 56Nm of torque, reaching 100km/h in five seconds.

You can also buy optional fat knobby tyres so it can do some off-road work.

The Panasonic Lithium-Ion 3.5kWh inbuilt battery can be charged via the onboard AC mains charger from flat to 100% in about five hours.

It’s a type 1 Japanese charger as used in the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars.

Michelle says the challenge facing two-wheel electric vehicles is the lack of dedicated charging stations.

So Fonzarelli is collaborating with design researcher Simon Modra of the University of South Australia, to create a compact two-wheel optional charger.

Michelle says the optional portable charger could be “rolled out in cafes, hotels and other public spaces”.Fonzarelli NKD is first Aussie mini electric

“You can charge up another 20km of range in the time it takes you to have a cup of coffee,” she says.

The optional single-phase 10amp charger costs $1200.

Custom designFonzarelli NKD electric mini motorcycle

Owners can option up the NKD with a hand-stitched honeycomb saddle in Lambo-style Alcantara suede, a USB port for charging devices on the go, integrated LED headlamp, tail-lamp and bar-end turn signals, LCD dash screen, and dual sport off-road knobby Pirelli tyres.

Fonzarelli design director Wenley Andrews has been working on the design for 10 months.

“I’ve built and designed all manner of bikes in my time,” Wenley says.

“I wanted it to be versatile where you could take it off-road into sand dunes and hills – and compact enough to put in the back of my Jeep.” 

Michelle had an unlikely education as a motorcycle manager studying Mid-East politics and Arabic at Sydney Uni.

She then spent some time working in her father’s bus company helping to make Australia’s first hybrid and electric buses.

“I developed a real passion for developing electric motorcycle powertrains as I was already a rider,” she says.

Fonzarelli have so far sold 800 electric scooters in Australia and New Zealand and Michelle hopes to branch into Europe and UK with the NKD and X1 scooter.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com