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Life in a Super Soco: Review of the TC-1900 (Plus, the Future of the Brand)

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In June 2022, just before the second round of Colombia’s national elections, former President Ivan Duque announced that the de-facto subsidy for gasoline* would be gradually dropped. The decision, thankfully, was approved by the new administration of President Gustavo Petro, and the cost of gasoline started to increase monthly. The process will continue until parity is reached with international oil prices. Once it was clear that the decision was final, I told my partner it was time for us to buy an electric motorcycle. To be clear, we didn’t have a gasoline-powered motorcycle (or any kind of vehicle for that matter), but I feared that rising gasoline prices would push e-bike prices up.

This wasn’t our first rodeo regarding e-powered two-wheelers. Back when she owned an ICE car, we had purchased a lead-acid powered 800W e-moped ($500 worth) to move around in rush hour or when there were transit restrictions. But when she sold the car, it became clear the moped was not powerful enough nor reliable enough as a main vehicle, so we sold it and started thinking about a larger, more capable e-motorcycle … until the government’s announcement made us jump the gun.

The choice? A two-year-old, 5000-km Super Soco TC-1900.

(And, if you wish to know, an electric car was not even considered because of their high cost and the hellish traffic in Bogota).

Super Soco TC-1900: The Basics

In case you haven’t heard about it, the Super Soco brand is owned by Australia’s Vmoto e-motorcycle company. The 83-kg TC-1900 is a retro-style e-bike (or e-moped, according to Colombia’s government regulations) that includes:

  • A removable 1.8-kWh lithium-ion Panasonic battery that provides 40 to 80 km of range (and a slot for a second one, should the owner wish for it).
  • A 1.9-kW in-wheel motor, peaking at 2.7 kW, capable of reaching some 80 km/h (50 mph) with one passenger.
  • An analog speedometer and digital screen.

And … that’s pretty much it. But for $6,000,000 COP ($1,200 at the exchange rate back then), I find it unreasonable to ask for more. The bike is totally worth its cost, and then a bit more.

Driving Experience

The TC-1900 has three driving options creatively called Mode 1, 2, and 3. They basically limit power and speed to 50, 65, and 80 km/h respectively. The longer range, the lower the power. A quick estimate can be 80 km for Mode 1, 60 km for Mode 2, and 40 km for Mode 3. A quirk about this vehicle is that power will start diminishing once you get to 70% charge or so: one can feel in the acceleration and the top speed whether the battery is nearly full or not.

As all EVs, this one has instant acceleration, to the point where one must be careful if carrying a passenger: if so, it is advisable to start in Mode 1. Small and light, the TC-1900 is ideal for Bogota’s traffic conditions, making it easy and practical to move around in the heavy jams that abound all over the city. The seat is comfortable, but clearly designed for an urban setting, not for long(ish) trips.

Its 1.9-kW motor is more than powerful enough for steep inclinations, even with two passengers, and the bike does not stall when it needs to start on a hill. However, it’s worth pointing out that the vehicle’s carrying capacity is only 150 kg, so you may not be able to carry two passengers (Colombians, luckily, are usually on the smaller side).

On the Battery

One of the main reasons people reject e-bikes here in Colombia has to do with the duration of the batteries. And even though it’s the same old argument used against electric cars, this time, they do have a point.

I — supposedly — know how to care for batteries, and even then, I had three lead-acid batteries in a row fail me in my previous e-moped (all, thankfully, under warranty). Apparently, there was a short circuit that damaged them. Lithium-ion batteries are supposed to be sturdier, but most e-bikes lack any sort of thermal management system — don’t listen to the manufacturer’s recommendations (I’ve seen local manuals recommending 100% charges as regularly as possible and full discharges before charging). Also, the minuscule batteries are unlikely to have that much of a buffer.

As a result, one has truly no idea how long a battery will last.

Our TC-1900 was registered in January 2021, so we’re approaching 3 years (and 7000 km) of use. We haven’t seen any meaningful degradation, but then again, it’s hard to measure it when you rarely make regular trips at constant speeds. My expectation is for the battery to last at least 5 years, and ideally 8, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The good news is: battery prices are falling much more rapidly than we expected. Back when this e-bike arrived in Colombia, in 2018 or so, a battery replacement was expected to cost $4,500,000 COP ($1,150), or half the price of the bike. In 2022, I checked again and it was already at $3,000,000 COP ($765). Back in March, when we last did maintenance, it was already at $2,500,000 COP ($636). And last week, I called and had it quoted at $1,800,000 COP ($464), meaning a 60% price decrease over 5 years. At this price, we’ve already decided to purchase our second battery, so that our urban e-bike becomes a suburban e-bike capable of making short trips to the surrounding towns.

I know some of you probably wish to know the cost of charging the battery, but that has proven hard to calculate, as we don’t know charging efficiency. Regardless, our monthly bill hasn’t noticeably increased with use, so we calculate some $6 a month, at most.

Issues with the TC-1900

No vehicle is perfect, and cheap vehicles like this one usually have some quirks. However, I only really have three complaints about my TC-1900:

  1. First, the lack of an anti-lock braking system (ABS) makes this vehicle more dangerous than it should be.
  2. Second, the back of the TC-1900 is not sturdy enough to add a small trunk or top box. Anything one wants to carry, one must take on their own back.
  3. And third … the parking button. It’s been reported by Super Soco owners all around the world that the parking button starts failing at some point, activating parking mode at random times and thus losing all power to the accelerator. When we purchased the bike, this was a minor nuisance that was solved honking, but over the months, it became more and more problematic, leaving us stranded in the middle of the road for up to 3 minutes. We ended up changing the entire part during the yearly maintenance, at a cost of some $30, and now, six months later, it’s once again occasionally starting to fail. We may end up having to disconnect the button entirely from the circuit.

Vmoto’s Mistake & the Future of Super Soco

The Super Soco TC-1900 is a good looking, affordable, and reliable e-bike that can give its gasoline counterparts a run for their money.

It also seems it will be phased out soon.

Vmoto ceased production on the affordable TS-1200 and it seems will pull the plug on the TC-1900, instead replacing the model with the gorgeous, larger, and more powerful TS Street Hunter and TC Wanderer. However, in doing so, it destroyed the niche where it had succeeded (at least in the Colombian market): affordable yet striking and well designed electric bikes.

The TS Street Hunter nearly triples the cost of the old TS-1200, and the TC Wanderer nearly doubles that of the TC-1900. At $16,000,000 COP ($4,000), they no longer compete with affordable 125cc and 150cc urban gasoline bikes, instead going head-on against much more powerful and better designed 200cc to 350cc bikes, as well as more capable Chinese sport e-bikes.

This is a fight they’re bound to lose.

Super Soco’s TS and TC lineup went from selling a couple hundred units a year in 2021 to only 40 units so far in 2023… but 35 of them are the remaining TC-1900, so the real sales number is only 5! For now, they remain as a viable brand thanks to their scooters, a lineup which is still affordable(ish).

The TC-1900 has disappeared from both the Colombian webpage and Vmoto’s official site, so it may not be sold for much longer. Once that happens, we may see a 95% or so market share reduction for Vmoto in this segment.

Looks were one of the main reasons we chose the TC-1900, and it’s a shame this won’t be an option for those choosing an e-bike in the future. If you ask me, replacing the TS-1200 and the TC-1900 for more expensive alternatives makes no sense in developing markets, and will hurt Vmoto’s sales numbers for the foreseeable future unless they increase power and range and make their motorcycles compatible with Type 2 fast charging (so that they can truly compete against those 200cc to 350cc gasoline motorcycles).

Regardless, we’re happy to have purchased one while they existed, and we feel the TC-1900 has clearly offered quite the value for its low cost, and then some more. E-bikes are a real alternative for those who either don’t want or can’t afford an electric car but still wish to join in on the transition to cleaner, greener transportation. Oh, and prices for this model have indeed climbed up (20% or so for the used ones), but now I don’t know if it’s because gasoline prices are up or because the model has been discontinued and people are scrambling to buy whatever’s left on the market (or a bit of both).

I would like to read your comments on my assessment of Vmoto’s decision. Am I being too harsh? Or is this, in fact, the end for the brand in most developing markets (at least in this segment)? Could this be offset by better sales in more developed countries?

*It wasn’t originally a subsidy. For over a decade, higher oil prices would cause a revaluation of the Colombian Peso (COP), and lower oil prices would devalue it. In this context, gasoline prices mostly remained constant, and the Stabilization Fund was meant to prevent rapid price drops and/or hikes. But the direct relationship between oil and the COP started to erode back in 2016 and completely disconnected after the pandemic, when massive oil price increases paired with significant COP devaluation. Under this scenario, the fund found itself having a billion-plus deficit that had to be covered by the government, becoming a de-facto subsidy that had to be dismounted.

Images courtesy of Super Soco.

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Passionate for all things Latin American, I’ve been closely following the energy and mobility transitions since they started to become present south of the equator.


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