The Electric Scooter Newbie’s FAQ (What I Wish I’d Known!)

Shopping for my first electric scooter was completely overwhelming.

As a lifelong cyclist, I had a sense of how basic factors like brakes and tires would affect the ride. But beyond that, it was new and high-tech territory.

In the process of researching and eventually riding, I learned a heap of things that I wish I’d known much sooner. Some questions felt too dumb to ask. Others simply took a lot of digging, as well as some hindsight!

This articles shares them all, in hopes that you’ll have an easier time understanding what to expect with these awesomely practical vehicles.

Are electric scooters dangerous?

Electric scooters are more dangerous than other two-wheel transportation, like bicycles. They have smaller wheels that struggle with obstacles, some have poor brakes, and the motor makes it easier to reach unsafe speeds. Still, many riders log thousands of injury-free miles by respecting these limitations and using extra prudence.

However, we can’t generalize too much from safety research. It mostly uses rental-fleet data. Rentals are ridden in different ways (and by different people) than personal electric scooters.

I’ve covered the topic of scooter safety in more detail, and also provided some critical tips in this riding safety guide.

In brief, a lot of the danger comes down to wheel size. If you’re accustomed to how easily bicycles roll over bumps and dips, then you’ll be in for a nasty surprise if you try the same terrain on a scooter.

But if you know and respect the limits of those smaller wheels, then you’ll set yourself up for a safe and confidence-inspiring ride.

There’s also the question of general safety around traffic. Most of us live in places without adequate bike infrastructure, which is also a problem for scooter riders. To cope, try some of these urban cycling safety practices, which apply to all two-wheeled vehicles.

Are electric scooters easy to ride?

Electric scooters are easy for most adults and older children to start riding. The upright riding position feels natural, and the ability to put a foot down is reassuring. However, e-scooters they handle less predictably and stop less quickly than other vehicles, so new riders may struggle to ride them safely as speed increases.

First-time riders suffer a disproportionately large share of electric scooter injuries. That suggests that skill and familiarity are critical, but new riders tend to overestimate them.

To that end, it is essential to get comfortable with how e-scooters brake and handle before you ride above jogging speed.

New riders should always start in the lowest-power mode. It’s still not a substitute for prudence and self-control, but it does reduce the temptation to hit speeds you’re just not ready for.

In full-power mode, even some entry-level scooters can exceed 15 mph at the push of a button. It may not sound dangerously fast, but just because you can reach that speed doesn’t mean you’re ready to!

Meanwhile, check out this riding safety guide for some simple but practical tips.

Why are electric scooters so expensive?

Expensive batteries and complex, proprietary motors are the main reasons electric scooters cost so much. Growing competition and falling lithium ion battery costs could reduce scooter prices. However, manufacturers might instead keep prices steady but offer more value, like larger batteries or better components.

Lithium ion batteries prices fell about 90% from 2010 to 2020 (source), which is the only reason e-scooters are even viable for mass sales. Previously, lead acid batteries were the only cost-effective choice, but they’re too heavy and inefficient for portable vehicles like e-scooters.

However, lower battery prices (relative to capacity) and improvements to braking and suspension may just yield better value at the same prices, rather than overall lower prices. In other words, an entry-level electric scooter like these might always cost $300 and up, but that prices (adjusted for inflation) would get you progressively more for your money.

Do electric scooters have suspension?

Most electric scooters have front suspension. Rear suspension is also common, but a bit less so. Suspension provides a smoother ride and increased traction, but it’s not necessary, especially if you seldom ride above ~15 mph.

The goal of suspension is twofold.

Firstly, it absorbs impact that the rider would otherwise feel. It won’t totally eliminate bumps, of course, but it takes the edge off quite nicely.

Secondly, it improves traction by keeping the tires more firmly in contact with the ground. A bump that might jolt you upward or through you off course gets (mostly) absorbed instead.

A typical suspension fork on an electric scooter

However, suspensions is no replacement for prudent riding and modest speeds. Yes, it’s fun to soar over rough ground on an e-scooter with long-travel, hydraulically dampened suspension…but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea!

Note that pneumatic (air-filled) tires are also important for traction and smoothness. I’ve covered that topic here in much more detail. In brief, I’ve consistently experienced a smoother rider with air tires and no suspension than with solid tires plus suspension. Choose the former if you can’t have both.

Bottom line: should I get a scooter with suspension? It’s not necessary, but it’s nice to have. That’s especially true if you ride more than about 15 mph. Assuming you have the budget for a scooter with good tires, brakes, and range, then suspension is a good addition. But all those other things are more important for safety and enjoyment, so budget accordingly.

What is the range of an electric scooter?

Electric scooter ranges vary from about 7.5 miles to 100, according to manufacturer claims. Real-world results are usually 40%-80% of claimed ranges. Terrain, weight, speed, and acceleration are major factors. Furthermore, some manufacturers test under more realistic conditions than others.

There’s an option with enough range to satisfy any practical need. The catch is that big range means a big battery, which in turn means high cost and weight.

So, while it’s tempting to go all-on out battery capacity, try to avoid paying for range you don’t really need.

That said, some extra range will reduce the frequency of charging.

Lithium ion batteries—the kind in all modern e-scooters—slowly degrade after a few hundred charge cycles. More range means more trips per charge, and therefore a longer life. (Assuming you don’t ride any more than you would have with a smaller battery.)

What electric scooter has the longest range? The VSETT 11+ (around $3,000) has a claimed range of up to 100 miles, which is the longest currently available. However, real-world data are hard to find.

Among more affordable models, the EMOVE Cruiser ($1,399) claims 62 miles. Most real-world tests get 50+ miles, so the manufacturer’s figure is refreshingly realistic.

The cheapest long-range scooter is probably the Ninebot Max (around $800, but check for promos). Segway/Ninebot claims a hair over 40 miles of range, and it’s reasonable to expect 30+ in real life.

How far can you commute on an electric scooter? It’s best to commute no more than 30%-40% of your scooter’s real-world range. If you can charge it at work, then 70%-80% is fine. It’s important to leave a buffer since battery capacity drops with age and (temporarily) in cold weather. It’s also nice to have capacity for errands or other unplanned stops.

If you already own a scooter that you want to commute on, then test its range on your actual route on a weekend. If that test revealed 20 miles, then I’d be willing to commute up to 6-8 miles if I couldn’t charge at work. And if I could charge there, then I’d be comfortable up to 14-16 miles.

If you’re still shopping for a ride, then reverse the process. Divide your commute difference by 30% (or by 70% if you’ll charge at work), and narrow your search to models with at least that much range. You obviously can’t test firsthand yet, so track down all the real-world tests you can find online. (I recommend starting with YouTube, since it’s easier to avoid the fake reviews that litter the internet.)

Are electric scooters waterproof?

Nearly all electric scooters are water-resistant for brief splashes (an IPX4 rating). Many can withstand light rain or occasional puddles (IPX5). Very few are rated for heavy rain or deep puddles (IPX6 or higher). Some don’t have an official IP rating, so ask the manufacturer if in doubt.

The main concern is electrical damage. The battery and motors are vulnerable since they’re near road spray. Some throttles (especially finger-trigger designs) are also susceptible to rainfall.

(Of course, wet weather also means mud and grime galore. That’s not going to break your scooter, but it can cause premature wear if you don’t clean it thoroughly.)

The International Protection (IP) rating is the standard measure of water resistance for electric scooters. You can find an overview here, but the last digit is the most important one. As I alluded to above, look for at least a 5 (as in IPX5) or ideally a 6 if you anticipate rainy rides.

Remember that surviving a rainy ride does not mean the scooter is actually waterproof. It may take a while for moisture to build up internally before it causes damage.

In other words, your officially non-water-resistant scooter might work fine in the rain at first, but that doesn’t mean you’ve found a loophole or the manufacturer was just playing it safe. Water damage isn’t always immediate, so ignore IP ratings at your own risk.

OK, so what’s the best electric scooter for rain? As of writing, the Boosted Rev has the highest water resistance rating (IPX7) of anything on the market. However, the EMOVE Cruiser claims to be the “highest water resistant rated electric scooter in the world” (source) despite its slightly lower IPX6 rating. The Ninebot Max (IPX5) is less water-resistant on paper, but still popular in wet climates. (It’s arguably the best value of the three, and perhaps the best value period. I’d highly recommend it to almost anyone. Check out my hands-on review if you’re curious why.)

By all accounts I could fine, these three do remarkably well in the wet. And, anecdotally, they’re all popular among fellow e-scooter riders in my rainy Pacific Northwest home.

There are several others worth considering, too, but the above are (relatively) time-tested. They’re not too hard to find in most of the world, either.

(At this point, I should mention that riding in rain may void your warranty. Naturally, this varies between brands and models. Read the terms and conditions carefully before deciding whether to venture out.)

However, rain still brings problems that waterproofing can’t solve.

Firstly, traction is obviously limited. This calls for gentler cornering and braking. Take special care around road paint and metal surfaces, too, as these can be extremely slick.

By the way, avoid riding solid tires on wet ground. They have far less traction than pneumatic (air-filled) tires even in good conditions. And if you can’t avoid it, then travel much slower than usual. Half or two-thirds of your typical speed is a good, conservative rule of thumb for solid tires on wet pavement.

Traction is potentially an issue with the scooter’s deck, too. If there’s a lot of exposed metal or plastic, then cover those areas with skateboard grip tape.

Secondly, it’s hard to distinguish puddles from potholes. Many e-scooter, bicycle, and motorcycle riders have crashed because they rode into what they believed was an innocuous puddle…only to be proven wrong.

Can you use an electric scooter as a kick scooter?

It’s possible to kick an electric scooter. For safety, many models require you to kick up to 2-3 mph before the motor engages. It’s also helpful to kick in addition to the throttle on very steep hills. However, extended kicking is not ideal, since the high decks and wide tires make it extremely inefficient.

Electric scooter decks are often 6″-8″ above the ground. That’s partly to contain the battery (on some models) and partly for safety at speed. It could prove disastrous to scrape or high-center on obstacles you didn’t anticipate.

Unfortunately, such a high deck requires a deep knee bend to reach your kicking foot to the ground. That gets extremely fatiguing in no time. Consequently, purpose-built kick scooter have far lower decks.

Likewise, electric scooters have wide tires to increase traction and absorb small impacts. However, that increases rolling resistance. It’s no problem when the motor is on, but hard work when it’s off.

Here are two good options if you want to take human-powered scooter trips on a regular basis.

The first and most obvious is simply to buy a kick scooter. It’s usually more enjoyable to have two purpose-built devices than to use a single one beyond its intended purpose.

For instance, you could choose an inexpensive adult Razor scooter (here’s a rundown of the models) for shorter and the electric scooter for longer ones.

The second option is to choose something like the Swifty Electric (see the line here).

I’ve owned and reviewed the non-electric version, and can attest that it’s a smooth and efficient kick scooter to ride. And with a hub motor—much like an electric bike uses—it’s also a formidable long-distance commuter. Unfortunately, availability is extremely limited outside the UK as of writing.

Can you push an electric scooter? Yes, there’s no harm in pushing an electric scooter. If it has electric brakes (like most), then the scooter needs to be on before you’ll have full braking power. That helps when you’re walking it down a steep hill and need to control its momentum.

What is the difference between an electric scooter and an electric kick scooter? They are usually the same thing. The term “electric scooter” occasionally applies to moped- or Vespa-style scooters, so “electric kick scooter” is less ambiguous. But, again, both terms usually refer to the small-wheeled, stand-up variety.

Why is my electric scooter going slow?

It’s frustrating when you could swear your electric scooter’s slower than before, yet nothing is visibly wrong.

Electric scooters most often go slow because of a low battery or an accidental switch into eco/beginner mode. However, flat tires, mechanical brake/hub issues, or even firmware bugs can also reduce your speed.

To start your investigation, here are the most common culprits.

Low battery

Unlike their fossil-fuel counterparts, battery-powered motors don’t just operate at full power then sputter to a halt as they run out of juice.

Rather, they’ll gradually slow down as the charge drops. That’s because the motor can only put out full power while full voltage is available. In other words: low charge –> low voltage –> low power –> low acceleration and speed.

The obvious preventative measure is never to set out with a battery below ~20% (or 1 bar on most display).

But the less obvious step is to take proper care of you battery in between rides. You can maximize its life and capacity by avoiding freezing temperatures or direct sunshine, never storing it below 50% for more than a few weeks, and topping it up (to at least 50%) when in extended long-term storage.

The wrong mode

The lowest-powered mode on an electric scooter is usually called something like “eco,” “beginner,” or simply “1.”

By any name, it typically limits you to around 5-10 mph at full throttle, depending on the model. It will also accelerate slowly up to that max, and electronic braking may also be weaker.

But in the course of normal riding, it’s easy to switch into eco mode by accident. For instance, I’ve done that when going for the lights, and even when trying to push the scooter by the center of the handlebars.

Likewise, someone may borrow your scooter, select a different mode, and neglect to change it back.

This is easy to do unwittingly, but equally easy to fix. Just remember to check!

Flat tires

Flat tires dramatically increase resistance, which could have a noticeable effect on speed.

All pneumatic tires lose a little pressure each day. If you go for weeks or month without topping it off, it can drop enough to slow you down (and, more importantly, create dangerous handling).

It’s critical to double-check tire pressure before getting on, and all the more so if you only ride occasionally.

Brake or wheel drag

When you lift each wheel off the ground, does it spin freely? If not, then you might have isolated the issue.

Disc brakes need occasional adjustment to keep the pads the right distance from the rotor. Hydraulic discs are basically self-adjusting. Mechanical discs—which most e-scooter users—are not.

Over time, the brake cable stretches and the internal caliper springs may soften. That can lead to unbalanced tension, causing (at least) one pad to drag on the rotor. It’s not likely to happen overnight, but it may be an issue if your scooter was stored for a long time.

This isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but anyone can learn to do it. Here’s a tutorial to get you started:

It’s also possible that bearings, bushing, or other small parts inside the hub/wheel have broken down. Total and sudden failure is very rare, but would probably require a new wheel from the manufacturer.

Firmware updates

Electric scooter firmware is super-low-level software that primarily tells the motor how to interact with the battery, throttle, brakes, and so forth.

Manufacturers periodically update it to improve performance, fix issues, or even address legal concerns like country-specific speed limits. If the scooter has an app, then it’ll most likely prompt you to download the firmware update and send it to the scooter via Bluetooth.

Like all software, firmware updates can introduce bugs or unintended consequences. And once in a while, those may lead to severe speed limitations or misleading battery statuses.

If a firmware update really is to blame for sudden slowness, then many others will have noticed it around the same time. You’re likeliest to find confirmation (and perhaps roll-back instructions) in places like Reddit’s electric scooter community.

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