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.
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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.
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.
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.)
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.