Last updated: October 9th, 2023
It’s frustrating when you could swear your electric scooter’s slower than before, yet nothing is visibly wrong.
But what might be going on, and more importantly, what can you do about it?
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, this article will take a look at the most common culprits that could apply to any model.
It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, since these are complex vehicles with a lot that could go wrong. But, more often that not, the cause is simpler than you might fear!
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1. 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 displays). That’s often when max speed drops off dramatically.
An equally important 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.
2. 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 also accelerates slowly up to that max, and may even weaken the electronic braking. That’s an important tool to help new riders stay safe.
But in the course of normal riding, it’s easy to switch into eco mode by accident.
For instance, I’ve done that when I meant to turn the lights on/off, and even when trying to push the scooter by the center of the handlebars. Depending on how your controls are laid out, it can be annoyingly common!
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 before delving into deeper troubleshooting.
3. Low tire pressure
As tires get softer, they deform and rebound much more when in contact with the road. Importantly, this can happen even when they’re not fully flat.
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).
Either way, the result is creates massive resistance, which requires more power to overcome. That can limit top-end speed and suck up more battery, leading us back to issue number one.
It’s critical to double-check tire pressure before getting on, and even more critical if you only ride occasionally.
If you suspect a slow leak, then consider measuring 2-3 times over the course of a day. Resist the temptation to measure more often, since simply using the gauge releases a little air. Likewise, riding will heat the tires and increase pressure reading, so let the scooter rest during your experiment.
(I still maintain that pneumatic tires are better than solid ones on electric scooters, at least for the vast majority of us. The ride quality, traction, and safety benefits of air-filled tires are well worth their added maintenance.)
4. 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, bushings, 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.
5. 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.
As with any software, updates to electric scooter firmware can introduce bugs or unintended consequences. And once in a while, those may lead to severe speed limitations or misleading battery statuses.
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.
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.
There’s a ton of third-party firmware available for popular models. Some releases may handle known issues or limitations, but it’s almost certain to void your warranty. As frustrating as it may be, I don’t recommend circumventing the manufacturer.
We’ve covered five of the most common reasons that electric scooters just aren’t as zippy as they used to be.
Simple electronic matters, like battery status or riding mode, are easy to check and address. And flat tires or dragging brakes/wheels are quickly diagnosed, too.
Firmware issues can be detected with the help and corroboration of other riders, but they’re a little more baffling if your model of scooter doesn’t have a huge rider base.
Finally, we haven’t talked much about deeper electromechanical issues like motors, controllers, or wiring. These—especially the controller—may be worth investigating if none of the above helps (or if you suspect damage from water or impact). They’re tough to diagnose visually, though, and the solution is usually replacement.