7 Reasons Electric Scooters Struggle In Snow

Categorized as Electric Scooters

Last updated: December 12th, 2022

When the snow starts falling, most electric scooter owners start thinking about a back-up plan. But is that really necessary, or can you still get around on two wheels?

In short: don’t push your luck.

Electric scooters are not good in snow. The main issues are poor traction, reduced battery life, and (sometimes) inadequate waterproofing. Avoid snow if possible, and be extremely careful on frosty mornings. If you must ride, then look for a water resistance rating of IPX5 or higher, ride much slower than usual, and gently rinse away any sand or salt.

1. Traction is minimal

Lack of grip is the most obvious and potentially dangerous issue. But snowy conditions aren’t all the same, and traction can vary from limited to literally nonexistent.

The first inch or two of fresh, powdery snow may be navigable at low speed. There’s usually a window to finish your trip cautiously when snow first starts to fall.

But compact snow—the kind that has been driven over, and perhaps thawed and frozen overnight—is nearly as slippery as ice. Sanding and salting may salvage enough traction to get by, but I recommend a test ride around the block before committing to a full commute or other trip.

Icy conditions are, of course, the most hazardous. Frost isn’t all that much better, the slippery patches may catch you off-guard—particularly on bridges and overpasses, where cool air underneath lowers surface temperatures even further. Avoid icy days unless you’re able to install studded tires on your scooter, and proceed extremely cautiously before venturing out in the frost.

If you simply have to ride in snow, then treat falling as a matter of when, not if. Beyond the obvious protective gear, that means avoiding speeds and surroundings where falling would be a significant danger.

Whatever the conditions, remember that cold temperatures also harden rubber, which limits your tires’ ability to grip any bare asphalt. This only makes a modest difference by itself, but it’s one more reason to take particular care.

2. Battery life is sharply reduced

When the temperature dips, so does an electric scooter’s range. Cold weather slows down the chemical reactions inside lithium-ion batteries, so they transfer current less efficiently and therefore cover less distance on a single charge.

Exact range loss depends on the temperature. As a rule of thumb, sub-freezing weather may cut your regular range in half. At some point, the battery will not transfer enough energy to power the scooter at all. (That point is hard to predict, given the competing effects of wind chill and the battery’s own heat generation.)

Between this phenomenon and inevitable battery degradation, it’s always prudent to buy more range than you think you need. Practically speaking, cold weather rules out some of the most compact scooter models, which often get only single-digit range on a good day.

Note: never charge an e-scooter battery below freezing, or you may cause permanent damage and even a safety hazard. Wait for it to warm back up to room temperature first.

3. Other vehicles are less predictable

In some places that only see snow a few times a year, sidewalks and bike lanes are seldom if ever plowed. This means your only option will be the roadway, where vehicles (whose drivers are often inexperienced with snow) are also prone to slipping around.

Your own traction might be adequate, but consider whether other vehicles will drive predictably enough to drive near. What’s more, your heightened risk of crashing means nearby vehicles pose an even greater danger.

4. Water resistance isn’t always enough

Keep in mind that snow, unlike rain, tends to accumulate around the wheels, fenders, and underside of the deck. This persistent water exposure may allow moisture to seep in through tiny gaps over the course of several minutes or hours.

Nearly all electric scooters are water-resistant to some extent, but few are anything close to waterproof. You’ll want an IPX5 rating at minimum, although I’d lead toward IPX6 for regular use in snow (or rain).

Even then, you’ll want to brush residual snow out of every nook and cranny scooter before storing your scooter.

5. Sand & salt shorten e-scooter lifespan

Sand and salt preserve traction but trash vehicles. Electric scooters are less susceptible than some—thanks to mostly plastic and aluminum construction—but winter grime makes for a big cleaning job at best, and corrosion or electrical damage at worst.

Assuming your scooter is highly water-resistant in the first place, consider quickly rinsing it off before putting it away for the day. Be careful if you choose to wipe it down, since the grit may turn your cloth or towel into sandpaper.

Brake rotors are generally steel, but the heat generated by braking usually inhibits rust. Still, there’s no harm in a quick wipe-down once they’ve cooled enough to touch.

6. Tire pressure is tricky

If you have pneumatic tires, it’s tempting to reduce their pressure to enhance traction. Softer tires can more easily deform to grip the ground, which theoretically enhances what little traction there is.

The problem is that colder weather reduces air pressure, so what began as a 5% drop indoors may be a 15% or 25% drop after some time outdoors. Not only does that increase your risk of a flat, but it lowers your already reduced range, as discussed earlier.

What is the ideal pressure, then? It depends on how cold we’re talking—and on how fast you’re riding, since great speed generates more heat. In my limited, mild winter experience, I found that normal pressure at room temperature drops by a few psi outdoors in the 30s.

Below freezing, I would expect a large decrease, especially given that high-speed riding is basically out of the question. Consider carrying a tire pressure gauge and doing a few mid-route checks to figure out what’s really happening.

(If you’re thinking this is a reason to purchase solid tires instead, not so fast. Yes, they take pressure variation—and flats—off the table, but it’s at the cost of worse traction in all conditions.)

7. It feels colder than you’d think

Riding an electric scooter requires almost no exertion. That’s all well and good when you’re climbing hills on a hot summer day, but it can render winter rides unbearably chilly. If your frame of reference is cycling or even walking in sub-freezing weather, it’s easy to underestimate how cold a scooter journey can feel.

To prevent numb feet or frigid fingers, I recommend a pair of glove liners in addition to insulated winter gloves. Depending on the temperature, I’d also add a high-necked fleece vest, balaclava, and so forth to insulate my core and neck.

Conclusion: Electric scooters in the snow

Electric scooters are sometimes rideable in freshly fallen snow, but they’re bad snow vehicles overall.

Snow and ice create high odds of crashing, gritty roads cause wear and tear, the cold reduced range, unpredictable nearby cause raise collision risk, and wind chill is a nasty surprise.

They’re not impossible to ride in the snow, but as we all know, “can” doesn’t mean “should.”

By Erik Bassett

Erik Bassett is the founder and editor of Two Wheels Better. He draws on three decades of cycling and scooter experience to help you find the right ride, incorporate it into daily life, and safely enjoy the journey.