Basics of Choosing an Electric Scooter

This guide provides a summary of all the things you need to consider when choosing an electric scooter. Electric scooters can be assessed by considering five key areas: 

1. PERFORMANCE (Speed, Range, Power, Max Passenger Weight)

2. RIDE QUALITY (Wheel Size, Suspension, Tyres)

3. PORTABILITY (Weight, Size when Folded)

4. BATTERY (Capacity, Charge Time, Range/hr of Charge)

5. FEATURES (Display, Bluetooth, Lights, Breaks, Additional Features)

Take five minutes to understand these and you will be be fully equipped to look at any scooter and decide if it is likely to meet your needs.

1. PERFORMANCE (Speed, Range, Power, Max Load)

Speed: A common top speed for most basic electric scooters is about 15 mph, although there are many which go much faster. For perspective, 15 mph is equivalent to approximately 5x walking speed or the speed of a fit adult sprinting their fastest. It is common for scooter top speed to drop slightly as the battery runs down. This becomes noticeable at about 50% battery levels (although this will vary between scooters). 

Range:  Range is the distance a scooter can travel before its battery runs out. As a general rule expect real world range to be 25-30% lower than the range published by the manufacturer. This is true on most scooters because published figures are calculated under ideal conditions. The main factors that reduce range in real world conditions include rider weight, driving speed, hills and low outside temperatures. Scooters with longer range tend to be heavier, due to requirement for larger battery.

Power: This refers to how powerful the motor is. This is particularly important for heavier riders (>90kg) and for climbing hills. Motors have two ratings; a “standard rating” (lower figure) and  a “maximum power output” (higher figure). Most entry level scooters have a rating between 250-350W. Heavier users or those who will regularly need to climb hills should consider > 350W.  The motor may be on the front wheel (most common), back wheel or both (known as dual motor).  

Max Load: This refers to the maximum weight of passengers.  100kg is the max load for most scooters, but many scooters do allow greater max load.  

2. RIDE QUALITY (Wheel Size, Suspension, Tyres)

Wheel Size: Wheel size has a significant impact on the smoothness of ride. This is extremely important for electric scooters because their wheels are so much smaller than bikes. Larger wheels deliver a smoother, safer ride. They are much more forgiving on uneven surfaces and can handle small holes in the road more safely.

Suspension: Suspension on electric scooters is valuable because of the bumpier ride caused by small wheels. Scooters have suspension on the front, rear or no suspension at all. Suspension can vary in quality and impact. The very smoothest riding scooters will have a combination of large pneumatic tyres with suspension. Suspension on scooters with solid tyres is a compromise, and solid tyres with no suspension is guaranteed to give a hard ride.

Tyres: Type of tyres have a huge impact on ride. Pneumatic (air filled) tyres deliver a much smoother ride compare to solid rubber tyres, but can be susceptible to punctures. Solid tyres will not puncture but deliver a bumpier ride and usually reduce grip. Some solid tyres are better than others – and new designs are being developed all the time  – but there are currently no solid tyres that perform as well as pneumatic.

3. PORTABILITY (Weight, Folded Size)

Weight: Scooter weight is important for circumstances where scooters need to be carried, such as onto trains, up stairs and so on. As a rough guide; if you expect to be carrying the scooter more than 100m you should consider scooters that weigh less than 10kg. For occasional lifting of over short distances 10 – 15 kg is an acceptable weight for most. Scooters weighing over 15 kg are only suitable for brief lifting (eg to put in a car), but not regular carrying. 

Folded Size: Almost all electric kick scooters will easily fold enabling them to be carried and / or stored more easily. This is particularly important in circumstances where the scooter may need to stored somewhere where there is limited space (boot of a car, on a train, under your desk, in a cupboard). Different designs means the ease of folding and size after folding varies. For commuters using a train or storing their scooter in the office this can be a particularly important consideration.

4. BATTERY (Capacity, Charge Time, Range/hr Charge)

Capacity: The battery is usually the most expensive part of an electric scooter and the higher the capacity the more expensive. Higher capacity batteries enable either greater range or power for longer periods of time. One of the units for capacity (Wh) “Watt hours”. This is equivalent to the power (in Watts) that the battery can deliver for one hour.

Charge Time: This is the time required to fully charge battery from empty. Typically larger capacity, longer range scooters will take longer to charge. However, continued innovations in battery and energy management technology means some high capacity batteries may be able to charge more rapidly than batteries with lower capacity. The importance of charge times will vary depending upon how you intend to use the scooter

Range / Hr Charging: This is a measure of how far the scooter can go after each hour of charging (calculated by dividing range by charge time). It a THATscooter metric which indicates the rate at which the scooter charges, and the the useful output that can be delivered per hour of charging.

5. FEATURES (Display, Bluetooth, Lights, Brakes, Other)

Display: Many scooters have basic in-built displays. These typically show speed, distance travelled and battery life and riding mode. Almost all scooters, even without displays, tend to have visible indicators for their battery life, often infthe form of LED lights. 

Bluetooth: It is common to be able to connect some electric scooter to your phone via bluetooth. This enables an array of features which vary between products. One feature including the ability to use the phone as a display on the scooter. This feature is generally considered a “nice to have” extra but most riders will not use it extensively. This may change in future when smart features become increasingly common. 

Lights: It is common for electric scooters to have lights built in or easily attachable. Rear lights are always low down on the rear fender of the scooter making them less visible than on a bike. For greatest safety and visibility there are options lighting to be worn on the head or body.

Brakes: Scooter brakes fall into three categories:

  1. Mechanical: Disc or Drum 
  2. Electronic: These utilise the the motor to slow the scooter, often recovering some power to return charge to the battery. Sometimes these are referred to as KERS brakes (Kinetic Energy Return System)
  3. Manual: Use of the foot on the rear fender to slow the scooter down.

Scooters may have a combination of one or several of these types of brakes. Overall, mechanical brakes are the most effective but the actual characteristics of brakes will vary for each scooter. In our experience, riders adjusted to the braking characteristics. Brakes are to some extent a matter of personal preference with some preferring highly responsive brakes, others prefer less sensitive brakes.

Additional Features: There are additional features which are less common, or represent unique characteristics of some models.  Some examples include:

  • Cruise control
  • USB charging ports
  • Anti-theft tracking devices
  • Unique folding systems
  • Design aesthetics