Useful guide to electric scooters for beginners
This is the ultimate guide to electric scooters. It is a starting point for all information on their history, components, travel, laws, safety, maintenance, and sharing scooters.
Wait, electric scooters aren't toys?
Electric kick scooters, like the Razor kick scooters of the 1990s, have two wheels, a platform called a deck, and a handlebar for steering. They differ from the non-motorised kick scooters of the 1990s in that they have an additional battery, electronics, larger (often air-filled) tyres and an electric motor.
Although most scooters are designed to be ridden standing up, some scooters can be converted into seated electric scooters with optional accessories.
Recently, there has been a huge increase in interest in scooters – mainly because scooter sharing companies like Lime and Bird have brought them to cities overnight.
Scooter sharing has raised public awareness of micro-mobility and driven the growth of the private market. The explosion of the private market has led to hundreds of different models of electric scooters being imported by a large number of different brands.
Although most companies produce electric scooters for adults, some companies – notably Razor – target the market for children and young people.
Adult Electric Scooters
Electric scooters for adults are the most common type of scooter on the market. They differ from children’s electric scooters because they have a larger weight capacity, usually around 220 lbs (100 kg), more powerful motors, a larger battery, larger deck, and a taller shaft. Adult electric scooters usually cost at least $300, while an electric scooter for children can usually be had for under $200.
Some popular brands of adult electric scooters are Boosted, Glion, GoTrax, Xiaomi, Swagtron, Zero, Mankeel and Fluid FreeRide, Kaabo and MiniMotors.
Some notable models are the Xiaomi Mi M365, Dualtron, Wide Wheel, Zero 10X, Boosted Rev and Wolf Warrior 11.
A typical adult scooter weighs less than 30 pounds, has a 250-watt motor, a 250-watt-hour lithium-ion battery, a top speed of 15 mph, a range of 10 miles and costs about $500.
Electric Scooters For Kids
Electric scooters for children or teenagers are usually smaller, lighter and cheaper than their adult counterparts. They are often made of less durable materials such as plastic, have weak motors and may even contain lead-acid batteries with low energy density.
It should be noted that electric scooters for children are usually not much more than toys and should be used as such. They should not be used for riding on public roads or driven by adults.
A typical electric scooter for kids weighs about 20 pounds, has a 150-watt motor, a 100-watt-hour battery (either sealed lead-acid or lithium-ion), a 3-mile range, and costs about $200.
Note: Taller or taller teenagers should use an adult electric scooter, as a child’s scooter is likely to be too small and underpowered.
Electric scooters with seat
Seated electric scooters are primarily for adults and are designed to make longer rides more comfortable. Most electric scooters are not equipped with a seat, but many can be equipped with an optional seat, sold as a separate accessory.
A hallmark of modern e-scooters is that they fold up – making them both portable and convenient to store. This is the main advantage of foldable electric scooters compared to electric bicycles. When a seat is added to an electric scooter, the foldability is usually no longer there, which in our eyes detracts from many of the advantages of foldable e-scooters.
If you need a scooter with a seat, consider an electric bike instead. Electric bikes are generally easier to ride, faster and more comfortable for longer distances. You can’t fold them up for easier transport – but you can’t fold up a seated electric scooter either.
Breakdown (all parts) of an electric scooter
Parts of Electric scooter
Electric scooters have a handful of different parts, but the most important are: Batteries, brakes, controller, deck, handlebars, lights, motor, stem, suspension and tires.
Battery packs for electric scooters consist of many individual cells that are assembled together.
The batteries are the “fuel tank” of an electric scooter. They store the energy used by the electric motor and other accessories, such as lights.
Most electric scooters are equipped with a lithium-ion cell battery, although some children’s electric scooters and other inexpensive scooters are equipped with lead-acid batteries.
Batteries are rated in watt-hours, abbreviated as Wh, which is a measure of their capacity. Battery capacity is one of the important factors that determine the range of electric scooters. A typical economy scooter will have a capacity of about 250 watt-hours, while monster scooters can have capacities of nearly 3,000 watt-hours.
A good braking system, such as the disc brake shown above, is essential for the safe and controlled operation of an electric scooter.
Like a car or bicycle, the brakes are what slow down the electric scooter. The braking system of electric scooters can be divided into two categories: mechanical and electronic.
Mechanical braking systems are those that rely on a physical mechanism to slow down the scooter, namely disc, drum and foot brakes.
Electronic braking systems use the motor itself to brake and include both strictly electronic and regenerative braking systems.
In general, mechanical braking systems offer much more powerful braking than electronic systems. However, electronic systems have the advantage of requiring no periodic adjustment or maintenance.
Many scooters are equipped with a combination of electronic and mechanical braking systems. For safety reasons, we recommend scooters with at least two braking systems in case one fails.
The speed controller sends power to the motor based on accelerator input.
The speed controller is an electronic component buried deep inside of the scooter that controls the flow of current from the battery to the motor. They typically look like rectangular metal cans with many wires coming out of them. The metal enclosure serves as a heat sync. The controller receives inputs from the accelerator and (electronic) brake controls and translates that into a current that is sent to the motor.
Controllers are rated based on the voltage and current they are able to regulate. Scooters with more powerful motors will have controllers with higher max voltage and higher max current ratings.
Controllers are one of the most under-appreciated parts of the electric scooter because they quietly do their job most of the time. They can be a huge source of headaches (or make the scooter unsafe) when things go wrong. On some poorly designed scooters controllers are known to fail or malfunction.
The deck is the platform on which you stand while riding. Many are rubberized for better traction.
The deck of the electric scooter – like that of a skateboard – is what you stand on. Some electric scooters have the battery built into the deck.
Most decks have some sort of textured surface that provides a better grip between your shoes and the scooter. Some scooters, like the Rev pictured above, have a sloped deck that gives you more room for your feet.
The typical scooter deck size is 14″ by 5″ inches, giving a few inches of ground clearance.
The handlebar is your main connection to the scooter. It is where all the controls are located, including the gas pedal, brakes, speed/adjustment indicator, and power buttons.
Most portable electric scooters have foldable handlebars that greatly reduce their width and bring the scooter to a very portable and storable size.
Good scooter lighting is important for seeing and being seen at night. Unfortunately, many of the scooters we tested have inadequate integrated lighting.
Almost every electric scooter has at least one LED headlight and a brake-activated tail light. In addition, many scooters are equipped with multi-colored LEDs that wrap around the deck or shine from below. We like to refer to this type of lighting as swag lighting.
Swag and deck lighting are good for increasing the visibility and coolness factor of your scooter, but not a substitute for powerful headlights and taillights.
Unfortunately, many electric scooters have woefully weak lighting. That’s why we almost always recommend additional lighting for safe night riding.
Adult electric scooters have hub motors built into one or both wheels. The Wide Wheel powerhouse pictured above has two 500-watt motors.
Electric scooters have brushless DC (BLDC) motors built into the hub of the wheels. All electric scooters have at least one motor, and more powerful ones have two.
Electric motors are classified by their power consumption, which is expressed in watts. More powerful motors have a higher wattage.
An average electric scooter, such as the Mi M365, has a 250-watt motor; a moderate scooter, such as the Horizon, has a 500-watt motor; scooters with extreme power, such as the Wolf Warrior, have two 1200-watt motors.
The stem is the folding metal tube that connects the handlebars to the front wheels. In some electric scooters, the folding mechanism is a source of frustration due to instability.
The stem or neck of the electric scooter is the long tube that is connected to the front wheel and extends to the handlebars.
Almost every scooter has a folding mechanism built into the stem for easy transport and storage. In our e-scooter tests, we often spend a lot of time focusing on this unsuspicious part But there’s a good reason for that. The folding mechanism can be difficult to operate, or worse, it can be loose or unstable. If you apply force to the handlebars, you’ll find that the entire stem wobbles back and forth – a condition we call stem wobble. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of foldable electric scooters.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the cheap scooters that suffer from poor stem wobble. The high-end Dualtron scooters are notorious for this problem, despite their otherwise immense quality.
Many electric scooters are unsprung, while high-performance models like the Zero 8X pictured above have powerful hydraulic suspension with coil springs.
Electric scooter suspension, like that of a motor vehicle or bicycle, helps improve ride quality and dampen bumps in the road.
There are three main types of suspension systems typically found on electric scooters: Suspension, hydraulic or air piston, and rubber suspension. The scooters with the best suspension have a combination of spring and piston – a combination called coil-over hydraulic or coil-over air.
Many scooters forgo suspension in favor of large pneumatic tires, which provide cushioning effects. Large pneumatic tires can provide a better form of suspension than cheap spring suspensions.
Tires give you traction to accelerate or brake in an emergency. Airless tires, like the ones pictured above, do not perform as well as pneumatic tires.
Tires are your connection to the road and affect the ride quality, traction, range and braking performance of your electric scooter.
There are basically two types of tires: pneumatic (air-filled) and airless. There are different types of airless tires: Honeycomb tires, polymer-filled tires, and solid tires.
We always recommend pneumatic tires because they provide a better ride quality (with or without suspension) and their supple rubber works much better in adverse road conditions.
Looking for an electric scooter for you
Buying an electric scooter can be a daunting challenge – there are an overwhelming number of choices, a quality electric scooter is easy $500 and can cost over $2,000.
Throwing a wrench into matters are numerous dubious “review” websites and reviewers who have never touched a scooter in their lives.
Considerations for commuting with an electric scooter
Electric scooter commuting is part of the new trend in micromobility that solves what is known as the last mile problem. The last mile problem refers to the last leg of a journey – whether it is walking from the bus station to the office or leaving a highway by car to reach a specific destination.
Paradoxically, this part of a journey is usually the slowest and most difficult, even though it is the shortest. This is because public transportation and roads are optimized for connecting large population centers that are far apart. Remember, multi-lane highways connect large cities that are dozens or hundreds of miles apart. At average highway speeds, you can travel 60 miles in an hour, or about a mile per minute.
However, once you get off the freeway, the last mile can take 15 minutes or more!
Here comes electric scooters, bike sharing, electric skateboards, etc. – all forms of micromobility – come into play. They make the last mile of your trip faster, easier and more environmentally friendly.
If you only need to commute a few miles to work or walk from a bus stop or mass transit center, an electric scooter is the perfect option for you.
Comparison of electric scooters and bikes
Compared to bikes, electric scooters are more mobile, less prone to theft, and require less physical effort than bicycles.
They allow you to get to your destination without physical exertion at a speed of about 15 mph. You can arrive at your destination faster, fold up the scooter and take it with you. Since they require less physical effort than a bike, you won’t sweat as much as riding a bike (and can get to your destination faster with many scooters).
Electric scooters also have some drawbacks that might make bikes a better option in some cases. These include the ability to carry them around the house, stability, and cost.
If you are physically unable or not allowed to take your electric scooter indoors, a bicycle may be a better choice. Leaving an electric scooter on the street for an extended period of time is not ideal – they are more susceptible to theft and vandalism and are more difficult to lock due to a lack of locking points.
Bicycles are more stable due to their geometry and larger tires and are better suited for rough roads. Adult scooters have relatively small tires that do not roll as easily over bumps. They also have a more upright steering angle, which makes them inherently less stable and more prone to wobbles that have taken down many a scooter rider.
Finally, adult electric scooters are more expensive than quality entry-level bikes. An entry-level bike costs about $300 and is much more durable. A fall on a bike is unlikely to injure most, while many scooters, especially budget ones, can be rendered completely inoperable after an accident.
Laws for electric scooters and where you can ride
You should always check your local and state laws before riding an adult electric scooter on roads or in public areas. The information provided here regarding laws should not be construed as legal advice.
Electric scooter laws vary widely by state and city. In some jurisdictions, motorized electric scooters are completely illegal.
Where they are legal, most jurisdictions are beginning to regulate them in the same manner as bicycles. They generally must be ridden on the street or in bike lanes and cannot be ridden on sidewalks or pedestrian walkways.
Like a bicycle, you must follow all traffic rules that cars must follow.
Why wearing equipment is important when riding electric scooters
Safety is not to be trifled with – you could be killed or permanently maimed while riding an electric scooter.
Safety gear, including a helmet, is an absolute necessity when riding an electric scooter at any speed. Depending on the speed and type of riding conditions you experience, you may need more or less equipment.
Safety equipment that can prevent accidents and alleviate injuries includes:
Protective jacket and pants
Where to get your electric scooter repaired
Electric scooters do not require regular maintenance, except for checking the air pressure if they are equipped with pneumatic tires.
If you are looking for information on repair, maintenance, or upgrade, check out our detailed guides for various electric scooters (new ones are added all the time).