Leave the car keys on the hall room table, because the e-transport revolution is here!
“Hey, little girl! I need to borrow your… hoverboard?” shouts Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II as he detaches a skateboard deck from the little girl’s hover scooter and shoots away, levitating above the ground. It was a scene that sent imaginations spiralling into the possibilities of powered scooters and skateboards. Designers and Kickstarter campaigns have developed prototypes in recent times, but the dream of owning – and using – an actual Marty McFly hoverboard currently remains elusive; the preserve of the inventor’s workshop.
Forget the hip-breaking two-wheeled hoverboards that were all over the news when they launched five years ago (often for the wrong reasons), the humble electric scooter, in our opinion, is as close as you can currently get to the hoverboard experience. Step on, push two or three times with your foot, press a button and bingo, you’re off. Gliding along the street at 20kph on an e-scooter is a nostalgic wonderland for any rider, irrespective of age.
Far from being the latest fad, rideables are here to stay. If you live in Brisbane – or have travelled overseas in recent years – you’ll be aware of the rideshare schemes where hiring an electric scooter is as easy as downloading an app. There are a myriad of reasons to join the rideables revolution, and it’s time to get involved.
A brief history of…
Way back in 1895, the first electric bike patent was filed by American inventor Ogden Bolton Jr. It didn’t go very far. A succession of electric-powered inventions followed – with batteries the size of armchairs – before the zippy Autoped made its debut in 1915. Strictly not an electric kick scooter, the Autoped – a machine that bears a striking resemblance to a contemporary e-scooter – was petrol-powered and found use with New York traffic police. It kickstarted (pun intended) a fad that would last up until the Second World War.
Fast-forward to 1967 and Karl Kordesch, a gentleman jointly responsible for the invention of the alkaline battery for Eveready, built a bike that ran on alkaline fuel cells and could move at 25mph for 200 miles. Design and invention in the field of electric bikes and scooters continued to evolve and in 2001, Californian company Go-Ped introduced the first mass-produced electric scooter. However, it wasn’t until improvements to lithium ion batteries – delivering greater propulsion – that the electric kick scooter came into its own.
So how do they work?
An e-scooter is made up of three essential components: a rechargeable lithium ion battery; a motherboard – the brain of the scooter that regulates acceleration, speed and brakes; and the electric motor. Early electric scooters used an outboard chain-driven motor, but modern quality models use a hub motor situated in the wheel. The benefits of a hub motor include greater sound reduction, better torque and power, and faster response time. When the user presses the accelerator or brake control, the motherboard recognises the command and relays the message to the motor, and off you go.
Why should I get an e-scooter?
Portability is a huge selling point here. If you live within a few kilometres of a train station or even a bus stop, battling with car parking spots can be a nightmare. E-scooters fold down for handy transportation once you’ve reached the bus or train, and at the other end can be easily stored in the workplace. If you’re fortunate enough to live within a reasonable distance to work or you just want to visit a favourite café, hopping onboard your e-scooter and cruising down the pavement cuts out the hassle of being stuck in a traffic jam. With a battery range of around 24 kilometres, your commuting or adventure options are wide open.
The affordability of e-scooters has dropped considerably in the wake of their increased popularity. Once you’ve made the initial outlay, the only costs you’ll incur are electricity (the savvy economist will wait to charge their unit at home during off-peak night time rates). Beyond that, there’s no registration or insurance costs attached, and e-scooters require very little maintenance. The biggest saving, of course, is fuel. Petrol prices in Australia fluctuate with more regularity than the ASX, so it’s not just time saved when you’re stuck in traffic during the daily commute, there’s a big saving in the back pocket too.
According to a report from the Climate Council, close to 87 per cent of Australians travel to work by car and travel emissions have increased 63 per cent since 1990. Further research conducted by Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) reveals that the average city commute in the big Australian capitals is 66 minutes to and from work. Incredibly, 28 per cent of those surveyed lived in the same postcode that they worked in, while 55 per cent lived within 10kms of their place of work. By utilising an e-scooter for your daily commute, or indeed just to pop down to the local shop, you’re helping to reduce congestion on the road and cut carbon emissions.
We know what you’re thinking. Of course you’re not going to get the same level of workout as a riding a bike, but keeping consistent balance works your core, legs, arms and back muscles. And the other major health benefit of 2020 is being outside in the fresh air and not sardined on crowded public transport.
Approved headgear protection is essential when using any form of rideable. It’s also vitally important to check your state legislation before taking to the road; laws do differ quite considerably from state to state.
Let’s not forget one of the greatest reasons to own an e-scooter – it’s fun! E-scooters are easy to ride, with a very shallow learning curve. We’ve already mentioned the nostalgia factor, the feeling of riding a magic carpet down the road, but whether you’re commuting to work during the week or heading off on an adventure over the weekend, riding an e-scooter is exceptional fun.
OK, I’m in – where do I start?
Buying an e-scooter is no different to buying any product – you get what you pay for. The market is filled with cheap knock offs, so while they might save you a few bucks in the short term, they will cost you in the long run. Look for a reputable name in the manufacture and design of e-scooters with a good build quality on the unit – you want it to last.
If you intend to take it off-road, you might want to consider an e-scooter with pneumatic tyres. Solid tyres are fine for pavement and road riding. Aim for a model with front and rear suspension for a smoother trip, and disc brakes will give you the best braking potential.
Speed is generally capped at 25kph and trust us, when you’re cruising down a pavement or street on an e-scooter, this is more than fast enough. Another consideration is battery range; in other words, how far will it go on a single charge and how long will it take to charge a drained battery?
Also ensure that the e-scooter you’re buying isn’t too heavy to carry on to public transport or load in the back of a car. 15kg and below is where you want to be in the portability stakes.
And finally, the e-scooters’ kryptonite – hills. Now e-scooters have come a long way in this area, so climbing hills with a gentle incline is no hassle at all. However, don’t expect to shoot up a 20-degree hill with the same speed you achieve on the flat. And remember, if the hill is too steep for your ride, you can always step off and use leg power to reach the top.
Invest in the best
When you’re ready to make your purchase, you want to know that your hard-earned is going towards a quality unit from a reputable company – as we’ve already mentioned, there’s a plethora of inferior product on the market. But with e-scooters, whichever brand you choose to go with, it really is a case of getting what you pay for. So we have pulled some recommendations together, available at JB Hi-Fi, to get you off on the right foot and help you pick the right model for your needs.
Enjoying e-scooters isn’t just the preserve of the young. Segway-Ninebot has developed two models for the junior members of the family, so no one misses out. For children under the age of eight, Segway has you covered with the E8, a small yet versatile e-scooter perfect for learning the craft on. Spring shock absorbers and wear-resistant solid tyres will endure whatever your junior rider will throw at it, and three speed modes – sports, cruise and safety – that are activated at the rear of the deck next to the power button provide options for learners to cruise the streets with confidence. Maximum speed is 14kph with a 10km range.
The next model in Segway’s e-scooter junior range has been designed with a larger frame to accommodate eight- to 14-year-old riders. Much like the E8, the E10 has spring shock absorbers, a thumb throttle with a corresponding handbrake on the other grip, and three modes of speed – sports, cruise and safety. The safety mode caps the e-scooter’s speed, making it easier for beginners. It’s foldable for transport and weighs a mere 8.5kg. The E10’s top speed is 14kph, with the range coming in around 10km.
We pitch the E22 – which we’ve spent quite a lot of time riding recently – as the perfect road e-scooter. Light at 13.5kg and foldable, it’s perfect for taking on the train or bus. Once mobile, an LED screen in the centre of the handlebars displays the charge remaining and travelling speed. The wheels are foam-filled and two shock absorbers help smooth out bumps in the road, while an incredibly bright LED headlight will help navigate night-time trips. Top speed comes in at 21kph, however if you attach an additional battery (sold separately), speed increases by 4kph and takes the range from 22km to a whopping 44km. Charge time is around three hours.
Available in selected stores and online
The ultimate in e-scooter portability, and the commuter’s best friend. Weighing only 10.5kg, the T15 folds right down (including the handlebars) for easy stowage. There is no accelerator on it; instead, the rider kicks as per a standard scooter and the T15 calculates the surface type and automatically sets a cruising speed. Want to pick up the speed? Use your feet to push and the speed will adjust to suit. To slow down, tap on the rear wheel to brake (this also regenerates a little battery). A top speed of 20kph and a range of 25km on a single charge rounds out the package.
The Max is Segway-Ninebot’s big, powerful all-rounder. With a deck that will feel like a surfboard in comparison to other e-scooters, the Max is built for comfort. Pneumatic tyres mean you can venture off the road more often, and a more substantial battery affords riders an unprecedented 65km range. And the Max eats hills alive, handling anything up to a 20-degree rise with ease. Four different riding modes can be activated through the app and the Max is designed to facilitate USB charging, so you only have to carry a USB cable when you’re on the road instead of a bulky charging pack. Suspension, dual brakes and a rear wheel drive for better acceleration complete this excellent one-step foldable e-scooter; a serious ride for serious riders. Full charge will take five to six hours.
Please Note: Each state and territory in Australia has a different set of rules and regulations pertaining to the usage of e-scooters and e-boards (including where e-scooters and e-boards can legally be used and whether e-scooters and e-boards need to be registered with the relevant road traffic authority). Any user of this product must ensure that they check and abide by their local by-laws and use responsibly. Ride with caution and always wear a helmet and protective gear when riding your e-scooter and e-board.
On the charge
It’s not just scooters getting the electric treatment. Anyone for an e-bike, e-skates, e-skateboards or a go-kart?
Segway Ninebot Drift W1 E-Skates
They really have thought of everything! E-skates? Yep! Once you’ve worked out how to stop falling on your butt, not only are these fun but they work just about every muscle you can think of. The skates weigh 3.5kg each; with a speed that reaches 12kph. All you need to do is lean into them to start the roll. Expect to get around 40 minutes of ride time – enough to get you down to the shops and back. Available in selected stores and online
Segway Ninebot S Gokart kit
Seriously, how cool is this? The Gokart kit is compatible with the Segway-Ninebot S Pro, which you’ll need to complete the package and make the conversion. Scaleable from 4.5 to 6.3 feet drivers (it can accommodate operators up to 100kg), it’s suitable for the whole family. Fitted with a mechanical handbrake so it’s designed to drift, top speed is 24kph with a range of 15km. And it’s small enough to fold up and put in the back of the average boot!
Himo H1 Compact E-Bike
If you put two pieces of A4 printing on a table together, you’ve got the size of the Himo H1 bike folded down. Mad, eh? This is the ultimate folding, transformer-like commuter e-bike that, incredibly, doesn’t skimp on performance. It weighs 13kg, can reach a top speed of 18kph, climb hills with a 15-degree rise, and has a range of 20km; more than enough to get you down to the pub and back.
The rush of riding an electric skateboard has been a reality for a decade now, but technology has come a long way since then, and at the crest of that wave is Evolve. E-skateboards can be used on and off road (Evolve boards can be customised for either) and are controlled by a handheld remote that dictates the speed and drive mode. Current models include the Stoke, shaped like a surfboard with a range of 15km, a speed of 36kph, and the ability to kill hills of up to a 30 per cent gradient. The GTR Bamboo has a more flexible deck, can cruise for 30km with a speed of 36kph, and tackles hills up to 30 per cent gradient. However, the GTR Carbon smashes hills of 30 per cent rise, has an impressive range of 50km, and reaches a white-knuckled 42kph – perfect for the adrenaline junkies out there.
Himo C26 Commuter E-Bike
The C26 combines pedal power with an electric motor, giving riders total flexibility. Aesthetically, the C26 looks similar to a traditional bike and can be ridden both on the road and off it. But versatility is the key – there are three modes to choose from: the first is full manual pedal power, the second a combination of pedal and electric motor with a range of 100km, and the last is a full electric motor reaching a speed of 25kph and a range of 60km.
Himo Z20 Foldable E-Bike
If space is limited at home or you want to be able to throw it in the back of your car, the foldable Z20 e-bike is worth a look. Weighing in at just over 21kg, it has an LED light on the front to navigate at night and, like the C26, three settings for manual, mixed, and just electric. Range is pegged at 80km when in mixed mode, and 50km when using just the motor. A removable battery means you can leave the bike locked up and just charge the battery independently.