Electric Scooter Laws in Michigan
In late July 2018, rows of electric standup scooters suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere in Detroit. Bird, a scooter rental service, placed these scooters throughout midtown and downtown. People were immediately curious and hopped on. After all, they’re a fun alternative to travel by foot. Now, scooter rental stands are seen throughout many Michigan metropolitans, including East Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor, and are wildly popular on college campuses for reducing commute times. But as their popularity grows, one question remains: what do electric scooter laws in Michigan say about how and where one can ride?
Electric Scooters – A Trend That’s Seemingly Here to Stay
However, the barrage of electric scooters in American cities caught almost all state and local lawmakers off guard. Michigan is no exception. While Michigan has no laws specifically addressing electric standup scooters, we do have a law on the books that appears to regulate the use of electric scooters. Simply by chance, an earlier dispute surrounding electric skateboards led to the law that seems to define the use of electric scooters. Here’s a brief recap of that case:
A Brief History of Electric Scooter Laws in Michigan
A small store in Frankfort, Michigan sells and rents bikes, skateboards, surfboards, and standup paddleboards (SUPs). In 2014, before the wave of electric scooters hit the state, the shop began delivering its rental SUPs to customers by pulling them on a handheld trailer behind a motorized longboard. Genius, right? The system worked well and was an efficient way for employees to get SUPs to customers and back to the shop. However, the shop began experiencing resistance from local law enforcement.
In July 2016, while using a motorized longboard to transport SUPs, an employee attempted to pass a young girl and her mother, when the trailer made contact with the young girl. The girl was uninjured, according to police reports. However, the incident led to the arrest of the shop owners. As a result, their charges included “contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” a misdemeanor crime.
Charges were ultimately dropped, but the Frankfort Public Safety Committee instructed its City Attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting electric skateboard use within Frankfort’s city limits. Local officials determined that the use of electric skateboards on public roads was a violation of state laws, claiming these boards met the definition of a motor vehicle without complying with laws that govern motor vehicles. Following years of dispute, the House of Representatives amended the Michigan Vehicle Code. It now includes provisions regarding the use of electric skateboards and went into effect in September 2018.
By pure coincidence, the effective date of the electric skateboard law occurred less than two weeks after electric scooters first appeared in Michigan. Because these scooters fit into the definition of “electric skateboard,” this piece of Michigan legislation governs them as well.
Attorney Tom Sinas Talks About Grand Rapids’ Electronic Scooter Laws
Lansing attorney Bryan Waldman Discusses Riding an E-scooter in Michigan
Electric Scooter Laws in Michigan – the Specifics
Specifically, Michigan legislature that governs electric skateboards and, coincidentally scooters, defines these modes of transportation as follows:
“A wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding that is no more than 60 inches long and 18 inches wide, is designed to transport only 1 person at a time, has an electrical propulsion system with power of no more than 2,500 watts, and has a maximum speed on a paved level surface of not more than 45 mph. An electric skateboard may, in addition to having an electric propulsion system with a power of no more than 2,500 watts, be designed to also be powered by human propulsion.”
Electric scooters meet all the criteria necessary for an “electric skateboard” definition, under Michigan law. The scooters:
- Have two wheels.
- Have a floorboard designed for standing upon when riding.
- No more than 60 inches long.
- Less than 18 inches wide.
How Do Electric Scooters Work?
The number of electric scooters on the streets is growing daily. While the manual version was once the privy of young children, the electric scooter is most definitely for grownups.
But how does an electric scooter work? What goes into these urban travel vehicles in order to move the wheels, brake, or even make them turn?
If you are interested in learning how an electric scooter works, you’ve come to the right place.
In this definitive guide to e-scooters, we will shed light on how an electric scooter like the Unagi Model One works. We’ll talk you through the vital components and the respective roles they each play in making your electric scooter the miraculous feat of engineering it is.
Excited to learn? Let’s dive in!
How Does an Electric Scooter Work?
Advancements in technology and material science innovations, improvements in ride comfort and convenience, and, most importantly, awareness of the dangers of climate change have paved the way for the rising popularity of these electric commuter vehicles over the past decade.
But how does an e-scooter work?
Well, quite simply in its component parts, an e-scooter consists of a battery, motor, throttle and controller. And out of these parts, the battery and motor are two of the most essential components of an electric scooter.
When a rider twists the throttle on the handlebar, the controller reacts by commanding the battery to send electric energy to the motor which is mounted on the hub of the wheels. The motor uses this energy to rotate the gear which then moves the wheels of the electric scooter forward.
Like regular kick scooters, some e-scooters need to be pushed off the ground using a foot while twisting the throttle to engage the motor. They might also need to be maneuvered using the t-stem handlebars and stopped using brakes. The speed at which the scooter can go will depend on the throttle.
Of course, this is just a basic overview of how electric scooters work. Each of the electric scooters on the market come in slight variations, meaning they each work slightly differently.
So, to better understand how electric scooters work, we’ll need to explore each component separately.
The battery is one of the key components of an electric scooter as it determines how far the scooter can go on a single charge. The more powerful a battery is, the longer the ride distances on a single charge, and the better the overall performance.
Electric scooters may come with one of these three types of batteries:
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) Battery
An older battery type, NiMH strikes a perfect balance between the widespread lead-acid and the newer lithium-ion. This battery holds a charge for longer than its lead-acid counterparts. However, the downside is that it’s heavier than the lithium-ion battery.
Though a bit cumbersome for general use, lead-acid batteries are the long-standing mainstay of devices that require rechargeable batteries because they’re the cheapest available. They’re also the preferred power source for golf carts and some automobiles. And they’re the most common battery in older scooter models.
Lithium-ion batteries are the newest and most appropriate battery types for electric scooters. Not only are they smaller, lighter and more eco-friendly than the rest, they’re also more powerful and hold a charge far longer than both the NiMH and lead-acid versions.
In many ways, the advances in lithium-ion battery tech have helped push electric bikes and scooters into the spotlight.
How Does an Electric Scooter Battery Work?
As mentioned earlier, the battery choice for most electric scooters, including our own Model One is lithium-ion. E-scooters are generally powered by either Samsung or LG lithium-ion batteries, because they are lightweight, durable, reliable and long-lasting.
An electric scooter battery consists of an anode, cathode, and a porous or void membrane known as a separator. There is a medium between the two terminals through which lithium ions (or the energy) can move.
Lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode when discharging, and vice versa when charging. This flow of lithium ions back and forth between the anode and the cathode is what generates electrons, and hence electricity.
In modern Li-ion batteries, the space between the anode and the cathode has been squeezed in order to increase the energy storage capacity of the batteries.
How far can an electric scooter go without charging? The battery capacity determines how far a range an e-scooter can achieve on a single charge.
To calculate the energy storage capacity of the battery, you need two most important metrics:
- Voltage- denoted in Volts (V)
- Charge- denoted in Ampere-hours (Ah)
To calculate the energy storage capacity of the battery in Watt-hours (Wh), multiply the Volts (V) by the Ampere-hours (Ah).
Example: 1 V 1 Ah = 1 Wh
The higher the Wh, the bigger the battery capacity and the more range the scooter will have. Of course, that’s not the only factor affecting the range of an electric scooter, but it is a big one. Other factors like rider weight and road conditions also come into play.
In general, most scooters max out at 12 to 15 miles on a single charge.
The motor is a critical component of an electric scooter. Its power determines the top speed, climbing ability, load capacity and to some extent, the range of a scooter.
There are two basic types of motors used in e-scooters today, including brushed DC (direct current) motors and brushless DC motors.
Brushed DC Motors
Brushed DC motors are based on an older form of motor technology that dates back to the 1800s. Brushed DC motors generate power using two sets of electromagnets.
A large, cylindrical mechanical brush drags along a smaller magnet inside the motor, generating magnetic fields which power different coil phases.
As a result, the inside of the motor turns continuously and generates power. Brushed DC motors have an efficiency of around 75-80%.
Brushless DC Motors
Also known as BLDC (brushless direct current) motors, brushless DC motors are a more modern technology that emerged in the 1970s. Brushless motors are almost like an inverted version of brushed motors.
As such, the magnetic components that move in brushed motors are the parts that are stationary in brushless motors. These motors use digital switching circuitry to alternatively power different coils inside the motor.
BDLC motors have an efficiency of about 85-90%. They’re also more durable and have higher power-to-weight ratios than their brushed equals.
How Does an Electric Scooter Motor Work?
Most quality electric scooters are powered by a BLDC motor. In fact, we anticipate that nearly all newer electric scooter brands will come with brushless hub motors going forward.
Well, instead of having one motor powering all the wheels through chains and gears, the motor is integrated directly into the wheel itself—so the electric motor and the wheel are one and the same thing.
How e-scooter hub motors work is simple; the motor listens to the rider’s input through the controller. When you push the throttle button on the handlebar, the controller signals the battery to release energy to the motor to produce movement.
In hub motors, electromagnetic fields are delivered to the static coils of the motor. The external part of the motor tries to follow those fields, causing the attached wheel to spin.
The amount of power generated by the motor is expressed in Watts (W). Most electric scooters are rated between 250W and 600W, but higher performance scooters can have much, much more.
Though the manufacturer will usually label the product’s motor power in watts (W), you can also calculate and double-check it. Simply multiply motor voltage in volts (V) by the current in amps (A). For example, let’s consider an e-scooter motor running at 36V and 7A.
In that case, its power output will be: 36 V 7 A =252W.
Generally speaking, you can expect around 0.62 mph for every 10-20 Watts of power. However, in most cases, anything less than 300 Watts will struggle climbing steeper hills.
Keep in mind electric scooters with brushless hub motors are relatively expensive. The good news is they’re more efficient, quieter and longer-lasting than brushed motor systems. Hub motors are also less likely to malfunction, which means they require minimal maintenance.
The throttle also plays a critical role when riding an electric scooter. E-scooter throttles aren’t created equal. Today, there are three main types of throttles, including a twist throttle, finger (trigger) throttle, and thumb throttle.
A twist throttle accelerates the scooter when you hold and twist (or roll) the entire handgrip towards you. It requires that you use all your fingers and thumb. But if needed, you can still use a couple of fingers to hold and cover the brakes while accelerating.
The finger (trigger) throttle moves the scooter when you squeeze the throttle down with a finger. This throttle makes it easier to access and control most performance settings, including cruise control, display brightness, regenerative braking strength, etc.
The thumb throttle accelerates the scooter when you press the throttle inward towards your palm. Of all throttle styles, the thumb throttle is the smoothest when it comes to modulating speed. You will find the thumb throttle across most entry-level e-scooters.
How Does an Electric Scooter Throttle Work?
In the simplest terms, the throttle commands the scooter to accelerate at a certain speed. Pressing the throttle sends a signal to the controller via cables.
The controller then instructs the battery to release more power to the motor. And finally, the motor responds by propelling the scooter forward.
How fast you want to go will entirely depend on the amount of pressure you apply. But all in all, throttles come in handy when you want to ride on hilly or elevated terrain, cruise at different speeds, or save the power of your battery.
How Does an Electric Scooter Controller Work?
The controller, one of the most under-appreciated components of an e-scooter, is the force behind every function of the personal mobility device. It allows for the communication between the acceleration, electric brakes, the battery, the motor, and almost every other control.
An e-scooter controller receives input from the rider and sends it out to the relevant part. When you twist the throttle, for example, the signal passes through the cables through the controller, which then notifies the battery to release more or less juice to the motor.
In the same way, when you engage the electronic brakes, the speed controller cuts the energy from the battery and alerts the motor to stop working. The controller will usually have a metal enclosure that serves as a heat sync.
E-scooter controllers are rated in terms of voltage and current being regulated. Those fitted on more powerful scooters will have a higher max voltage and a higher max current.
Controllers are known to malfunction on poorly designed electric scooters. Failing controllers can make it unsafe to ride the scooter.
How Do Electric Scooter Brakes Work?
Electric scooter brakes are meant to do one thing; ensure the safety of the rider. There are three main types of e-scooter brakes, including a foot brake, mechanical brake, and electric brake.
The rear foot brake is the most basic type of electric scooter braking system. To use this brake, press it against the rear fender with your foot to create friction and stop the scooter.
For the most part, the foot brake is the least practical way of braking. Riders have to hit the rear fender with their foot, often without looking back.
Mechanical brakes have been around for a long time and are a trusted type of electric scooter brakes. A mechanical braking system can have either a disc brake or a hydraulic brake.
Scooters with this braking system usually come with a lever on the left handle. Riders need to press this lever to activate the disc brake on either the rear wheel, front wheel, or both.
An electric brake is one of the most advanced braking systems available for e-scooters. It completely stops the motor from producing any movement.
over, this braking system can employ regenerative braking during the ride. What this means is that it sends power back to the battery each time it’s activated.
It’s important to get an electric scooter with all three brake types. A combination of disc brakes and electric brakes is great when it comes to safety.
How Do Electric Scooter Wheels Work?
The electric scooter wheels influence the traction, braking performance, and to a lesser extent, ride quality. Ideally, they’re your connection to the road. There are two popular types of electric scooter wheels: solid and pneumatic (air-filled).
Electric scooters with solid tires are puncture-proof and free of wear and tear. You can ride confidently without worrying about flat tires. Their downside is that they can cause a shakier and bumpier ride, especially if the scooter doesn’t have good suspension.
Pneumatic tires are the opposite of solid tires—they can go flat from time to time and will have to be pumped. On the upside, air-filled tires cushion the impacts of road imperfections to provide a more comfortable ride, with or without a suspension system.
Furthermore, air-filled tires have several threads and patterns which provide more friction against the ground. You can expect these tires to perform well in adverse road conditions.
How Does Electric Scooter Suspension Work?
The suspension in an e-scooter works pretty much the same as that in a motor vehicle or bicycle. The suspension system helps to dampen bumps in the road to improve comfort and ride quality.
E-scooters can have one of three types of suspension systems: spring, rubber, and hydraulic or air piston suspension. The best suspension is one that combines spring and piston. This combination is called coil-over-air or coil-over-hydraulic.
Often, e-scooters with solid wheels will have a suspension system to help absorb shocks and lessen shaking. A good example is the Unagi Model One E500 electric scooter. This scooter has a solid rear and front wheel, and the integrated suspension helps cushion rough surfaces.
Another example is the Segway Ninebot ES4 electric scooter. This model has a shock absorption system on both the rear and front wheels to increase riding comfort.
Many electric scooters that have large pneumatic tires tend to forgo the suspension system. Large air-filled tires provide better comfort and ride quality than cheap spring suspensions.
How Do Electric Scooter Handlebars Work?
The handlebars in an e-scooter are like the steering wheel in a car. They help you turn and change the direction of the scooter however you want.
Good handlebars will usually have rubber or silicone covers on their edges, where the rider can hold them. These covers should not be slippery to ensure a strong grip and make your ride safe.
over, the handlebars in high-performance scooters are adjustable. You should be able to customize the handlebar to fit your height.
At the same time, the handlebars will have a folding mechanism for when you want to make transport and store the scooter. A built-in folding mechanism helps reduce the width of the scooter to a portable size.
In most electric scooters, the handlebars will also come fitted with all controls, including the throttle button (on the right), brake lever (on the left), speed/display settings, power buttons, etc.
Bear in mind not many e-scooters accommodate left-handed riders. You might want to preorder the scooter so the throttle function can be fitted on the left and the brake lever on the right.
How Does an Electric Scooter Frame Work?
An e-scooter framework is the structural component that holds all components together. It can be made of different materials like aluminum, steel, or carbon fiber.
Some electric scooters can come with an optional seat, which is great for when you want to rest while riding.
It is important to know that the frame takes up the most weight of electric scooters. The frame alone can weigh as much as 24 lbs. If you’re concerned about your scooter’s weight, make sure to ask about the scooter framework first before making the purchase.
Better yet, just get yourself the Unagi Model One E500 which has probably the lightest frame in the world for scooters of its spec level.
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 handlebars for steering. They differ from the unmotorized kick scooters of the 90s due to the addition of a battery. electronics, larger (often air-filled) tires. and an electric motor.
Though the majority of scooters are intended to be ridden while standing on the deck, some scooters can be converted into seated electric scooters with optional accessories.
Recently, there has been an enormous surge in interest for scooters — mainly driven by their notorious overnight introduction into cities by scooter sharing companies such as Lime and Bird.
Scooter sharing has increased the general public awareness of micromobility and driven the growth of the personal market. The explosion of the personal market has led to the import of hundreds of different models of electric scooters by a huge number of different brands.
Though most companies are making electric scooters for adults. some companies — notably Razor — are targeting the kids and young teen market.
Electric Scooters For Adults
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Adult electric scooters are the most common type of scooter available on the market. They differ from electric scooters intended for children because they have larger weight capacity, typically around 220 lbs (100 kg), more powerful motors, larger battery, larger deck, and a taller stem. Electric scooters intended for adults also tend to cost at least 300 whereas an electric scooter intended for children can typically be had for under 200.
Some popular brands of electric scooters for adults are: Boosted, Glion, GoTrax, Xiaomi, Swagtron, Zero, 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 under 30 lbs, has a 250-watt motor, a 250 watt-hour lithium-ion battery, has a top speed of 15 mph, a range of 10 miles, and costs around 500.
Electric Scooters For Kids
Electric scooters intended for kids or teens are typically smaller, lighter, and less expensive than their adult counterparts. They are often made of less durable materials such as plastic, have weak motors, and may even contain low energy density lead-acid batteries.
It is worth noting that children’s electric scooters aren’t typically much more than toys and should be used as such. They shouldn’t be used for riding on public roads or ridden by adults.
Some popular brands of electric scooters for kids are: Razor and Jetson.
A typical children’s electric scooter weighs around 20 lbs, has 150-watt motor, 100 watt-hour battery (either sealed lead acid or lithium-ion), a range of 3 miles, and costs around 200.
Note: Larger or taller teens should use an adult electric scooter because a kids scooter will likely be too small and underpowered.
Seated Electric Scooters
Seated electric scooters are primarily for adults and made to make longer rides more comfortable. Most electric scooters do not come with a seat, but many have optional seat attachments that are sold as separate accessories.
A hallmark of the modern e-scooter is its ability to fold — making it both portable for carrying and convenient for storing. This is the main advantage of folding electric scooters, compared to electric bicycles. When a seat is added to an electric scooter, this typically eliminates its folding ability and, in our eyes, reduces many of the advantages of folding e-scooters.
If you have a need for a scooter with a seat, then you might consider an electric bicycle instead. Electric bicycles are typically easier to ride, faster, and more comfortable for longer distances. You can’t fold them up for easier carrying — but neither can you fold a seated electric scooter.
Breakdown (of All of the Parts) of an Electric Scooter
Electric Scooter Parts
Electric scooters have a handful of different parts, but the major ones are: batteries, brakes, controller, deck, handlebars, lights, motor, stem, suspension, and tires.
Electric scooter battery packs are made up of many individual cells that are assembled together.
Batteries are the “gas tank” of an electric scooter. They store the energy that is consumed by the electric motor and other accessories, including lights.
Most electric scooters will have a battery pack comprised of lithium-ion battery cells, though some electric scooters for kids and other inexpensive scooters actually have lead-acid batteries.
Batteries are rated in watt-hours, abbreviated Wh, which is a measure of their capacity. Battery capacity is one of the important factors that determine electric scooter range. A typical budget scooter will have a capacity of around 250 watt-hours while monster scooters can have capacities of almost 3,000 watt-hours.
Learn more: technical guide to electric scooter batteries.
A quality braking system, such as the disc brake picture above, is essential for staying safe and in control while riding an electric scooter.
Like those on a car or bicycle, brakes are what slow the electric scooter down. Electric scooter brakes can be broken down into two categories: mechanical and electronic.
Mechanical brake systems are those that rely on a physical mechanism to slow the scooter down and are: disc, drum, and foot brakes.
Electronic braking systems rely on using the motor itself for braking and include strictly electronic and regenerative braking systems.
Typically mechanical braking systems will offer much stronger braking than electronic systems. However, electronic systems benefit from not requiring any periodic adjustments or maintenance.
Many scooters will have a combination of both electronic and mechanical braking systems. For safety reasons, we recommend scooters that have at least two braking systems in case one fails.
Learn more about brakes: a technical guide to brakes.
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 headache (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 you stand on while riding. Many are rubberized to provide better traction.
The electric scooter deck — like that of a skateboard — is the thing you stand on. Some electric kick scooters have the battery pack built into the deck.
Most decks have some type of textured finish that provides better grip between your shoes and the scooter. Some scooters, like the Rev pictured above, have a sloped deck that gives you more space to place your feet.
The typical scooter deck size is 14″ by 5″ inches and gives a few inches of ground clearance.
The handlebars are your main connection with the scooter. They are fitted with all the controls, including the accelerator, brakes, speed/settings display, and power buttons.
The most portable electric scooters will have folding handlebars that greatly reduce their width and get the scooter down to a very transportable and storable size.
Good scooter lighting is important for seeing and staying visible at night. Unfortunately, many of the scooters we test have lackluster built-in lighting.
Nearly every electric scooter comes with at least one LED headlight and a brake-activated tail light. Additionally, many scooters are also including multi-colored LEDs that wrap around or shine from under the deck. We like to call this type of lighting swag lighting.
Swag and deck lighting are good for increasing visibility and cool factor of your scooter, but no substitute for powerful headlight and taillights.
Unfortunately, many electric scooters have sorrowfully weak lights. This is why we nearly always recommend additional lighting for safely riding at night.
Adult electric scooters have hub motors built into one or both wheels. The powerhouse Wide Wheel pictured above has dual 500-watt motors.
Electric scooters have brushless direct current (BLDC) electric motors that are built into the hub of wheels. All electric kick scooters have at least one motor while more powerful ones will have two.
Electric motors are rated based on their power consumption which is express in units of watts. powerful motors will have greater wattage.
An average electric scooter, like the Mi M365 will have a 250 watt motor; an intermediate scooter like the Horizon will have a 500 watt motor; extreme performance scooters, like the Wolf Warrior will have dual 1200 watt motors.
See our technical guide to electric scooter motors.
The stem is the folding metal tube that connects that handlebars to the front wheels. On some electric scooters the folding mechanism is 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 up to the handlebars.
Nearly every scooter has a folding mechanism built into the stem to allow easy carrying and storage. In our e-scooter reviews. we often spend a lot of time focusing on this unsuspecting part. Yet, this is for good reason. The folding mechanism can be difficult work or worse it can be loose or unstable. When you apply force to the handlebars, you’ll notice the whole stem rocking back and fourth — a condition we call stem wobble. This is one of the huge downsides to folding electric scooters.
Unfortunately, its not just the low-end scooters that suffer from poor stem folding mechanisms. The high-end Dualtron scooters are notorious for this issue, despite their otherwise immense quality.
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Many electric scooters have no suspension, while high performance ones, like the Zero 8X pictured above feature a beefy coil-over-hydraulic suspension.
The suspension of the electric scooter, like that on motor vehicle or bicycle, helps to improve ride quality and dampin bumps in the road.
There are three main types of suspension systems that are typically found on electric scooters: spring, hydraulic or air piston, and rubber suspension. Scooters with the best suspension will have some 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 that provide damping effects. Large pneumatic tires can offer be a better form of suspension that cheap spring suspensions.
Tires given you traction to accelerate or brake in an emergency. Airless tires, like those pictured above, do not perform as well as pneumatic tires.
Tires are your connection to the road and influence ride quality, traction, range, and braking performance of your electric kick scooter.
Tires come in basically two types: pneumatic (airfilled) and airless. There are a few varieties of airless tires and these include: honeycomb, polymer-filled, and solid.
We always recommend pneumatic tires because they give better ride quality (with or without suspension) and their supple rubber performs much better in adverse road conditions.
For deeper dive into scooter tires, read our technical guide.
Researching an Electric Scooter for You
Purchasing an electric scooter can be a formidable challenge — there are an overwhelming number of choices, a quality electric scooter is easily 500 and can cost upwards of 2,000.
Throwing a wrench into the matters are numerous dubious “review” sites and reviewers that have never touched a scooter in their life.
We have personally tested and developed unbiased written and video reviews for electric scooters at all price ranges, so that you can find the one that best fits your needs.
To buy a scooter without research, you pick one from our curated Best Electric Scooters list. We also have articles on top-rated scooters at the 300. 600. 900. 1200. 1600. and 2500 price ranges.
Commuting Considerations with an Electric Scooter
Commuting by electric scooter is all part of the new trend in micromobility that solves the so-called last mile problem. The last mile problem refers to the last leg of a trip — whether it be walking from bus station to your office or exiting a freeway in a car to go to a specific destination.
Paradoxically, the leg of a trip tends to be the slowest and most difficult despite being the shortest. This is because public transit systems and roadways are all optimized for connecting big population centers separated by larger distances. Think about it — multilane highways connect major cities separate by tens or hundreds of miles. At average freeway speeds, you can go 60 miles in an hour or about a mile a minute.
However, once you’ve exited the freeway, your last mile or so could take 15 minutes or more!
This is where electric scooters, bike sharing, electric skateboards, etc — all forms of micro-mobility — come into play. They make traveling the last mile of your trip faster, easier, and more environmentally friendly.
If you have to commute just a few miles to work or have to walk from a bus stop or transit center, then an electric scooter is the perfect option for you.
Comparing Electric Scooters and Bicycles
Compared to bicycles, electric scooters are more portable, less prone to theft, and require less physical effort than a bicycle.
They allow you to get to your destination at speeds around 15 mph with no physical effort. You can arrive at your destination more quickly, fold up the scooter, and carry it inside. Because they require less physical effort than powering a bicycle, you won’t be as sweaty as you would if you were to ride a bike (and can get there faster on many scooters).
Electric scooters also have some disadvantages which might make bicycles a better option in some cases. These are: ability to bring inside, stability and cost.
If you aren’t physically able or not allowed to bring your electric scooter inside then a bicycle may be better. Locking an electric scooter up on the street for a prolonged period of time is not optimal — they seem to be more prone to theft, vandalism and are more difficult to lock due to lack of locking points.
Bicycles, due to their geometry and larger tires, are more stable and better on rough roads. Adult scooters have relatively small tires that do not roll over bumps easily. They also have a more upright steering angle which makes them inherently less stable and more prone to wobbles that have sent many a scooter rider down.
Finally, adult electric scooters are more expensive than a quality entry-level bicycle. An entry-level bicycle will run you around 300 and be much more durable. Crashing on a bicycle is unlikely to harm most whereas many scooters, particularly budget ones, can be rendered completely inoperable after a crash.
Electric Scooter Laws and Where You Can Ride
You should always review 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 taken as legal advice.
Laws for electric scooters vary a lot by state and city. In some jurisdictions, motorized electric scooters are completely prohibited.
In general, where they are legal, most jurisdictions are starting to regulate them in the same manner as bicycles. They generally must be ridden on the street or in bike lanes and are forbidden from riding on the sidewalk or pedestrian pathways.
Like a bicycle, you must obey all traffic laws that cars must adhere to. This includes stopping at stop signs and red lights.
Here’s our blog on electric scooter laws.
Why Wearing Gear When Riding Electric Scooters Is Important
Safety is no joke — you could be killed or permanently maimed riding an electric scooter.
Safety equipment including a helmet is an absolute necessity when riding the electric scooter at any speed. Depending on the speed and type of riding conditions that you experience, you may need more or less equipment.
Learn more about what type of helmet you should wear in our guide to electric scooter helmets.
Safety equipment that can prevent accidents and mitigate injuries includes:
- Knee pads
- Elbow pads
- Protective jacket and pants
For more information see our articles on electric scooter safety.
The NTA-8776 is an electric bicycle helmet standard that is more rigorous than any of the bicycle, downhill, or BMX standards.
Where You Can Get Your Electric Scooter Repaired
Electric scooters require no regular upkeep except checking pressure if they have pneumatic (air-filled) tires.
If you are looking for repair, maintenance or upgrade information, check out our detailed guides for different electric scooters (more are being added all the time).
Learn where you can get an electric scooter repair.
What’s driving the battery fires with e-bikes and scooters?
An electric bike parked near a Bronx supermarket that was destroyed in a fire that officials say was caused by a faulty lithium-ion scooter battery.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
As firefighters battled a five-alarm fire at a supermarket in the Bronx earlier this month, New York City officials gathered beside what they said was the cause of the fire: the blackened shell of what was once a sit-on electric scooter.
Officials said that a faulty lithium-ion battery in the scooter had suddenly burst into flame, as captured on surveillance video. The resulting fire was so intense, they said, that it enveloped the building in a matter of minutes.
“There is extraordinary damage. This entire building behind me is completely destroyed. The roof is caved in. There is nothing left. And it is all because of this one single bike,” said Laura Kavanaugh, the city’s fire commissioner.
Last week’s blaze joined the more than 200 fires in New York City last year caused by batteries from e-bikes, electric scooters and similar devices. Lithium-ion battery explosions are now the third leading cause of fires in the city, the fire department says.
Per FDNY Fire Marshals, the cause of today’s 5-alarm fire at 2096 Grand Concourse in the Bronx was a lithium-ion battery which powered a scooter. piccom/HTifRojiJo
— FDNY (@FDNY) March 5, 2023
As the popularity of so-called micromobility devices has soared across the U.S., so too have risen the number of fires associated with the lithium-ion batteries that power them.
Some lawmakers and federal regulators have taken note. Late last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it had received reports of more than 200 incidents since the start of 2021 in which micromobility devices caught fire or overheated — incidents that led to the deaths of 19 people.
“Destructive and deadly fires from lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes have reached a crisis level. The tragic loss of life from battery fires is heartbreaking and preventable,” said Commissioner Richard Trumka in December.
Read on for more about why these fires are happening and how to keep yourself safe:
Why are batteries in e-bikes and scooters vulnerable to catching fire?
Lithium-ion batteries power many rechargeable devices that are part of our modern lives: cell phones, laptops, vapes, cordless power tools and electric vehicles of all kinds, from cars to scooters to e-bikes to hoverboards.
They’re small, lightweight and powerful — but they’re also prone to overheating and catching fire, said Michael Pecht, a professor of engineering at the University of Maryland. “Ever since lithium-ion batteries started to be prevalent in products, we’ve seen fires,” he said.
Fires from exploding e-bike batteries multiply in NYC — sometimes fatally
At issue is the high density of the batteries, which is a double-edged sword, said Pecht, who also serves as director of the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, a university research center that consults with companies on reliability and safety issues, including batteries.
“They can provide a lot of power to our cell phones and to our computers for a relatively long period of time in a very small volume,” he said. “But because we have so much energy packed in that small volume, if there is a problem, then they’re very flammable.”
Defects or contamination in the manufacturing process can eventually lead to short circuiting or other failures.
In 2006, Dell, Apple and other major laptop makers urged millions of customers to return laptop batteries after Sony discovered a flaw in their battery manufacturing process. Chevy, Hyundai and Chrysler have all been forced to issue recalls over battery fires in electric vehicles. The Federal Aviation Administration reported more than 60 incidents last year in which lithium-ion batteries — mostly battery packs, vapes or cell phones — overheated, began smoking or caught fire on airplanes.
Why do there seem to be more e-bike- and scooter-related fires now?
In short, there are more fires because there are so many more e-bikes and scooters these days.
Their small size and low cost relative to gas-powered vehicles have made micromobility devices an attractive transportation and recreation option for millions of Americans. That’s especially true for those living in urban areas where parking and traffic are challenges for drivers. Electric bikes and scooters have also been embraced by delivery drivers.
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The burst in popularity is so recent that there isn’t yet much solid data about how many e-bikes, scooters and other devices are sold each year.
But what information we do have shows that their numbers are growing rapidly. The Light Electric Vehicle Association, an industry group, estimates that about 880,000 e-bikes were imported to the U.S. in 2021. That’s about double the number imported in 2020, and three times the total from 2019.
devices means more fires, experts say, especially since the industry is relatively new and unregulated, and there are a lot of different companies and products on the market.
What’s being done about it?
There’s not currently much regulation of e-bikes and scooters.
Regulation could go in several directions. One would be to require devices be certified under the safety standards recommended by Underwriter Laboratories, a group that has produced safety certifications for electric products for over a century.
Earlier this month, the New York City Council passed a package of local bills that would require all e-bikes and other electric mobility devices sold, rented or leased in the city to be certified under the appropriate UL safety standards.
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The legislation also bans the sale of uncertified or used batteries. Retailers found to be in violation of the laws can be fined up to 1,000 per violation.
At the national level, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a letter in December calling on more than 2,000 manufacturers, importers and retailers to voluntarily adhere to UL safety standards for e-bikes and other micromobility devices.
Following the guidelines “significantly reduces the risk of injuries and deaths from micromobility device fires,” wrote Robert Kaye, the agency’s director of compliance and field operations. “Consumers face an unreasonable risk of fire and risk serious injury or death if their micromobility devices do not meet the level of safety provided by the relevant UL standards.”
Additionally, the agency has vowed to pursue penalties against companies who fail to inform the CPSC of safety hazards.
Recommendations to keep yourself safe
The main recommendation that comes from both the CPSC and the FDNY is to be present while you’re charging your device, and to not charge it while you’re sleeping. Unplug the device once it is fully charged.
The CPSC also recommends that you only use the charger that came included with your device and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper charging.
Fire officials add that you should charge your device away from flammable materials like furniture and pillows, and that you shouldn’t charge or store your device in a location that blocks your access to an exit.
When you’re buying an e-bike or other micromobility device, try to find what battery comes stocked with it, Pecht said. Does the maker of the device state where the battery is sourced from? Is the battery made by a reputable manufacturer? Experts also suggest that consumers look for batteries that have a UL certification.
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Be warned that some online sellers may falsely claim to have UL certification. Others may sell “re-wrapped” batteries, meaning counterfeit batteries produced to appear as though they’re made by reputable manufacturers.
If your battery starts to fail, it may be safest to buy a new one. “Don’t repair anything yourself, and buy from a company where you know that they’re using brand-name batteries,” Pecht said. It may work best to buy a new battery from the same company that produced your bike or scooter.
To dispose of an old battery, bring it to a battery recycling center or other e-waste facility. Don’t throw away lithium-ion batteries in conventional trash.