Electric Scooter: Origins, History and Evolution
With all the latest high-tech electric scooters innovations, it’s easy to think that the so-known escooters or ebikes are something that emerged in the 21 st century.
Surprisingly enough, the first patent of a functional ebike dates back to… 1895, a year before the first gas-powered scooter was created. Let’s take a quick look back and see how it all started!
It’s unclear when the first electrical bicycle was invented. We do know that the first patent called “electrical bicycle” was filled by inventor Ogden Bolton Jr. of Canton Ohio back in 1895. Interestingly enough, the patent states that “My invention relates to an improvement in electric bicycles”, which suggests that the electric bicycles already existed back in the day, at least on paper.
This is not as crazy as it seems since the first electrostatic motors date back to 1740, while lead acid batteries, the ones we see in modern cars, have been invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté. over, the first tricycle was created in 1881 by Gustave Trouvé and overhauled the same year by Ayrton and Perry – their “electric carriage” could reach a top speed of 14 km/h (8.69 mph) with a range of 40 km (24.8 miles).
It’s not a stretch to suppose that someone, at some point before 1895, came out with the idea to combine a bicycle, an electric motor and some lead acid batteries to create a fully-functional vehicle.
In 1896 Humber, a pioneering British bicycle manufacturer, exhibited the first electric tandem bicycle at the Stanley Cycle Show (lately supplanted by the Olympia Motor Cycle Show, which still exists today). In May 22 1897, this tandem reached a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph).
French Electric Tandem around 1900, ridden by Dacier Jalabert
Since Nickel Cadmium batteries weren’t invented until 1899, Humber’s tandem ebike was powered by the lead acid batteries, making it pretty bulky and heavy.
While the first ebike prototypes look a bit funny from the point of view of a modern person, back in 1890’s-1910’s they were seriously considered as a viable alternative.
You see, unlike modern ebikes, the first electric scooters didn’t really have competition among gas-fueled ones. For instance, the first non-electric motorcycle that was available for purchase was released in 1894 in Germany by Hildebrand Wolfmüller. With a maximum speed of 40 km/h (25 mph), the bike ended up being a financial failure due to the high price and technical difficulties.
Before the first generation of mopeds came out in 1915 with the release of the Motoped and the Autoped, the October 1911 issue of Popular Mechanics mentioned the introduction of an ebike that could reach a max speed of 56 km/h (35mph), which was a 40% improvement over the Hildebrand Wolfmüller fuel-powered motorcycle. The ebike also had three different speeds and featured a range of 121 km (75 miles) to 160 km (100 miles) per charge.
Trying Dual Motor Electric Scooter For The First Time
In 1919, Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies – a major British agricultural machinery maker developed an electric motorcycle with a sidecar. The latter carried the batteries. However, even though it was registered for road use, it only remained as a prototype.
For the next 15 years, no major innovations in the field of ebikes were made. One of the main reasons being the release of the gas-fueled Autoped in 1916. The scooter was a pretty competent model and it saw mass production both in the US and in Germany until 1922. It was also the first scooter with a foldable handle bar.
over in 1919, ABC motorcycles joined the race and released the Skootamota that ended up being even widely adopted than the Autoped. The Skootamota was a stand-up scooter, though it also came with a chair for long-distance riding.
The Evolution of the Motorized Scooter
Humans love to challenge design. Since the invention of bicycles and automobiles, there have been constant efforts to improve and change them. The same is true of motorized scooters and mopeds. In this guide, we’ll discuss the history of motorized scooters, including when they were first invented and their various uses throughout history.
Who Invented the Motorized Scooter?
Motorized and electric scooters date back to the start of the automotive industry — and possibly even earlier. A man named Arthur Hugo Cecil Gibson is known as the creator of the first motorized scooter. He patented the idea for a self-propelled vehicle that would soon go by a name consumers would recognize.
Although earlier patents and drawn concepts for a similar design existed, Gibson’s commercially created motorized scooter was produced in New York in 1916 and was called The Autoped. The Autoped was the first mass-produced gasoline-powered scooter on the market. Its engine was mounted above the front wheel, and the steering column controlled both the clutch and brake. It was gasoline-powered and said to be popular among traffic police for its efficiency and ability to travel in tight spaces.
The Autoped could safely reach a speed of 20 miles per hour and was known to be unsteady if driven any faster. The Autoped was very popular when it was first released, mainly do the novelty of its appearance and function. It was marketed toward all walks of life, and advertisements that appeared in publications claimed one could use it for commuting to and from school or work, running errands, making business deliveries, salesmen transportation and more.
It’s important to note Gibson did have help coming up with the final build of the Autoped. Joseph Merkel, the designer of the Flying Merkel motorcycle, was integral in bringing the project to life. Little did the duo know their product would be a game-changer in the industry for decades to come.
The Autoped was a mode of transportation marketed as an excellent way to save time, money and energy while going about a daily routine. Only eight Autopeds are known to still exist today, which makes them sought-after by collectors and museums around the world.
The Design and Legacy of the Autoped Scooter
The first electric scooter company, the Autoped Company of America, was based out of Long Island City. At a glance, the Autoped resembles a kids’ scooter on a larger scale. However, this rugged build featured an engine directly above the front wheel for consistent power. The days of pushing a scooter with one foot would forever be changed because of Gibson’s invention.
The Autoped was engineered during a time when few safety regulations and technologies were in place for motorized vehicles in the U.S. This small-scale project quickly grew in significance as the vehicle caught the eyes of working professionals, students, delivery drivers and nearly anyone who wanted to get from point A to point B quickly.
Noteworthy Features of the Autoped Scooter
Gibson designed the Autoped to be user-friendly and convenient to store. Users could operate the scooter with controls on the handlebars to operate the clutch, engage the throttle and apply the brakes. Production models also included a foldable steering column that allowed users to pack up the Autoped between uses without taking up much space.
Other features of the Autoped scooter included a front headlight, rear taillight and horn button to alert other drivers.
Advertising the Autoped Scooter
The Autoped Company of America released helpful marketing messages to explain who the scooter was intended for. Consumers could better understand how they might see themselves using the invention to travel locally without the need for a full-size vehicle.
Many marketing visuals for the Autoped framed it as a luxury. One of the most memorable advertisements for the motorized scooter pictured an illustrated woman riding it while wearing an elegant hat and fur coat. Marketing messages targeted women who enjoyed shopping and having the finest driving experience possible. However, there were plenty of men interested in the innovative scooter, too.
A Vehicle Ahead of Its Time
Production of the Autoped lasted until 1921. The Autoped Company of America called it quits on the motorized scooter line after six years. While the Autoped did sell, experts believe the main cause for the decline in interest had to do with its price point and niche audience during the early 1900s.
Consumers who wanted to travel in a similar fashion could pick up a bicycle for less money. Those looking for a more luxurious motorized experience bought motorcycles with comfortable seats.
How Motorized Scooters Were Used Throughout History
Motorized scooters and mopeds are still around today and are used primarily for transportation and recreation. However, during the first several decades of their existence, they had varied applications.
- Youthful recreation: Motorized scooters were created before most common traffic laws existed, including traffic lights. Teenagers were using motorized vehicles to drive recklessly, using machines with higher power engines. Laws were eventually passed to prohibit this. Unfortunately, this resulted in a loss of sales for many scooter production companies, as teenagers were a large part of their market. To combat the dip in sales, manufacturers found a loophole by creating specific scooters that could not go fast enough to break any laws. This loophole eventually led to the evolution of the moped.
- Gang getaways: In many places, especially New York, criminals, gang members and juvenile delinquents saw motorized scooters as the perfect method for a quick getaway when evading the police.
- The rich and famous: Early scooters were expensive to produce and thus expensive to purchase. The ordinary, everyday person usually could not afford the luxury. Instead, motorized scooters were seen as a symbol of wealth or status. In 1916, a print advertisement ran in a magazine featuring a character dubbed Autoped girl. Autoped girl was a stylish woman in fashionable clothes and furs riding a scooter. Several iconic people of the time were photographed on scooters, including famed suffragette Lady Florence Norman — who used her scooter to commute to and from work — and even Amelia Earhart.
- World War II: As with most inventions of the time, World War II played a big role in the history of mopeds. Commercial scooter production slowed considerably during the war. Any scooters that were produced were used by soldiers. After the war, however, soldiers returned home seeking an inexpensive way of transportation. Motorcycles existed but were too expensive for the common soldier. Scooters were the perfect compromise for many. As demand increased in post-war societies, so did production.
- The Postal Service: One of the most iconic applications for motorized scooters was when the Postal Service used them to deliver mail in the early 1910s. Although scooters did not last long in the Postal Service, there have been some attempts to revive the notion. In 2002, the San Franciso Postal Service introduced Segways into their routes.
What Are the Different Types of Scooters?
Today, the terms moped and motorized scooter are used interchangeably, and rightfully so. The two machines function very similarly. That being said, they are not exactly the same.
Moped vs. Motorized Scooter
So, what is a moped, and how does it differ from a motorized scooter? In terms of design, the most significant difference between the two machines is that motorized scooters have a step-through frame and a place to stand, while mopeds traditionally used pedals.
However, in the eyes of the law, there are key differences. To drive a moped on public roadways, it must be registered. Depending on the location, mopeds are typically not allowed to go faster than 25 or 30 miles per hour and must have below 50cc power.
How Many Different Types of Mopeds Are There?
There are three main types of mopeds, and they are divided by their engine size. Engine size is measured in cc, or cubic centimeters.
- The 50cc engine: Mopeds with a 50cc engine are ideal for short trips or recreational purposes. In many states, they are permitted to drive on public roadways with proper licensing and registration.
- The 150cc engine: 150cc mopeds are more powerful than 50cc models, and are suited for longer recreational ventures that require more engine power.
- The 250cc engine: A 250cc engine is one of the most powerful motorized scooters available. It is ideal for competitive sports and racing.
These are the most common types of moped engines. However, there have been several variations throughout history. For example, many popular scooters fall somewhere in between these figures with a 75cc or 125cc engine.
The first electric scooter
In 1996, Peugeot shook the world with their mass production of electric scooters. Although. It was not a stand-up scooter like what we have today, the evolution of scooters cannot be completed without mentioning Scoot ‘Elec– the name given to Peugeot’s electric scooter. Scoot ‘Elec was powered by nickel-cadmium batteries of 18V and 100Ah which were not so environmentally friendly. The maximum speed of the first electric scooter was 31mph and could cover a distance of 25 miles. it weighed (find out how much an electric scooter weighs) about 254lbs(115.2kg)
The modern-day electric scooter
We are gradually getting to the end of the evolution of scooters but before we end, let us take a look at how the modern-day scooter came about. After Autoped and Krupp ran out of production, the manufacturing of a stand-up scooter came to a standstill. GoPed started manufacturing gas-powered scooters in the 1980s similar to that of Autoped. With the production of sustainable batteries, GoPed manufactured the first modern-day electric scooter we see today in 2001.
This model does not make use of only handlebars and steering rods like the Autoped scooters. It has buttons on the handlebars for various functions which allows the rider to operate the electric scooter more effectively. The controller in the electric scooter receives a signal from the buttons and other parts and sends information to the required part to do its job. It can also be folded like the Autoped.
The First Retro Electric Scooter with Removable Batteries. Aventura-X
Brands like Micro and Razor also started mass production of electric scooters to make them available to a large number of people,
The evolution of scooters did not end with the stand-up electric scooter. What followed next? The self-balancing electric scooter is popularly known as a hoverboard. Hoverboards are the latest addition to the list of the evolution of scooters.
Self-balancing scooters (Hoverboards)
In 2013, Shen Chane designed and built the first model of the modern hoverboard. Initially, the hoverboard was designed to be used indoors. Due to insufficient space, Shen Chane introduced larger wheels to suit different road surfaces.
The mode of operation is different from the stand-up electric scooter. Self-balancing scooters have gyroscope speed sensors and tilt on each wheel. After the boarding of the hoverboard and tilting, the gyroscope transmits data to the logic board to move. The logic board then commands the motor which propels the wheels.
The logic board of the hoverboard and controller of the electric scooter can be compared to the processor of a computer
The first motorized scooter: the Autoped
The story of the electric scooter as we know it begins in 1916. The first motorized scooters were actually powered by gas. The Autoped, the first mass-produced motorized scooter in the US, had a gas engine over the front wheel. The patent for the Autoped belongs to inventor Arthur Hugo Cecil Gibson, but Joseph F. Merkel deserves design credit, as well. Battery-powered machines did exist at this time, such as the battery-powered bicycle patented by Odgen Bolton Jr. in 1895. A later version of the Autoped relied on electricity, but it was slower than the 35 mph offered by the gas-powered version.
At first, some thought this motorized scooter was too strange. However, Autoped did a good job of marketing itself as a versatile, convenient, and cost-saving vehicle. Everyone from business professionals to servants to grocers to messengers could benefit. While it lasted longer than critics thought it would, the Autoped didn’t sell well enough. It couldn’t compete with cheaper bicycles or more comfortable motorcycles. It still left a bit of an impression on the culture, though. Even after manufacturing in the US stopped in 1921, Amelia Earhart could be spotted riding one around California in the 1930s. The Autoped also inspired other attempts at gas-powered scooters, but most failed.
The electric scooter craze begins
In 2000, Razor burst onto the scene with its manual kick scooters. Three years later, Razor introduced its first electric scooter featuring a rechargeable battery. In 2009, Myway (now Inokim) also established itself as a leading electric scooter manufacturer. Their scooter used lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are more eco-friendly and efficient than other battery types. Lithium-ion has now become the battery of choice for quality e-scooters. Besides Razor and Inokim, big brands include Dualtron, Segway, Glion, and Unagi. You can find scooters designed for every age group and budget.
In 2017, scooter-share startups Bird and Lime started putting electric scooters all over major cities. Their popularity was shocking. Bird became the fastest startup to reach a 5000 billion valuation. “The Rapid rise of these scooter ride-share companies shows that people today are interested in green, affordable, and portable forms of transportation,” says Paul Strobel, owner of Eridehero. People aren’t only keen to rent electric scooters. Riders are buying them, too. In 2019, the global electric scooters market was estimated at USD 18.6 billion. Estimates show that by 2030, the market could be worth up to 41.98 billion.
How did e-scooters become so popular?
Why are electric scooters so popular? There are a few reasons. The first is simply cost. It’s much more expensive to buy and maintain a car or other gas-powered vehicle than an electric scooter. For the vast majority of the world, saving money wherever possible is important.
Another key reason is the desire to protect the environment. Pollution and greenhouse emissions are on a lot of people’s minds these days, so making a transportation change is one way to help the planet. While there’s still lots of room for improvement, especially when it comes to the manufacturing process, an electric scooter ride is still greener than driving a car.
Convenience, especially for shorter trips, is the third reason for the E-scooter’s popularity. This is especially true in cities where many trips are less than 5 miles. It’s easy to hop on a scooter and travel the whole way or use the scooter in conjunction with public transport. Modern electric scooters are easy to fold and fairly lightweight, so riders don’t need to worry about parking once they reach their destination.