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[NEWS] E-scooter buying guide: speed, power, comfort... and are they legal?
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E-scooter buying guide: speed, power, comfort... and are they legal?

Picking the best e-scooter for your needs can be tricky
Picking the best e-scooter for your needs can be tricky


There's thousands of e-scooters on the market, ranging from £100s to £1000s. We guide you through the most common mishaps

E-scooters offer all the advantages of a bike without the downside of having to work up a sweat to get to your destination.

So, after checking if you can use one legally on your proposed route (remember, private land is fine, but roads, pavements, pedestrian areas and cycle lanes are not at the time of writing, unless you are hiring through an approved government trial scheme, when roads and bike lanes are potentially legal), what should you look out for?

With prices ranging from £100 to £1000s, and capability from surviving billiard smooth asphalt to full off-roaders, here’s Move Electric’s handy guide to making sure you get the e-scooter you need.

How much should I pay for my e-scooter?

It largely depends on what you want from your e-scooter, with added price usually bringing added range, speed, comfort, braking or a combination of the four.

As a rough guide, the quality end of the market starts at around £250 and extends beyond £1500.

How far will my e-scooter go on a charge?

Like all salesmen, e-scooter manufacturers tend to quote a best-case range capability, so be aware that what you get out of a charge isn’t the same as what’s possible from a charge.

As a rule of thumb, a manufacturer will test with a 70kg adult riding on a super-smooth road with no gradient and a freshly brimmed battery on board. The tyres will also be pumped up to the optimum pressures.

If you’re lighter, you will go further, but if you are heavier, then the range will decrease. Likewise if the road is bumpy or features inclines. Especially on cheaper e-scooters, you can also expect the charge the battery can hold to decrease with every charge and over time.

As a rule of thumb, the average bike commuter travels around 15 miles, so you’ll likely want your e-scooter to have that sort of capability. The majority of e-scooters promise at least 15-20 miles of range, making ones that offer 20-30 when new a stronger long-term bet.

The longest-distance e-scooters offer around 50 miles of range - but you’ll pay a premium as a result of the larger battery.

How fast will my e-scooter go?

Most official e-scooter trials are limited to 15.5mph, or 12.5mph in London. While that can make you feel like a mobile chicane when you are out on the open road, the limits are set to keep you as safe as possible, and - as many cyclists will testify - can be plenty fast enough, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to take a tumble.

Out on the open market, there are scooters available with higher speeds. Most commonly, these top out at 18mph, although there are some mainstream models that claim up to 40mph.

Before you climb aboard any e-scooter, though, we’d urge you to ensure you have the correct safety equipment. Even low-speed accidents can hurt, and a novice taking to an e-scooter with minimal or no suspension and very small wheels can sometimes be a recipe for disaster. 

Faster scooters are also typically more expensive, both because of the higher-grade electric motor and the need for a larger battery in order to deliver a sensible range. 

Remember, too, that we typically walk at 4mph, and average speeds in traffic-congested towns and cities is usually below 10mph. With that in mind, even the most basic e-scooter should provide enough oomph to save you time getting your to your destination.

E-scooter speed is determined by several factors including motor power, rider weight, your tyre pressures and the terrain you ride on.  

How much power has my e-scooter got?

Be wary of rated power outputs and peak power outputs. The former is the sustained output, the latter the most it can achieve.

An e-motor’s power is shown in watts, with 250 watts a basic offering for a typical 15mph scooter. These will tend to struggle slightly up hill or to carry heavier loads.

If you plan on travelling on hilly or rough routes, experts typically recommend 350-500 watts of rated power output. 

How quickly will my e-scooter brake?

Brakes come in three typical types on e-scooters - and given the important job they do, it’s worth pausing to consider the best option you can afford.

At the lower end of the scale, some e-scooters have a mudguard over the rear wheel that you operate by pushing down on it. These will be familiar to younger readers who grew up with push scooters, but otherwise take some getting used to. They can be surprisingly effective, but you do also need to learn how to use them to their potential.

Drum brakes are typically the next-best budget option. They are enclosed inside the wheel hub and, while they may not deliver ultimate stopping power, they should be consistent in all conditions and rarely require in-depth maintenance.

Disc brakes normally add cost, but are both lighter and more effective than drums. The weight saving should also net you more range or power.

Regenerative braking systems harness some of the energy created when you brake and turn it into usable electricity, extending your e-scooter’s range. However, they add cost and can often be slightly less effective in emergency situations.

How comfortable is an e-scooter to ride?

Arguably, the ride quality of your e-scooter is more important than its top speed. After all, it’s no use getting somewhere faster but in no fit state to do anything. A well-sprung e-scooter can also go a long way to mitigating accidents, soaking up bumps and lumps in the road and keeping you upright.

Considerations to avoid skeletal rattle should first focus on the wheels and tyres. The smaller the wheel, the more likely it is to wedge into a pothole and pitch you off into the boondocks.

A decent guide for using an e-scooter on a sealed surface is to look for wheels of at least 10in in diameter. If you plan to go off road, though, you’ll want to look for much larger wheels, plus tyres with tread.

Meanwhile, air-filled tyres give a far better ride quality, but are prone to punctures. You’ll also need to check your tyre pressures regularly, as running them too high or too low can pose a greater risk of wear and tear and damage, as well as making your e-scooter less efficient, thereby using up more battery range than you need to.

In contrast, airless, or solid, tyres are less prone to damage but do not provide as smooth a ride.

Some e-scooters also have suspension. Without it, many of the imperfections of the road surface will rattle their way through the frame, up the handlebars and into your body.

Different scooters have front, rear or double-wheel suspension. The more intricate the set-up, the higher the price, but anyone using an e-scooter on bumpy surfaces or off road is likely to want at least some form of suspension.

How much can my e-scooter carry?

This should be clearly displayed on the box, but as a general rule, an average male adult plus their clothes and baggage will often be close to topping 90kg. Female adults plus their baggage are typically lighter, at around 85kg.

As a result, most e-scooters are rated for 100kg. Be aware that carrying more can invalidate the warranty and reduce range and top speed.

What if I have to carry my e-scooter?

The chances are you will end up carrying your e-scooter about, because they are much harder to tether and leave in public spaces when compared with a bike.

You therefore need to consider the weight of the scooter, which will largely but not exclusively be determined by battery size, and whether the handlebars fold up to make it a neater package to carry.

Typically, e-scooters weigh 8-15kg. The former is around the size of a typical bowling ball and the latter is almost twice that, and heavy for all but the hardiest souls.

E-scooters: common questions

What kit do I need? A helmet is a must-have whichever scooter you buy. Lights are equally crucial if you will ride at night. Locks are available, but even then be careful before leaving your e-scooter unattended. Puncture protection fluid is a wise investment for air-filled tyres. If you plan to look at your phone while you ride, for instance for navigation, always use a phone holder.

Do I have to buy my e-scooter up front? No, many top-end e-scooter manufacturers and retailers offer them on finance.

Have I bought a fake e-scooter? It can be hard to tell, given the quality of some lookalike e-scooters on the market, so the cautious approach is always to consider if a deal looks too good to be true. If it is, there’s usually a reason.

Is my e-scooter waterproof? Especially at the budget end of the market, many aren’t, and so if there is water damage, the warranty won’t apply.

Are there hidden costs to watch out for with an e-bike? Because of their size, be wary of post and packing charges. Likewise, consider any import taxes an e-scooter posted from abroad could attract.

This is one in a series of articles set to be published by Autocar over the coming weeks exploring e-mobility under the Move Electric name, a new editorial channel created by Haymarket, our owner. We intend to cover electric cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and more, as well as exploring themes around electricity generation and electric lifestyles. Content will include features, reviews and opinion. If you have any thoughts about what kind of content you'd like to read – or that you wouldn't like to read – please use the comments section below to provide feedback.​

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