The Rise of the Electric Scooter

In an electric car, the (enormous) battery is a major part of the price. If electric car prices are decreasing, battery costs must be decreasing, because it's not like the cost of fabricating rubber, aluminum, and steel into car shapes can decline that much, right?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://blog.codinghorror.com/the-rise-of-the-electric-scooter/
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I really want to love these, I do. But I have the same problems as I do with an electric bike. The infrastructure just isn’t there for “medium length” trips, like my commute. Everybody I know who commutes by bike has been in at least one serious accident, and I have no reason to believe it’d be any different with these. And that doesn’t even get into the issue of weather – here in Germany, we’ve got maybe another month of decent weather before we spend 4-5 months with cold, wet, gray everything. Maybe I’ll wind up using the rental services downtown for “last mile” trips, to supplement existing public transit, but I’m still (sadly) going to spend way too much time every day in a car.

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Yeah weather is a major concern for scooters (both kick and sitting kinds), as well as motorcycles!

The electric scooter rental business seems rather doomed, to me. The numbers and data presented here are downright scary.

(it’s funny how the picture shows two sets of adults riding those M365 rental scooters, which are only rated for one “typical weight” adult max.)

An industrial, ruggedized scooter might fare better, and all of these changes in the Bird Two sound logical enough:

Plus, at $300 for a decent model (that doesn’t NEED to be industrially rugged for a responsible owner)… why rent at all versus buying? :thinking:

The Xiaomi M365 used to be available for $499. However, after sales went through the roof and the company had trouble keeping it in stock in the US, it finally came back at a higher price of $599. That’s a little supply and demand lesson for you.

That was written one year ago in October 2018, The M365 is not in stock at Amazon, but you can trivially buy it for $349 from walmart.com right now!

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I’m not surprised to hear the rental scooters don’t last long – I see the two-rider thing all the time and we only just got them here a few months ago.

I haven’t jumped on the rentals yet, but if I did, it would be because I’m interested in having it for last-mile connections after riding on transit. I’d be happy to pay a buck or two for a 10-block scooter ride, but I definitely do not want to carry a 25-pound scooter for the whole preceding bus trip. As I understand it, the whole attraction of the rental model is that you just grab a bike or scooter that you’re already more or less standing next to, hop on, and ride it to wherever you’re going, then leave it there. Certainly, if I used that model so often that I wound up spending the cost of a scooter every few months, I’d have to re-evaluate that point of view.

Actually, I have a relevant story. I had to take a trip to Frankfurt with my tween daughter. We had an appointment about a 20 minute walk from the big shopping area, and our schedule was a little tight so I was looking for ways to save time.

Regular transit (bus or subway) wouldn’t make sense – 7 minute walk to a bus stop on the right line, wait for bus, then 2 stops on the bus, which would have wound up saving next to no time. It was a pedestrian zone so a taxi or ride-sharing service wouldn’t work, but I saw all these scooters everywhere and thought hey, that would probably cut the trip time in half. But I checked, and you can only unlock one scooter per account (which requires a credit card, which of course my tween does not have), and actually when I checked the FAQs they require that all riders be 18 or older.

So, there’s another use case these things could support, but don’t.

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These are really cool but sadly the bike-lane infrastructure (where you would want to ride these) is not great in Tokyo. I think also they are essentially illegal unless you register them as small motor vehicles, which means they need functional brakes, etc.

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I actually do carry my m365 around in stores. It’s been fine. It might feel weird at first, but after you’ve done it once you realize it really is OK.

I’ve never brought it into a regular table service restaurant, but at fast food places, I do it all the time. Just tuck it under the table while you eat.

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Freefly makes a motor that will run a scooter at 50 mph for the deeply suicidal. They have video on their site. I’ll stick with my Nine Bot Segway MiniPro with its 10" wheels, thank you. Even so, it only takes a 1-2" pavement lip to dismount me - I shudder to think what it would take to flip a scooter with its tiny wheels. I got the MiniPro initially to shoot video but now use it to zip around to the mailbox and haul garbage - it is fun. A scooter simply wouldn’t work well for video, unless you could switch foot position adeptly, but I’m 77 and my name is not Charles Woodson. The 18.6 mph of the Xiomei is insane - many, many lawsuits just waiting to happen.

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I like the notion of convenient and environmentally friendly transport as much as the next guy, but I just think that in many (if not most) cases these scooters are death traps. The small wheel diameter paired with a high center of gravity and relatively high speed makes them very dangerous. On a sidewalk they are dangerous to pedestrians, and in the street the risk of a collision with a car is obvious. Virtually nobody wears a helmet, dual riders is common, and many riders are quite reckless. Never mind how rental scooter customers seem to just park (or throw) the scooter in the middle of the sidewalk when they are done. The city is lilttered with the damn things (yes, starting to sound grouchy now, I know).

My cousin’s husband is in the ICU as I write this with severe head trauma (skull fractures and oedema in the brain) after crashing on an e-scooter the other day. And in my neighborhood alone there have been at least two deaths that I know about in the past six months.

Whatever happened to bicycles, you know, with pedals and large enough wheels that you don’t go flying form hitting a crak in the pavement)? Most of us could use the exercise. I truly wish for Lime, Bird, and all the rest to go bankrupt as soon as possible.

PS. Love my electric car, have never ridden an electric bike but would love to try (wearing a helmet)

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Motorized vehicles don’t belong on sidewalks. There’s nothing “onerous” about that - they are too fast and difficult to control to be safe among pedestrians.

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bigger tires make a huge difference in handling. The video above shows a hyper racing 1600 with 14-in tires, top speed 39 mph.
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Much of my traveling is running errands around town (1-3 miles from my house). How well do electric scooters work for those sorts of trips? Particularly, I would be curious about carrying groceries.

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I recently purchased a Boosted Rev, and while I didn’t feel comfortable above 15mph on the xiaomi, on the Boosted even 24 (max speed) is comfortable and steady. I think it’s a lot safer to go 24mph on roads because cars don’t need to pass you on 25mph streets.

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A guy showed up to our office yesterday on a Segway electric scooter, and we discussed how this was sort of the evolution of the original “innovation” of the Segway. I had no idea they had gotten into the game…

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I purchased a Segway i2 in 2007 and it is still rocking.

Took my daughter to school every day for about 9 years, and you cannot imagine the fun that we had with an otherwise routine activity. It is an incredible machine in my view, and electrical scooters are in a different, inferior, league as far as hardware is concerned. The Segway had the best technology available at the time, even the gyroscopes were made solely for the Segway. It has been reported to have the most efficient electrical motor at the time.

The Segway was the byproduct of the iBot, a self-balancing wheel chair. The project itself was fascinating and documented in the book “Reinventing the wheel”. After a few years prototyping the wheel chair, engineers started playing in the lab gliding the basic naked device, and looking at them Dean Kamen had a vision: to fix urban transportation in cities.

The reasons why the Segway was not a commercial success are not simple probably. It seems Dean Kamen as CEO was not very good. Was it too advanced to its time? Too expensive for mass consumption? Anyway, I believe that vision was essentially right:

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It’s plenty possible to wear a helmet on a scooter, you know.

I think of backpacks when I think of scooters. I guess it depends how much you are buying; would it all fit in a backpack you were wearing? If it’s a lot you probably want an electric bicycle with panniers, but unfortunately electric bicycles are significantly more expensive, the decent ones start at around $1000 and go way, way up from there.

And when there are no pedestrians, and the sidewalk is completely empty? :thinking: It’d be crazy to even talk about riding on the sidewalk in say, Manhattan NYC. But on the incredibly lightly populated sidewalks of the average city or town?

I also agree that when peds are present, you should slow to just above walking speed. That’s why I said so in the blog entry.

Segway was purchased by a Chinese scooter company.

Two companies have sealed a deal that’s raising eyebrows: Segway, the struggling American maker of disgraced self-balancing scooters, has been bought by Ninebot, the Chinese rival that Segway recently accused of copying its signature two-wheelers.

Ninebot announced the curious acquisition for an undisclosed sum [in 2015], which followed a combined $80 million investment from mega-rich Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, investment firm Sequoia Capital and other backers. The two electric scooter makers will still operate as separate brands with their own products, but will unite under a “strategic alliance” to develop smarter, greener short-distance transportation vehicles.

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Of course it’s possible to wear a helmet on a scooter, but when is the last time you saw someone who did? Do you? As things stand today, the usage of electric scooters is very dangerous. Maybe you’re one of the minority who ride safely, and I sincerely hope you will never have an accident. But you know how it is, the irresponsible people are the ones who wreck things for all of us…

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Far too expensive, far too early for the required battery tech, and all the auto-balance stuff ended up being unnecessary added complexity. Per Wired:

Before it launched, the Segway was said to revolutionize the way cities are laid out and how people get around them. Venture capitalist John Doerr predicted it would reach $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history, and that it could be bigger than the Internet. Kamen expected to be selling 10,000 units a week by the end of 2002—that’s half a million a year. In the next six years, Segway sold just 30,000 units, according to Forbes.

Additionally the super-wide format of the Segway is not great at all for cities and sharing space.

The long, narrow “skateboard” or “surfboard” shape of a scooter / bicyle is superior where you need to fit amongst existing pedestrian and vehicle traffic, e.g. in cities.

I think we also see this effect in the brief and now subsided popularity of so-called hoverboards…

… wide isn’t as compatible with actual transportation needs, and they ended up being harder to use in practice due to the stance, harder to balance on versus narrow scooters and bicycles.

I definitely agree that the electric scooter is realizing the original vision of Segway. But the Segway itself is really a niche design for niche industries:

But it has found a measure of success in industrial and fleet applications where employees are on their feet or moving around a lot, something that makes a lot more sense than personal ownership. Police departments (who have special versions with sirens and strobe lights!), tour groups, warehouse workers, mall security guards, and airport maintenance staff have all adopted the Segway.

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Yeah, another interesting hybrid product. Basically a near-bicycle!

There’s a ton of innovation in this space right now, primarily unlocked by cheap powerful lithium-Ion batteries.

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These things are everywhere. For another idea that sounds neat, but might eventually get banned in airports, there’s electric scooter luggage available. It seems to me, you wouldn’t actually want to pick this luggage up fully packed plus batteries, so you’d need to ride it. http://modobag.com/

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Most if not all of the affordable e-scooters are from Chinese companies and customer support can be lacking to consumers in the US. I ordered the Xiaomi scooter last night because it’s likely the only cheap scooter I could buy that I would be able to keep running in 2 years. The popularity of the M365 means that parts are readily available (from China) and there are many DIY repair videos are YouTube. Walmart has a 15-day return policy for these scooters and I’m expecting to fix any issues that come up myself beyond that period.

I honestly would like to see Tesla come out with a line of electric scooters and offer consumers in the US a scooter they could buy from a company with good customer support.

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