Have you heard about electric scooters? Maybe you have or maybe you haven't. Either way it seems that there are not only more electric car companies popping up but electric scooter companies are too. This niche motoring industry is HOT right now like never before.
It doesn't take long if you are searching around on the internet to see all the mainstream companies and start-ups that are getting into the electric scooter business. Here all the ones that I am aware of;
- BMW – BMW, more specifically BMW Motorrad, just introduced the BMW C Evolution which is the German company's foray into the electric scooter market. They are touting it as an “urban mobility” vehicle and it looks slick. Range for the BMW C Evolution is about 60 miles which should get you there and back no problem and it's electric motor pumps out 48 horsepower. It has top speed of 75 mph. Not so slick is the £13,500 British pounds it costs to buy one. That's about $23,000 American dollars of course it is the most finished and well put together electric scooter I've seen.
- Terra Motors – A Japanese company that is aiming to build electric scooters. Terra Motors A4000i looks like a promising entry into the scooter market but seems like it will only be available in Asian countries to start. The company is also planning on building scooters aimed at the delivery market (newspapers, pizzas, etc.) as well.
- ZAP – The well established electric vehicle maker has the Jonway line of motorcycles and scooters that are all electric. Range and prices vary.
- Mahindra – The Indian automaker is going to build it's GenZe electric scooter in Michigan. The GenZe will have a range of 30 miles and a top speed of 30 mph. It will use specialized storage compartments for carrying your gear and stuff. You can put down a $250 deposit and the Genze scooter will cost you $3,000.
- TianmAmerica – A Chinese based electric vehicle company that will ship you any of it's electric scooters for $200. You can order them with lithium-ion batteries or lead-acid depending upon your budget. Prices are $2,300-$4,000+.
- Flux Mopeds – A small Wisconsin based company has only one scooter model, the EM1. It has a removable battery so you can charge the electric scooter indoors. Ideal for apartment dwellers and those who live in dorms. The EM1's $2,000 price tag is quite attractive too.
- Unu – This is a new electric scooter company that is based in Germany and aiming for the European market, where scooters are popular. Like the other scooter companies mentioned above the Unu scoooter will have a removable lithium-ion battery. What's cool about Unu is they will ship you an electric scooter model with insurance and license plates already installed and ready to go. You don't have to worry about getting your electric scooter from the dealership back home. Coupled with being able to get them serviced by Bosch throughout Germany, Unu looks like a promising entry into the market.
- Cezata – This is an old Czech scooter brand that is being revived. Based in the Czech Republic they are also going for the European scooter market with the Cezata Type 506, which retains the styling of the original Cezata 501 and 502 models. The Cezata 506 comes with a 4.8kWh battery pack with power use management system, a 5kW electric hub motor, and an on-board 15 amp charger.
The advantages of a scooters compared to motorcycles are mainly that they are ideal for urban environments, since they take up less room and easier to maneuver. Also you don't need a motorcycle license to operate an electric scooter. (For some scooters you might depending on the power.) This can be a hassle for some if all you need a scooter for is going a few miles in a city with limited parking space.
As you can tell from above pricing on most electric scooters isn't that much different from normal gas powered scooters. Still there are many advantages. Chiefly the fact that you don't need to buy gas and “filling up” on electricity is much cheaper. Even in cities where electricity rates are sky high you can expect to recharge for $1-$2 dollars possibly less than that. This means a significant savings over the life of electric scooters compared to gas counterparts. Also an electric scooter will require virtually no maintenance. No changing oil, oil filters, dealing with gas, spark plugs, etc. You still obviously need to make sure that your scooter is maintained to a degree. Things like the brakes need to be replaced, brake fluid should be changed, and you need to keep the tires properly inflated. Tires need to be changed out when as needed too. However the bottom line is electric scooters will save you time, money, and hassle. Who really likes maintaining their scooters, cars, or vehicles anyway? This also saves a significant amount of money on repairs down the road.
Another advantage for urban commuters, the reduced noise. Typically gas powered scooters can make a lot of noise and are not the most emission friendly. The nice thing about electric scooters is the electric motor runs smoothly and quietly. That means you can take off early in the morning without annoying neighbors and come back late at night from a party (don't party too hard.) Why contribute to more noise pollution in urban environments when there are already so many other sounds? (Some might consider this a con though as it might be hard for people to hear your electric scooter coming down the road.)
The road to electrification on two wheels hasn't been all smooth sailing. Zero Motorcycles, a promising California start-up, pulled their bikes out of the UK market last year due to limited sales. While the Isle of Man TT Zero racing category sparked interested in the electric motorcycle and scooter industry, it still seems to be growing at a slow pace. (A great movie about the TT Zero is Charge available to watch on Netflix.) Sales of electric motorcycles, not scooters, in 2013 were estimated to be only 500 bikes. Sales numbers for this year are not looking much better. While scooters and motorcycles do have fundamentally different transportation goals and appeal to different audiences, at least from a marketing and sales perspective the industries are intertwined.
Limited range and charging infrastructure can be an issue for some two-wheeled riders as well. Of course let's not forgot Terry Hershner who rode his electric Zero motorcycle across the United States becoming the first person to ride an electric motorcycle across the country. If Terry can do it on today's charging infrastructure, I don't see why others can't?
I personally believe electric scooters make sense and have a bright future ahead. Even if it is a small niche industry it is a growing industry. What are you thoughts about electric scooters? Are they positive overall for the scooter and motorcycle market or something that will never really gain traction?
Editor's Note: This article is a sponsored post by GumTree South Africa. This means the author was compensated for writing and including a link. It still reflects the author's, Adam Yamada-Hanff's, honest opinions about electric scooters and the industry.