Electric scooters were on the streets for years before they came into the spotlight with Uber’s investment in Lime and the invasion of Bird scooters on America’s beaches and in cities. The metamorphosis of e-scooters from kids’ toys to professional commuting vehicles took over a decade and was fuelled by technology advancements. That’s according to Frank Minero, President of UrbanScooters.com which is based in South Pasadena, California.
“Basically, an e-scooter looks like a Razor kick scooter except it’s a little larger with an electric motor,” says Minero who has been selling scooters since 2002. He notes that e-scooters are very inexpensive to operate, costing about $0.10 to charge.
E-scooters in the early 2000’s were inexpensive and were primarily being sold for fun and recreation to young people. However, they were impractical for commuting due to size, weight, heavy lead acid batteries and poor craftsmanship, says Minero.
‘When the Go Motorboard e-scooters hit the market in 2007, they were flying off the shelves because they were much lighter, had suspension and lighter batteries,” says Minero, “They were being used both for fun and commuting”. They were so popular, a TV production company bought 50 Go Motorboard e-scooters for gifts at a party. Go Motorboard e-scooters were hot sellers until the manufacturer stopped supplying them.
Around the same time, new urban commuter style e-scooters the I-Peds from Go-Ped came to market. I-Peds were luxury scooters that were light and powered by lithium batteries but didn’t sell well because they were expensive, costing over a thousand dollars each.
E-scooters didn’t drive off the landscape, because they are easy to operate, easy to store and fold to fit under a desk or in a car trunk. They can be charged by a standard outlet and are light enough be carried.
“All it takes is balance to operate a scooter and it is fairly easy to learn,” said Minero. “E-scooters are better for commuting than pedalling a bicycle because you don’t break a sweat.”
In late 2013, a trend started in Silicon Valley of e-scooter startups for young urban professional for the “last-mile” commuter solution. EcoReco e-scooters gained notoriety through funding on Kickstarter as a lightweight e-scooter designed for professionals.
“We’ve got to change the way to tackle the last-mile issue. Technology can solve it. We combine advanced technology with branding making it desirable,” says Jay Sung, CEO of EcoReco.
EcoReco scooters are often referred to as “The Tesla of e-scooters” because of the sleek design and same kind of batteries says Sung. EcoReco scooters are marketed to professionals who can ride them wearing a suit, skirt and even high-heeled shoes.
“Electric scooters are an alternative option to purchasing a car,” says Minero, “I’ve seen customers abandon the idea of owning a car and instead buy an electric scooter, use public transportation and Uber or Lyft.”
E-scooter features continued to improve with better suspension, regenerative braking, wireless connections and connected apps.
The rise of Lime and Bird mobility services were propagated by a perfect storm of technologies, including wireless connections to apps, so that scooters can be located and used. The media attention to e-scooter services are a boon to electric scooter retailers. The Xiaomi Mi Electric scooter used by Bird has been frequently out of stock on Amazon and other competing brands don’t have enough stock to meet demand.
“Electric scooter last-mile services like Bird and Lime act as cheap test drives. It’s great free advertising. We’ve seen a 75% increase in sales since the services launched,” says Minero.
“Once people consider the cost of renting e-scooters every day, for the price of a few months, they can buy one,” adds Sung. Experts, like Sung, believe that e-scooters will expand personal transportation and predict that every household will have one or two electric scooters in the near future.