New mobility options such as e-bikes, e-trikes, e-scooters and safety accessories will be popular gifts this holiday season. Auto Futures talks with some of the top experts in the field to help navigate the maze of amazing products for fun, mobility and safety.
E-Bikes and the Likes
“E-bikes are a lot of fun. They’re very good products and a smart way for some to commute,” says Ed Benjamin, chair of the Light Electric Vehicle Association.
Benjamin says that e-bikes fall into three categories. Class 1 e-bikes are controlled in the same way as you pedal a bicycle with a maximum speed of about 20 miles per hour (32 kph) which is a favourite for people who already ride a manual pedal-driven bicycle. Class 2 e-bikes are controlled with a throttle, like motorcycles.
People who have driven a motorcycle find riding Class 2 e-bikes is intuitive for them. Class 3 e-bikes are only legal in 22 states, these electric bicycles can go as much as 30 miles per hour (48 kph).
There are two types of e-scooters. The first is a light motorcycle, some would call it a Vespa-style scooter. The other type is the electric mini scooter.
“The really hot topic today is the mini electric scooter. You stand up on it. It has small wheels. The drawback is the small wheels which makes it difficult for the rider. Many people do it just for fun, however, because you’re going so fast with small wheels it’s easy to crash or hit a rock,” warns Benjamin.
Benjamin advises that mini electric scooters are not good for people with minimal scooter experience who don’t have handling skill or experience. E-scooters are not a good choice for beginners.
He also warns it very important is to read the instructions as far as charging and use the charger that comes with the e-bike or e-scooter.
“We’ve all learned from buying cheap chargers for iPhones and smartphones on the internet that they don’t work well.” He advises against prices on e-scooters that seem too good to be true.
Benjamin recalls the hoverboard fires. The suppliers wanted to save as much money as possible and bought the cheapest batteries because batteries are expensive. The batteries themselves then went on fire. Today, most fires reported are either from very inexpensive e-bikes or from hobbyists who build their own e-bike.
Safe and Stylish
“No matter what you do,” says Benjamin, “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to wear a helmet.”
Among a majority of bicyclists killed in crashes, head injuries are the most serious injuries. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 per cent, reports IIHS.
“Before you buy an e-scooter for yourself or as a gift, we also advise that you keep in mind that a stunning number of e-scooter users are getting seriously hurt, including with head injuries. We strongly believe that consumers, scooter companies, cities, helmet makers, and safety regulators must continue to work together now to improve the safety of these products,” says Ryan Felton investigative reporter of Consumer Reports that rates bike helmets and published a helmet fitting guide.
“In addition to a helmet, you should also enhance your safety by wearing reflective gear, or simply brightly coloured clothing while riding,” says Felton.
The good news is that helmets are now available with features including folding and hipster styling.
“The Fend helmet is popular with commuters who take the train and don’t what to have a helmet sticking out of their bags,” says Eric Walt, customer experience representative at Pure Cycles in Burbank, Calif.
Another noteworthy popular helmet maker by Thousand with a racketing fit system that micro-adjusts in unique colours and hipster styling.
“Inspired by vintage moto designs, our Heritage Collection combines safety, style, and convenience to make a helmet that you’ll actually want to wear – and one that you’d actually want to receive as a gift,” says Gloria Hwang founder and CEO of Thousand.
Its helmets feature vegan leather straps, a magnetic buckle and a signature PopLock. This year, customers who order Thousand helmets will be granted their wishes by the ‘Wish Fulfilment Team’.
Benjamin is very impressed with inflatable helmets and inflatable airbag vests such as B’Safe from Hellite that are only available in Europe.
More Comfort, Speed and Power for Buyers
Although many customers first ride rental e-scooters, you can buy e-mobility devices that offer more power, comfort and capabilities.
“Why rent when you can buy better transportation?” says Frank Minero, President of Urban scooters.com. He points out that Bird and Lime scooters are designed to be used on smooth flat surfaces, they have only 250 watts of power and they have solid wheels so that they will last longer.
There are e-scooters with larger inflatable tire sizes and suspensions for smoother rides. E-scooters with seats make the ride more comfortable. There are also e-scooters designed for off-road use.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately for off-road use in North Carolina for carp fishing,” says Minero.
“After catching the fish, the fishermen use e-scooters to get to the weigh station. They need off-road capabilities and good power.”
Customers are finding all sorts of other uses for e-scooters such as the moving quickly in the pit at the race track, exhibitors at swapmeets and also those who need to get around at a warehouse or convention centre.
Another popular electric vehicle for people with mobility issues or who are balanced challenged are the 3-wheel electric trikes that look much sportier than mobility scooters and have power and storage to can carry up to 400 pounds of weight, says Minero.
Before buying a gift for someone, it’s a good idea to find out what kinds of e-bikes and e-scooters are legal in the areas they will be operated.
“We recommend that you check with your local police to see what the laws are because they vary and change from place to place,” suggests Minero.
“We’re not the same guys you buy your underwear from.”
So what would be the best dream e-mobility gift for someone who’s been in the e-scooter space since 2002?
“I’d like a high-powered, high-watt rating electric scooter with great suspension, that could handle on and off-road terrain, with an advanced lighting system and a seat,” muses Minero.
For those who live in areas of the world where there might be ice or snow on the roads, Minero warns that each e-scooter has ratings for waterproofing. Although it may be exciting to ride an e-scooter on a white Christmas, he does not recommend taking e-scooters in the rain or snow. Manufacturer water specifications can be found in the user’s manual.
With buying deadlines approaching it is helpful to buy an e-bike, e-trike or e-scooter from a knowledgeable retailer whom you can talk to and get support.
“We at UrbanScooters.com believe it’s important to offer professional knowledgeable support before and after the sale, which you can’t get from a big box store or Amazon,” says Minero.
“We’re not the same guys you buy your underwear from.”
If you are not sure what to buy for your loved ones this holiday season, Benjamin suggests buying protective gear such as a helmet or gloves and give a gift certificate from a trusted retailer.