Updated: Jul 8, 2019
As I’ve gotten more experienced with electric scooters, I’ve learned that there are also scenarios for which they aren’t a great fit.
If burning calories is a priority for your commute, walking, biking, or kick scooters are better choices. Electric scooting can be exhilarating, but it’s not exactly exercise.
Most electric scooters aren’t waterproof, so you’ll probably need an alternative on days where heavy rain or pooling water are expected. Range and speed are likely to deteriorate in colder temperatures, so scooting may not be an option during winter months, even if the roads are clear.
Buying vs. Renting
I had experience with dockless rental services like Bird and Lime scooters when I visited Denver Denver, Phoenix, and Ft. Lauderdale -- but I knew they weren’t available in Boston. Somerville and Cambridge had suspended Bird scooters because riders did not have proper permits.
Since renting wasn’t a reliable option, I began to research buying an electric scooter instead and saw compelling benefits for both riders and the community.
Among the benefits of ownership (versus dockless sharing) for riders:
1. Scooter is reliably available at home and workplace
2. Helmet always available
3. Can select the right vehicle for specific needs and customize with accessories
4. Lower long-term costs
Benefits of ownership for the community:
1. One less car on the road during rush hours
2. Minimal sidewalk clutter
3. More responsible riders
As a commuter, it was clear that owning a scooter would be a better option than renting. And while dockless sharing services have gotten most of the mainstream attention, new electric scooters for sale by Segway Ninebot, Boosted, Micro Kickboard, and Bird reflect growing demand for scooters that riders can own, not rent.
Picking a Scooter
While the category of electric scooters for purchase is still relatively new, I discovered there are already plenty of options available to meet diverse needs and budgets and some great resources to help you research and make a decision. For instance, the electric scooter community on Reddit produced this handy buyer’s guide, and Electrek’s Micah Toll (a Cantabrigian) frequently reviews electric scooters and other personal electric vehicles. As you research, it’s easy to get lost comparing features and specs. My advice is to focus on the distance and terrain you have to travel and how portable you’d like the scooter to be.
If you’re traveling longer distances, over potholed or poorly paved roads, or up steep hills, you may want to consider scooters with:
1. Larger capacity batteries, which enable more range between charges
2. Higher wattage motors or dual motors, which enable a scooter to climb higher-grade hills
3. Suspension and pneumatic tires, which can ensure a safe and smooth ride over rougher terrain
Be aware that these types of performance-enhancing features typically increase both the price and the weight/bulk of a scooter.
For example, my scooter handles the potholes and hills in my neighborhood with ease. But it also weighs more than 70 lbs. I couldn’t bring it on a bus, and I wouldn’t want to carry it up more than two flights of stairs. My colleague’s scooter, at 28 lbs, is much more portable. If you need a first/last mile complement to a bus, train, or boat commute, you will want something compact and easy to roll or carry.
When you’re ready to buy, you’ll find some popular scooters on Amazon, though several of the more robust commuter-oriented options aren’t available there. There are specialist dealers like Rev Rides, eWheels, and Urban Machina that offer scooters and replacement parts, and most scooter manufacturers also have online shops you can buy from directly.
(part 3 soon to come!)