Today in our Essentials series we’re going to take a look at something that's beginning to take off for adults in what was once a child dominated field: electric scooters.
If you walk through the streets of cities like Austin, Paris, St. Louis, or (especially) San Francisco you'll inevitably see rechargeable electric scooters wherever you go. Scooters have become a unique and relatively inexpensive way to quickly explore a city. For clarification, we're not talking about the large electric Vespa-like scooters, we're talking about simple two wheeled kick scooters (like the Razor brand scooters) with an electric motor. It's pretty easy to get started in the world of scootering...you'll only need to buy a couple of items:
- A Scooter: This one is pretty self explanatory
- A Helmet: Make sure you protect yourself - although helmets may not seem cool, the site of your skull cracked open isn't cool either (despite what you may think after watching too many Fail Army videos)
- That's it. You don't even need a license.
So why should you consider getting your own scooter? Read on to find out.
The initial cost of a scooter is a relatively small investment (between $300-$500). But once you make that investment, there are a few ways you can save money over the normal costs that you would face by driving a car:
- Easy maintenance: Scooters have durable bodies, most of them have solid tires that last a long time, and the two replaceable items are the batteries and brakes
- Parking: Because they're small, you don't need to worry about parking. You can either lock it up outside, or carry it inside your house or work
- Gas: You don't have to buy any - always a good thing
If you live in a big city, you know that parking can be extremely expensive every month. Ridesharing is nice, but if you want to avoid the awkward conversations that sometimes happen in an Uber a scooter provides a great alternative. If you're living in NYC you can save $600 a month or more in parking, and even in smaller cities like Pittsburgh that amount can be over $200 monthly. Plus, you don't pay for gas and car maintenance either.
There are specific scenarios that make this worthwhile - you should live close to work, you'll need to make sure you don't have any off site meetings, and you probably want to make sure ridesharing is a backup in case a freak thunderstorm breaks out while you're at the office. But if that sounds like you, you may want to consider buying a scooter. Typically you can go around 30 miles on a scooter for about .25 cents in electricity. That really adds up over time.
The other thing to consider as you look at your options is the environmental impact. No matter how strongly for or against climate regulations you are, I think most reasonable people would like to be better stewards of Earth.
Now, one caveat is that if you already walk somewhere and decide to use a scooter instead, that doesn't actually help. Yes, the environmental impact is much lower than if you drove - but if you're up for a walk, the only CO2 you'll be emitting will be coming from your lungs.
But, if you're replacing your daily car commute with a scooter ride you'll be helping the environment since an electric scooter uses a fraction of the energy of a car or truck.
We already mentioned that a scooter can go around 30 miles on .25 cents of electricity, for comparison that same distance would cost around $1.23 in a Tesla. According to the US DOE nearly 60% of car trips were less than six miles. If you can replace those car trips with a scooter ride it goes a long way.
How It Helps
- First: It saves CO2 from being released into the atmosphere in comparison to a car or truck
- Second: If you get your electricity from a clean energy supplier, that impact is ever greater
So now that you know about the benefits, what scooter do we like?
The first thing we noticed about the Levy was it's sleek look. We really liked the folding mechanism, and the fact that the rear tire latches the scooter together so it doesn't slide around. Plus, the build quality feels very solid. Metal parts, tight bolts, and a solid kickstand make us confident that this scooter is going to last a long time.
Plus, it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb if you keep it in your living room. See how nicely it fits under a lemon tree?
We took this for several test rides, and on average we found that it gave us between 7-9 miles on a charge when it was in "Sport Mode" (the fastest mode). That sport mode is the main reason we chose this scooter as our favorite. When you flip the throttle, you can really get up to speed quickly. We found that on flat ground you could hit 15 MPH in about 7 seconds.
The only problem with that kind of acceleration is that it comes at a cost to the range of the scooter. While the 7-9 mile range was more than enough for us, if you have a longer commute you may want to pack an extra battery. And yes, that's a big benefit for this scooter - most units don't allow you to carry an extra battery, but Levy made it happen.
Overall, in our testing the ride quality was great. The scooter has pneumatic tires that provide a solid ride and keeps the entire process pretty quiet. Plus, there's an LED headlight and a rear taillight to make sure vehicles can see you in lower lighting. The scooter weighs around 28 pounds, so if you need to carry it around it shouldn't strain you. This is a great scooter that really shines in acceleration, looks, and portability since the removable battery will allow you to fly with the scooter if that's something you need. The biggest downfall is the limited range with a single battery, so if you need more than 8 miles per charge you may want to look at something like the Xiaomi Mi.
Why We Like The Levy Scooter
- The Design: Let's be honest, scooters can often look like kids toys because that's who they were originally built for. This scooter is sleek and adult looking - it's got a great look.
- The Motor: It's powerful for a scooter. No, you won't feel a rush when the G Force hits, but if you put it in sport mode you can really cruise on this scooter.
- The Battery System: Replaceable batteries? That's a great idea.
- The Braking System: It's a three prong system - the handbrake, a pressure brake on the rear tire, and you can still use your foot as well.
What Could Be Improved
- The Battery Range: It's good that you can bring an extra battery, because with the power of this motor the batteries can run a little lean on a long trip.
- The Lock System: There is none - more scooter companies should provide an easy way to attach a bike lock to the scooter. A simple metal locking point would be nice.
We loved the Levy, but what's great about scooters is that you don't have to take our word for it. You can always try them out before you buy. If you're in NYC you can try out the Levy, and companies like Bird and Lime cover a lot of ground in other cities with other models of scooters.
Scooters can not only save you money, but they can also cut down on transportation time if you live in a city with a lot of traffic congestion. Plus, it's just fun to ride somewhere without the constraints of doors and a roof. We just want to stress one thing very clearly: be safe.
Again, scooters can get up to speeds of 15 miles per hour or more, and electric motors accelerate quickly. You don't have any seat belts or air bags so make sure that you're always aware of the traffic around you and always wear a helmet. And always remember is that it's not just other cars and pedestrians that you have to watch out for, but keep an eye on the road as well. The wheels on a scooter are small so there is always a risk of them being caught in sewer grates or potholes. here are a few good tips to remember while riding:
- Wear a helmet
- Make sure your scooter is in good working order - especially the brakes
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Obey the rules of traffic
- Always ride in a bike lane if it's available
- And please, don't text and scooter
With that being said, buying a scooter can save you money and get you outside more often while cutting back on pollution. All around, we think it's a great hobby to get into. Enjoy the ride!