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E-scooter: the two-wheeler for silently getting about town

Mar 15, 2021

Electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular. And no wonder, since they don’t make a noise, are environmentally friendly and can readily be shared, thanks to smart solutions and digital connectivity.

The gentle summer breeze blows across your face, and no street is too narrow for you to get through. Scooters offer plenty of freedom, at an affordable price. That is making them increasingly popular: Between 2019 and 2020, the number of new registrations of these light-powered scooters in Germany has more than doubled, according to the motorbike industry association IVM. And more and more of them are electric.

The advantages are self-evident

In town, e-scooters can really show off their advantages: They are maneuverable and require little space, enabling them to get through the traffic quickly – and all without any loud rattling. They are good for the environment too: they are not pumping out emissions whilst on the move, and due to their light weight of around 70 kilos they have a low power requirement. On average, 100 kilometers of range costs less than one euro. When it comes to maintenance, too, scooters are cheap to run. As there are not so many mechanical parts, wear is low, and thanks to energy recovery (recuperation) – where the batteries are recharged as the scooter decelerates – the brakes don’t need to be applied so often. Only the batteries require some care and should not be deeply discharged, for example. In terms of insurance, an e-scooter costs around EUR 20 per year, while no TÜV vehicle testing fees or taxes are incurred on versions with a top speed of 45 km/h.

E-scooters offer many possibilities to discover the cities. © Kumpan electric

Various options, for different requirements

E-scooters sporting their insurance sticker and with a top speed of up to 45 km/h can be widely found on our roads. To ride them, you need to have a moped or car driving license. In town traffic with a lot of stop-and-go driving, that top speed is generally sufficient. If you like something a bit sportier and hold an A1 class driving license, you can drive at speeds up to 80 km/h, so you can also use the motorways and highways. Any faster than that, though, and you will need a motorbike driving license.

A wide choice on offer

There are now countless manufacturers producing e-powered scooters – from cheap models via the discount stores for under EUR 1000, using an old-fashioned lead-acid battery and simple engineering, through to stylish, connected city bikes like Piaggio’s e-Vespa. The traditional Italian manufacturer has captured the spirit of the times, and given the classic scooter with its appealing retro looks an electric makeover.

Models from the Chinese company Niu are proving very popular with German buyers. The company is not to be confused with the e-car manufacturer Nio, which will be exhibiting at IAA MOBILITY. Rather than tapping into the retro look, Niu is offering a removable lithium-ion battery and smartphone connectivity.

No key is necessary to start the new Unu scooter – a card does the job. © Unu Motors

Scooters becoming increasingly connected

Digitalization is becoming ever more important in the sector: the Berlin-based start-up Unu launched a new scooter on the market last year, with a display capable of showing directions straight from the navigation app on a mobile phone, and also fitted with a digital key. It is started by pressing a button, and an app means the scooter can also be lent to friends – via key-release.

Technical possibilities like these can also be exploited commercially: manufacturer Govecs, for example, is looking to telematics boxes to offer cities a complete system for e-scooter sharing, aimed at encouraging smaller cities to get involved too – likewise the German manufacturer Kumpan. That set-up is not so easy to achieve with conventionally-powered scooters.

The sharing market is booming

If you can’t afford to or don’t want to buy a scooter, in 26 German cities and municipalities you have the opportunity to take advantage of sharing services. The market for them is booming worldwide: According to the Sharing Report 2020 from Unu, the number of shared scooters rose by 58 per cent to 104,000 last year, and the number of registered users went up by fully 80 per cent, to 9 million. In Germany, the increase in shared scooter numbers was above the average, up 67 per cent to 7,000 – ranking 5th worldwide.

It is a dynamic market: While the Bosch subsidiary Coup pulled out of the “fiercely-contested sharing market (with its) associated high costs” on economic grounds and sold its scooters to the Berlin-based service provider Tier, another provider – Emmy – has pulled in additional millions from investors and is planning to get a further 1,500 scooters out onto the streets. Conversely, the manufacturer Unu has paused its sharing plans and is now focusing back on the end-customer market. Meanwhile even in smaller towns, such as Bad Homburg in the Taunus region, sharing services are being launched.

Increasingly, cross-modal apps such as Jelbi in Berlin or MVGO in Munich are integrating scooters and incorporating them into urban intermodal mobility.

(Stage photo: © Trinity Electric Vehicles)

Sharing an e-scooter is very easy: The smartphone works as a key. A helmet can be found in the top box. © Emmy Sharing

Things to look out for when buying an e-scooter

Lithium-ion batteries are currently the best choice. They have no “memory effect” and supply their power evenly. The most suitable option is removable batteries: They can be carried into your house or flat for charging. Another plus is that they can be stored out of the cold during the winter. 

 

Here, the decision comes down essentially to your personal driving style. But it should certainly be at least 30 kilometers per charge. A word of warning: The figures in the brochures don’t always accurately reflect the real world, where the cold and other influences can cause range to reduce more quickly. To be certain, look for scooters with an indicative 50 kilometer range.

 

Not to be underestimated if you intend to ride with a passenger on board. The motor power should be chosen with that in mind.

 

Look for a branded motor (Bosch motors can be widely found). 2,000 watts of power is sensible if you want to move off quickly when the lights turn green. If you often ride with a passenger, a higher power rating is advisable.

Depending on the battery size, many scooters don’t have storage space for stowing your helmet. You may need to consider buying a top box.

 

Is there a dealer in your area who can check the scooter over? Some manufacturers also offer servicing at your location.

The IAA MOBILITY is transforming itself from a pure car show to an international mobility platform with four pillars: the Summit, the Conference, the “Blue Lane” and the downtown Munich Open Space. Under the slogan of “What will move us next”, it stands for the digital and climate-neutral mobility of the future. From 7 to 12 September 2021, the car, bike and tech industries come together at IAA MOBILITY in Munich.