What is an electric scooter and which should I get?

So you have decided to get your first electric scooter, but you really don’t know where to start. Fear not my friend! You’ve come to the right place. I’ll introduce you to the key concepts you need to understand about electric scooters, so you can make an educated choice.


During several months researching different types of electric scooters and personal transporter devices, I’ve come across multiple owners that are really experienced in the matter. Most of them have more than one scooter, and have a very good understanding of all the different options and alternatives available. And of course they have their own advice for newcomers based on their experience.

This article will try to summarize what I learned and help you understand the electric scooter world, so you can make a better choice when deciding which scooter to get for you or your child.

What is an electric scooter?

An electric scooter is vehicle that is powered by electricity, and that it will require periodic plug-in charging in order to function. They usually come in a two wheel format, although three wheels models exist too. They have a step-through frame, where the rider can stand while driving the vehicle.

If you remember the good old kick-scooter you rode as a child, this is basically the same thing, but you now have the help of one of mankind’s greatest discoveries, the electricity, to push you through.

via ridegenesis dot com

Some models might even offer a seat, but this is just an addition on the step-through platform or frame. This is the key difference between electric scooters and electric motorcycles, where the later do not have a step-through frame, and directly provide a seat integrated in their frames.

As previously said, the electric scooter requires electricity to function, which will be stored in some type of rechargeable battery that is attached to the frame. Some of the most common type of batteries for scooters are lithium ion batteries, and sealed lead acid batteries.

About Power: What are your options?

If you are reading this article about electric scooters, the kick-scooters are not an option for you. I’m almost sure you already made your mind and you don’t want to be kicking the floor like crazy all the time and arrive all sweaty to your destination. Of course a scooter with no power at all will cost less, but you want a motor pushing you along the way, don’t you?

With more power, the faster it can go and the heavier the rider can be. As simple as that. This might be the best way of classifying and narrowing down the electric scooters models. Very simply we can classify scooters on:

– 12V: This voltage is used on small scooters, and what you can call a kid toy. Usually the top speed will be around 10 Mph, with a top weight for the rider around 110 lbs

– 24V: Neighborhood riding and a lot of fun. In this range you will have kids, teenagers, and adult scooters alike. We are starting to get away from the toy, and into a device that can get you to the store back and forth, or anywhere around your neighborhood for that matter. Typically you can expect top speeds around 15 Mph, and maximum allowed weight around 220 lbs. You won’t climb any hills, but you’ll get a good a ride on a flat surface.

– 36V: Definitely scooters for adults. Aimed for commuting back and forth to work or some serious ride. Even though the top speed might be around 15 Mph for some models, it’s more powerful and will allow you to climb some low steep hills.

– 48V: These are the workhorses of the electric scooter world. They are bigger and heavier, but you will climb hills with ease. These are the top tier and higher in cost of all scooters.

via razor dot com

About Range and Charge Time

The expected range any electric scooter can give you will be between 8 and 15 miles (12,8 ~ 24 Km). Some manufacturers will claim their product will give you even 20 miles (32,2 Km), but real world scenarios are really different from optimal conditions while testing. Multiple stops and gos on corners and traffic lights, the occasional hills will take a toll on the battery, and therefore, the range will be decreased.

You should plan ahead for charging and charging times. Let’s say you plan on commuting to work with your scooter. Make some simple math regarding the length of the trip and make sure that if you need to charge your scooter there, you will be able to do so every time.

Most of the scooters are not designed to have the batteries swapped frequently. So it’s not an option to carry an additional one in your backpack!

About Drive, Brakes and Throttle

Regarding drive, brakes and throttle, you won’t have much of a choice, as they are not customizable. You’ll be getting the option chosen by the manufacturer on the scooter model you get. But going over briefly on this and the options you have might help you in your decision.

Most of scooters today come with rear wheel drive. This is good as it offers better efficiency riding on hills and will make you go over terrain easier.

Regarding the brakes, usually larger scooters will have disk brakes, but it’s not uncommon to see them on 36V scooters, and even on the 24V range. And also depending on the scooter, the brakes can be front, rear, or dual.

And now to the throttle. You will have three types here:

  • Twist-throttle “motorcycle-like”: I guess I don’t need to explain this too much, right? Just the same thing you’ll get on a motorcycle.
  • Thumb actuated: A little lever that you should keep pressed at different positions to maintain speed.
  • Index actuated: In this case, the little lever should be pulled with your index to maintain speed.

One of my sources has an experience advice about throttles: which one is best really depends on who will ride, the type of terrain and speed. Think about going at max speed, standing and using the three of these types of throttles. Now image you pass by some small bumps on the street, or you suddenly go over grass. Usually having full grip (using your thumb) will give you more stability. The motorcycle-like type will certainly move more, even if you have full grip, than the other two. The thumb actuated will leave you with “half” grip. The index actuated might be the best for these situations.

But anyways, this really depends on the type of ride you are going to be doing. If you are purchasing a scooter for your kid, that is mainly aimed to be used on flat surfaces anyways the motorcycle-like will be just perfect.

via glion dot com

About Wheel Types and Sizes

Electric scooters come with solid or air tires. Usually they are have combination of both, with the solid tire at the rear. This is because the integrated motor most likely comes on the rear, and there’s some work involved on replacing the wheel that is integrated over the motor. With a solid tire there, you have less chances on having to go over this work.

Some scooter models might even offer you the possibility of choosing the types of tires you want.

You should really be concerned about air tires only if you think you might have punctures where you intend to ride. If this is your case, try to aim for the solid tires if you can.

Usually tires of larger sizes, like 8” or 10” are air wheels. The air wheels need a little bit more maintenance in the form of checking your air pressure. But you will get a nicer and smoother ride with these, specially if you will go over bumpier surfaces.

via ecorecoscooter dot com

About Suspension

Suspension will give you a smoother ride, for sure. But consider this will add extra weight to the scooter. Almost all the scooters that incorporate suspension does it in a way that integrates the mechanism into the frame and does not make the scooter bulkier, so you shouldn’t be concerned about a bigger frame here.

Having rear suspension might have a big difference in how smooth your ride is. But you need to think if you really need it, though. It might not be necessary if you intend to ride on paved road surface most of the time.

An advice about speed and weight

Speed difference on a stand-up scooter are really noticeable, even small 5 Mph (8 Km/h) increases are huge. If you plan on getting a scooter to ride at 20 Mph (32 Km/h), you will really feel the wind! This is pretty fast and you will feel more comfortable with a wider handlebar to steer.

Also consider the stability of your scooter at that speed. Although lighter and smaller scooter might be awesome regarding storing them or transporting them, you need to think that at higher speeds you will want to be stable. Heavier and bigger scooters will provide you with more stability. Keep this in mind too.

Are you eager to get one already?

And what about Segways, Hoverboards and One-Wheelers?

There are also all sorts of electric transporters in the market. And although not all of them are technically defined as “electric scooters”, most of the first comers to this world will also think on these when evaluating alternatives.

I’m going to mention some of them, so you can also get an idea of what other choices you have if you want to move away from the standard format of the step-through frame.

via segway dot com

The classical Segways are the closest devices to an electric scooter. And by classical I mean the Segway we all picture in our minds: the standing, parallel two wheels and platform, with the handle. Segway has different models for these, like the Segway i2 / x2 SE.

Moving a little bit further, you can find other types of transporters, like hoverboards. There are all sorts of brands and models here, like the Razor Hovertrax or the Swagtron Hoverboard.

Another cool type of personal transporter device, if you are up for the challenge, are the one wheelers. You can take a look at the Segway One S1, to get a feeling of what this is and if it’s right for you.

One S1 Couple Riding on dock

via segway dot com

Maybe you like these more over the electric scooters?

Final thoughts

I hope that this article has helped you as an introduction to the electric scooter / personal transporter world. Now you should be able make a more educated assessment of which scooter might be best for you.

As one of my sources mentioned, at the very least you now have enough information to know what you DON’T want. And sometimes this is the best thing to start with, and find your perfect fit from that point forward.

At GearPriest we already have several product reviews of electric scooters and personal transporters that might help you out. And we will be adding more soon, so stay tuned!

About the author

    Martin Tripodi

    Software Engineer, husband, father, and avid enthusiast of outdoor activities! Total fan of great quality and functional gear, spends part of his free time researching and compiling loads of information in the form of guides, product recommendations and reviews.