Electric Scooter/Cycle Electric bikes, mopeds and scooters currently come closest to matching consumer expectations in terms of cost, performance and reliability of any electric-drive vehicle now available.
They also come in a dizzying spectrum of styles, capabilities and prices from inexpensive "toys" to moderately expensive maxi scooters soon to debut in Europe and North America. A handful of prototypes are even powered by miniature fuel cells.
While toy scooters are coming under increasing scrutiny by local law enforcement, statutes regarding adult-sized machines generally coincide with their gasoline moped counterparts on a state-by-state basis.
Speeds are typically limited to 30 mph for all machines in this class, so what is more important is the size of the battery pack in terms of amp hours -- the more the better -- and sustained wattage output of the electric drive motor -- again, more is better (see guidelines below). Distance on a charge is a function of battery amperage, terrain, speed and the weight of the driver (and rider). Expect less than 5 miles out of "toy" machines and up to 25-30 miles for more classic motor scooters
Two words of advice: don't trust the wattage numbers proffered by many Asian clone scooter makers -- they are usually grossly over-inflated. Second, buy as much amperage and wattage as you can afford. You won't be disappointed.
Finally, a word of caution: making a business out of manufacturing electric bicycles and scooters is a daunting undertaking, especially for the North Amercian market where bicycles and scooters are viewed more as recreational diversions than serious commuting/errand running machines, as they are in parts of Europe. The likes of Ford Motor Company (Th!nk brand) and Lee Iacocca (EBike brand) have tried and failed to make a business out of it, as has Wavecrest Labs. Be aware that while these brands offered quality products, they may no longer be supported with parts and service.
ELECTRIC SCOOTER CLASSES
In Europe, electric bicycles are limited to no more than 250 watts of electric assist power to the pedals, which must turn. In Canada, the limit is 500 watts, while in the United States, it's 750 watts. Even at 750 watts (1 hp), these vehicles cannot climb a hill without pedal assist. Heinzman Electric Surfer pictured.
American rules with respect to electric "mopeds" require that they be under 2 hp (49cc) and have a top speed of less than 30 mph in order to not fall under more stringent motorcycle laws. In electric scooter terms that translates into vehicles in the 750 (1 hp) to 1,500 watt (2 hp) range, the latter providing sufficient power to climb hills. Ego Scooter pictured.
Electric scooters with greater than 1,500 watts sustained power come closest to matching the performance of their gasoline progenitors, the classic "Vespa"-type machines popular in Italy. While they can do better than 30 mph, they are typically restricted -- electronically -- to below 30 mph in order to comply with local laws. 2,000 watt machines are usually capable of carrying two adult riders. Pair of E-Max scooters pictured.