The variety of electric personal transporters has expanded considerably thanks to improvements in battery technology. A few years ago we could choose between an electric bicycle and the, back then, pretty expensive Segway.
Anno 2017 there are various types of personal battery-driven means of transportation to choose from. With the various choices out there you may find it hard to decide which one is best for you.
In order to make a well-informed decision you first need to know which different types of electrically-assisted rides there are. Then comes the question, how to they differ? What are each type’s pros and cons?
To help you pick, here’s an overview of your options, including decisive factors as top speed and range, safety, learning curve, and other things to consider.
If you’re looking to buy an electric transport device, make sure to consider the following things:
- portability: its weight for carrying and hauling
- size for storage and where will you ride it. Crowded pedestrian areas require devices with a small footprint
- range (how far will it bring you and will there be enough battery juice left to bring you back?),
- wheel size (should be compatible with the terrain you’ll be cruising on),
- learning curve (some devices are easier to master than others),
- fun vs utility ( is it just a convenient means of transportation or is the fun factor important as well?)
Which electric personal transportation vehicles are there?
1. The electric scooter
The kids toy image clings to the electric scooter, even though they come in adult versions too. The small wheels make them mainly useful on flat surfaces such as tarmac, skate parks, and regular pavements. This because small wheels can get stuck in cracks in the road which may lead to accidents. Off-road versions, with bigger wheels are available too.
These scooters have handlebars and hand brakes which makes keeping your balance child’s play. Foldable models are great for commuters as they allow for easy storage in public transportation or at the workplace. Some models come with a (detachable) seat.
- Affordable. Starting at around $100.
- No steep learning curve. Pretty much anyone can ride electric scooters
- small wheels may limit your freedom of movement
- limited range compared to some other types of electric personal transporters
For reviews and different types see Amazon’s bestsellers selection.
2. The electric skateboard
In comparison to the scooter, you’ll have to be a bit more of a daredevil to opt for a powered skateboard, especially when you have no skate experience. On the other hand, most of these boards are longboards which, together with the fact that they are self-powered, makes them a lot easier to zip down the street than a normal skateboard.
Most boards have an external battery / motor mounted under the board. The Inboard M1 is the only board that has its motors in the wheels. This makes it ideal for inconspicuous battery-powered cruising.
Electric skateboard conversion kits are available too, allowing you to convert your current board so you can effortlessly surf the sidewalk.
Specs (based on the Boosted Dual skateboard mentioned below)
- range 6 / 12 miles (with extended battery)
- top speed: 22 mph
- 25% grade hill climbing
- driven by wireless hand control
- High fun factor. Doing tricks belongs to the possibilities
- Can be used without battery-assistance. Often the batteries can be quickly removed to reduce weight.
- Discrete as motors are hidden from sight. Laws and ordinances vary per region. As the batteries are mounted under the board (or in-wheel) law enforcement can’t see at a glance you’re riding an electrically driven device.
- The ‘cool factor’. There aren’t many EPTD’s that will make you look cooler than a boosted board. (Well there’s another contender, more at #4 of this list).
- Potentially dangerous as small wheels may cause you to fall when the skate wheels stumble upon cracks, sand, and other irregularities in the road surface. (This can be overcome by opting for a dirt skateboard designed for offroading.)
- Not suitable for off-road. Limited to roads and pavements
- Doesn’t have head and tail lights
- Riding in rainy conditions can be a problem. Electronics are known to damage upon which replacement is needed and you may slip when you get on wet pavement
- Some models malfunction (or even permanently damage) in rain and on wet surfaces.
- In big cities Wi-Fi dead zones (signals interfering with or obstructing the hand control signal) may occur.
Popular models include the top of the bill Boosted Dual+ which you may know from famous YouTuber Casey Neistat who drives several of these boards and promotes them on his popular channel.
There are also the also the top of the bill Evolve boards which come in carbon and bamboo versions. A very well-reviewed runner up is the more affordable Yuneec E-Go Cruiser. Other popular boards include the Marbel, E-Go, and Zboard 2.
3. The electric bicycle / electric folding bike
The electrically assisted bicycle has motivated many elderly to step back on the iron horse. Wind, inclines, and the physical inconveniences that come with older age aren’t obstacles anymore. Increased range allow commuters to leave the car at home while they’re not arriving all sweaty and gasping for air at work.
RV dwellers tend to love e-bikes too. Often they choose for foldable e-bikes as they don’t want to store their expensive bike on the bike rack where it’s more prone to theft. Commuters may opt for foldable when public transportation is part of their route.
E-bikes come in all the variants normal bicycles come in. From ATB’s and mountainbikes to racing bikes, tricycles, recumbent bikes, cargo bikes, and those fat tire snow and beach bikes.
Some models offer both pedal-assist sensors as well as a throttle. Then there are also electric bicycle conversion kits.
- Range. most models offer 30-50 miles from one battery charge. The latest e-bike can do almost 100 miles.
- Price: varies from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars
- Top speed: approx. 25-30 mph. The fastest production e-bike (purchase price $12k) goes 50mph.
- Comfortable and versatile with a saddle, handle bars, luggage rack, lights, and other features
- No learning curve, pretty much everybody knows how to cycle.
- Can be used without electric assistance too.
- Endless choice in bicycle types.
- Bulky and heavy. Even foldable e-bikes often have a considerable weight due to the folding mechanism and battery
- Non- or less portable. One doesn’t simply pick an e-bike up and store it next to their desk. Foldable models are designed for this purpose but still they are less portable than many other options on this list
- Without high-quality locks or good storage they are common targets among thieves
E-bike on the photo is available at Rei.
4. The electric unicycle (aka self-balancing unicycle)
Self-balancing electric unicycles belong to the most portable EPTDs. Their large wheels allow for taking curbs and potholes as well as riding lawns, dirt, and even gravel roads. They come in wheel sizes ranging typically from 12″ up to 16″ but larger wheels exist too. High-end models are generally safer than cheap no-name devices as they have more breaking power and more powerful motors which can be crucial on bad roads.
Because of their limited size, weight, and footprint they make great vehicles for various purposes. For instance to bridge the so called ‘last mile’ when going to work. Also think about cruising campus, going shopping in the inner city (simply pack your EUC in a backpack or drag it behind you with the handle), commuting, or walking your way too energetic dog.
- max speed: cheap wheels max out at approx. 12mph, the fastest EUCs go over 45 km/h (18 inch wheel)
- avg. range: from 10 – up to 80 km (50 miles). Cheaper models only have a range of around 4-6 miles, mid-range models have an average range of 25 miles. It all depends on battery size, quality, wheel size and other factors.
- Unlike electric skateboards which require a controller to get moving you simply accelerate and slow down by leaning your body forward or backward.
- Highly portable. Easy to pick up or pull behind you (provided they have a telescopic handle)
- Waterproof. Riding in rain or through puddles is no problem with most models. (check with the manufacturer before buying)
- Some models have standard head and tail lights for safe gliding when it’s dark
- Easy to store. Put it next to your desk, tuck it away in an unused spot in your RV,
- Riders report health benefits including strengthened back and abdominal muscles (core strength) as well as improved balance.
- Steep learning curve. Prepare to spend at least a few hours for several days to learn how to drive. Some ‘wheelers’ said learning turned out to be “harder than they bargained for”.
Click here to read our comprehensive Electric Unicycle Buying Guide.
5. The electric moped scooter
Just like the traditional bicycle has gotten an electrical counterpart, there are electrical moped scooters now too. Opting for a scooter means you can take quite a bit of luggage such as groceries with you. Also taking a passenger with you belongs to the possibilities which is something that’s not possible on an electric longboard or unicycle.
Basically there are two types of electric scooters, electrical moped and motor variants. Mopeds are often restricted to 30mph (equivalent to 50cc petrol scooters) whereas the most powerful electric scooters are legally perceived as motors. For both groups registration documents, number plates, (and sometimes road tax) are required. The scooter on the photo has pedals but these are merely so it’s classified as an electric bicycle.
Specs (50cc equivalent )
- Range: 30 -50 miles
- Top speed: 25-30mph
- Environmental friendly
- No fumes, nor leaking oil and petrol (a petrol-driven moped emits more pollution into the atmosphere than an 8 cylinder SUV.)
- Suitable for two persons
- Load carrying (to a certain extent)
- Some states/ countries require a motorcycle license to ride these electric mopeds on the street. Check your local DMV.
- Wearing a helmet is often mandatory (although helmets are highly recommended on most rides mentioned here)
- Bulky when compared to other EPTDs, which requires sufficient space for storage
- Not suitable for sidewalks, pedestrian areas
- Needs to be locked outside or put in storage
Check prices and reviews here.
6. The hoverboard (aka self-balancing scooter)
Just like the electric unicycle, the hoverboard, swegway, or self-balancing two-wheeled board has built-in gyroscopic, sensored pads. Since most hoverboards lack the terrain versatility of EUCs, their limited speed and range, and since learning to ride these is very easy, they are very popular for indoor use and as kids toys.
Generally 6,5 inch wheel size is recommended for children. 8 Inch for teens and small adults, and 10 inch for adults. A special type of hoverboard is the Segway miniPro self-balancing personal transporter that features a padded knee bar for easier steering and a relatively high top speed of 10 mph.
A well-reviewed model for all ages is the all-terrain EpikGo hoverboard.
- max speed: up to 10 mph,
- range: approx. 14 miles (varies between models, from 12 – 17 miles)
- Easy to master
- Relatively safe due to low top speed and ease of use
- Not as fast or versatile as some of the other EPTDs. Therefore some people may find them more suitable for indoor use
- Not always waterproof. PCAdvisor.co.uk found that “most boards have a waterproof rating of IP54, which means they’ll survive a splash of water but not much else”.
7. The Onewheel / Onewheel +
The Onewheel is a category in itself as there’s only one in its kind. It looks like an electrical DIY project merging a wheelbarrow wheel with a board and motor but this description doesn’t do it justice at all.
The Onewheel is built like a tank, with its two horsepower it’s powerful enough to take on hills and bumps and allows for such entertaining surfing including carving and tricks that seasoned snowboarders and skateboarders praise this EPTD for its outstanding performance.
- top speed: 15 mph (experience riders may reach over 20 mph)
- range: 7-8 miles
- accelerating and braking is done by simply leaning forward or backward
- Ride every terrain, from sandy beaches to muddy trails (no need to pick up your board or take your scooter by hand and walk a few meters to bridge non-smooth parts on your route)
- Has standard head and tail lights allowing you to ride safely at night
- Fun factor: the riding pleasure resembles snowboarding in particular and people rave about it in general
- No controller (as with electric skateboards) is required to accelerate
- Allows you to adopt the pace of surrounding pedestrians (this is much harder if not impossible on an electric skateboard)
- Users who own electric skateboards and a Onewheel find the latter less safe. Nosediving can be a potential risk because of the way it’s driven
- Its limited range makes it less suitable for commutes and longer trips in general
8. The Segway E+ / Airwheel S3 & clones
This is basically a hands-free hoverboard but with handlebars so you don’t have to put as much effort into keeping your balance and you can steer a little bit. This type of Segway (nowadays there are various other types of Segways) is the grandfather of all EPTDs.
The Airwheel S3 is a much more affordable alternative. Other alternatives include the Airwheel S5 SUV (an off-road alternative to the S3), Fortech Mini, InMotion Mogo, M1 Robstep, and the very expensive Chegway. Prices among these alternatives vary greatly, from less than $400 to over $4000,-.
Some models are merely inexpensive (read: cheaply built) hoverboards with a Segway-style handle attached to it, others are more robust and of higher quality. Some offer an optional seat. The M1 Robstep is one of the smallest in its kind which makes it ideal for indoor use, for instance if you’re disabled or recovering from injury.
Specs (based on Airwheel S3)
- range: 40 miles in range max.
- max. speed: 11 miles mph
- The handlebars make them easy to ride for pretty much anyone including the elderly and those who have trouble keeping their balance
- No steep learning curve
- Relatively safe
- Not as versatile regarding road surfaces
- Relatively slow
- Bulkier than a Boosted board or electric unicycle which makes storage less easy
More info about the Airwheel.
9. The Walkcar ‘rideable laptop’
The smallest, weirdest alternative on this list is this 13″ laptop-sized Walkcar. The “car in a bag” as the Japanese inventor dubbed his creation may look like a motorized dolly but if you need something very light and compact this might be for you. Its portability makes it great for many purposes yet its small wheels will limit its usability. Available for pre-order now. Price: $1280,-
- top speed: 16 km/h
- weight: 2,8 kg
- driving time: 60 minutes
- Ultra-portable, fits in your bag
- Probably only suitable for flat and rather smooth surfaces, such as indoor
How to choose?
If you’re already aware of the existence of the various choices out there you may wonder, which is better a hoverboard or the Onewheel?
The answer totally depends on your personal situation. Which speed do you want, which range, which driving experience? Will you be able to take your ride with you on airlines?
The OneWheel ‘street snowboard’, for instance, offers a completely different experience than a hoverboard. There’s nothing to compare actually.
Personally I would sooner consider the Onewheel versus an electric unicycle as they are both able to handle pretty much all kinds of surfaces. Which is essential to me. Onewheel’s limited range of 6-ish miles doesn’t cut it for me though.
Say you’re a skateboarder, snowboarder, or surfer who’s looking to expand their playground you’ll probably going to consider one of the battery powered boards; i.e. an electric skateboard such as the Boosted Board vs the Onewheel. The one you can ride when the battery dies, the other you can’t.
Let’s say uneven terrain isn’t much of an issue, then your dilemma could be, should I buy an electric skateboard or a self-balancing unicycle? In this case you might let resistance to water or range influence your decision.
One more thing..
I think all of these innovative electric rides rock. Each in its own way. When they become our main mode of transportation we risk that we can’t be bothered to walk anymore, which may cause humanity to end up like the people in Wall-E. So whichever device you pick, don’t forget to stay fit.
Note: Technically, electrical mobility scooters are EPTDs too. But so are golf carts. As they aren’t innovations we haven’t included them here.
Which electric personal transportation device do you like best?
Shout it out below.