The electric revolution is upon us, folks, as Edison might have said in 1896, but now that bottled lightning energy has taken to the streets. There are electric car charge points springing up around the UK like techno mushrooms, and the range of e-vehicles on offer has rocketed too.
Just a decade ago back in 2006 there were barely any electric vehicles around at all, apart from milkfloats. Tesla launched their very first prototype Roadsters late that year, and it wasn’t till 2010 when Nissan joined the party with the Leaf that things heated up. Then came a flurry of launches from BMW (i3), Renault’s Twizy and more seriously the Zoe, and finally a slew of super-high performance electric/petrol hybrid cars such as the Porsche 918 Spyder and La Ferrari.
It’s rapidly become clear that this isn’t just a Sinclair C5 re-run, but electric car prices are still high, in spite of government funding, and the logistical issues to having a pure-play electric vehicle have put many people off in the short term.
So where does that leave city dwellers keen to experience this brave new world of electric transport? Well, on two wheels, as usual.
Emicro One - Electric Scooter Road Test
There are a handful of fairly impressive electric motorbikes around - such as the downright futuristic ETT Industries Raker - but these mainly need full motorbike licenses, which is a bit more of a commitment than topping up an Oyster Card.
Related: A UK Guide to the Best Electric Bikes
However, there’s a whole class of two-wheeled mean machines that have been electrified just recently - scooters. I took to the streets on a cutting-edge electric scooter to find out whether commuting sans public transport and, most importantly, sans effort is yet possible…?
I didn't just jump on any old electric scooter either, but the Emicro One from Swiss Micro Scooters, which claims to be the world’s first motion controlled e-scooter. None of this flammable so-called ‘hoverboard’ nonsense here; the Emicro One is a proper scaled up scooter for adults with a cunningly hidden electric assist. The ‘hidden’ element is key here, as although driverless cars are being trialled on public roads, riding an electric scooter on them is somewhat illegal, and using the electric boost on the pavement is too.
Micro are one of the biggest scooter makers around (you’ll be familiar with the thousands of them in the hands of schoolchildren across the nation) and they also make full-size versions for big kids/adults. This is on the latter scale, and weighs in at a hefty 7.5kg and £749.95 to prove it.
The ingenious bit here is that the scoot looks just like a normal non-electric scooter – only two sets of LEDs in the kickplate (and the hefty weight) betray its digital nature. There’s no controls, bar a standard looking rear brake, which slams the anchors on even faster due to some regenerative braking smarts. The electric turbines only spool up once you’ve kicked the scoot to more than 5kmph, and provide a little spurt of acceleration, which you can keep going by light kicks or forward rocking motions. It’s subtle, good fun, and offers us all a little whiff of what mechanical doping in cyclesport must feel like. Hills are far too easily dismissed, and pretty impressive speeds crop up surprisingly easily.
Can You Really Commute on an Electric Scooter?
I began gently, scooting to the tube station to head to a meeting in Covent Garden, the foldable nature of the Emicro tantalising me into attempting a Brompton-esque travel scheme. The scoot folds in half and locks there for relatively easy portability, but the handle bars don’t, leaving you with a somewhat cumbersome package. Fine for the office lift, but less handy on a crowded train. On the bright side, the range of the Emicro is between 10-15km, depending on the terrain, so easily enough to cross town on.
The 7.5kg weight really begins to tell if you’re carrying it though, and Micro have missed a trick by not including a gap to thread through a D-lock or chain, as leaving the Emicro tethered by a Tube station would be a good option (apart from the £750 theft potential, obvs). Unsurprisingly, the tiny 15/12 cm wheels make scooting on anything less than billiard-table-smooth surfaces into a bit of an endurance test, and cobbles are right out, as is anything wet if you fancy stopping.
The Emicro One juices up from flat in an hour, which is lucky both for your next adventure, and peace of mind, as the user manual warns: “Never store the emicro when it is discharged as this can result in complete destruction” - don’t say we didn’t warn you. Sadly it uses a standard plug socket, and isn’t approved by the DVLA, so I couldn’t annoy electric car users by using the electric charge port on Southampton St.
Disappointingly, the Emicro isn’t quite sans effort, and does require a fair bit of kicking into life to begin with, but mastering the motion control does mean you can coast along with impunity relatively quickly, and I made it back to base (and the charge pack) with two LEDs out of four still lit, which is somewhere between 25-50 per cent charge left. I was pretty glad that the weather stayed fine though, as the user manual offers dire threats that the warranty will be invalidated by ‘use during rain’ or ‘use on wet surfaces’, which would certainly put a crimp on general commuting use.
As a summer commuter with a difference the Emicro is actually quite compelling, and when you consider it costs 6 month’s worth of monthly Zone 1-2 Travelcards it looks better value. That said, you could get a good road bike for this money, so owning this scoot is a real badge of commitment to the furtherment of electrified urban transport - we salute you, whoever you are.
Emicro one is available from Micro Scooters for £749.99. Scroll down for some more hands-on, mud-grubbied shots.