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Cars & travel.

8 July 2021

Electric scooters: everything you need to know

Learn more about where you can ride escooters legally and find out how much they cost to run
Tom Morgan

An electric scooter lets you zoom from A to B in style without putting in as much effort as you would on a regular bike or a push scooter. Electric scooters don’t come cheap, although they offer a fun way to travel around and won’t take up too much space at home.

Although an on-board motor and foldable design makes escooters less strenuous and arguably more convenient than a bike, you can’t ride them everywhere. Current laws in the UK restrict where escooter owners can ride.

Below, we’ll run you through everything you need to know about electric scooters. Keep scrolling for more information on where you can ride escooters legally, along with the key features to look out for when you're buying and how much they cost to run.

Best electric scooters: Find out which escooters aced our hill climb, acceleration and braking tests.

A couple riding electric scooters

Are electric scooters legal?

You can legally use an electric scooter on private land (not accessible to the public) as long as you have permission from the land owner.

It’s illegal to use electric scooters on public roads and pavements. If you get caught using an electric scooter illegally, you could face a fine and penalty points on your driver's licence, if you have one. Your escooter could also be impounded as well.

The UK government is running trials of electric scooters to see how members of the public adapt to the new method of transport.

These trials are taking place around the country in cities including Cambridge, Liverpool and Nottingham – you’ll find a full list of electric scooter trial locations on the Department for Transport website.

When will electric scooters be legal?

Many MPs and transport groups are putting pressure on the government to change the rules for good. In fact, a report by the House of Commons Transport Committee, published in October 2020, argues that the UK is ‘the last major European economy where e-scooters are still banned to use anywhere except on private land’.

The report concludes: ‘We believe that the Department should take swift action to legalise the use of privately owned electric scooters on roads and cycle lanes. We would expect this to take place within the next 18 months.’

As the debate continues, we don’t know for certain if and when electric scooter laws will change in the UK.

How do electric scooters work?

The motor

There’s an obvious difference between an electric scooter and a regular push scooter – the motor. All electric scooters use a small, electric motor, so they need charging on a regular basis to keep them moving.

To activate the motor, most electric scooters will need you to be moving. Once the wheels are spinning, turning the throttle should wake up the motor, which means you’ll gain speed. Charging times will vary depending on the size of the motor and the manufacturer.

There are two main types of motor:

  • Font hub motor This is worked into the front wheel. The Xiaomi Mi Pro 2 Electric Scooter, for example, uses a front hub motor. You can read a review of the Xiaomi Pro 2 and nine other electric scooters on our guide to the best electric scooters.
  • Rear hub motor This essentially pushes you forward while you ride. These motors are found at the back of the scooter, which means most of the weight is positioned by the same spot where you stand.

A front hub motor does a better job at evenly distributing weight, although more weight at the front can sometimes mean less traction. Low traction can make the escooter tougher to ride over slippy surfaces.

As the electric scooter does most of the hard work for you, you won't get much exercise. If you're looking for a convenient mode of transport that will also help you keep fit, consider shopping for an electric bike – see our expert advice on electric bikes and folding electric bikes.

The brakes

When you’re riding on an electric scooter, you can slow down by using a footbrake or a handbrake.  

The footbrake works by pushing your foot down on the fender above the rear wheel. The contact between the fender and the wheel creates resistance, which slows the electric scooter down. This can be an effective way of slowing yourself down in an emergency, although it can prove tricky at high speeds and you’ll need to lift your foot entirely off the deck (the surface you’re stood on).

Handbrakes are found on the handlebar – no surprises there. It’s the same sort of system you’d find on a normal road bike, where you squeeze the handle to put the brakes to work.

Electric scooter handlebars

The frame

The majority of electric scooters are built with a folding frame that makes them easier to store. The stem of the scooter, where the handles and on-board controls are, can fold flat to lie flat on top of the deck.

If you don’t have much storage space at home, make sure you put a foldable design on the top of your list of features to look out for.

Carrying an electric scooter

How far can electric scooters go?

The answer to this question depends on which brand of escooter you’re using, the size of the battery and the amount of charge left in the battery.

You’ll also need to consider the type of routes you go on. If you’re riding an electric scooter on flat ground, it will last longer than if you were riding up lots of hills. If you consider your daily commute to be quite demanding, a bigger electric scooter battery is the way to go.

Our own expert analysis shows that Halfords is one of the most popular UK retailers that currently stocks electric scooters. With that in mind, let’s look at the claimed ranges for each of its listed models:

  • Highest claimed range 28 miles
  • Average claimed range* 16.8 miles
  • Lowest claimed range 7 miles.

*Based on a total of eight adult electric scooters.

How much do electric scooters cost?

How much you need to pay will depend on what electric scooter features are important to you. You can pick up a very basic one without breaking the bank – affordable models for adults can drop as low as £250. However, these will usually have limited on-board controls, a less durable frame and minimal suspension.

If you’ve got a bigger budget, you can consider models that soar beyond the £1,000 mark. At this price point, electric scooters will be able to travel a far greater distance between charges.

We've tested ten electric scooters that cost between £300 and £900. If you are looking to buy an electric scooter, make sure you see our hill climb, acceleration and braking test results in our guide to the best electric scooters.

Popular retailers that stock a wide range of electric scooters include:

  • Argos Stocks electric scooters for adults starting at around £200 and rising to £400. Brands include Razor, Xiaomi and Zinc.
  • Currys PC World Prices start at around £200. At the other end of the scale, the retailer currently sells two Cityblitz electric scooters at around £1,000.
  • Halfords Stocks a small selection of adult electric scooters from £375 to £600. You have three brands to choose from – City Bug, JD Bug and Xiaomi.
  • Pure Electric Has a vast selection of almost 40 different escooter models. The cheapest model, the Zinc ECO Plus, is around £300. The £2,200 Inokim Oxo is the priciest.
  • Fun Bikes Currently lists around 50 different models with varying motor sizes. The cheapest escooter for adults is the Gotrax GXLV2, which is around £300.

How do you charge electric scooters and how much does it cost?

If the battery on an electric scooter is running low, there will probably be an indicator located near the handlebars that alerts you to the problem.

The time taken to charge the battery varies depending on what model you have. Some electric scooters can be fully juiced up in less than five hours, while others will take a full working day. Make sure you research charging times before you settle on a specific model.

The type of battery an electric scooter runs off can have an effect on charging times: 

  • Lithium-ion batteries Charge quickly and are reasonably lightweight (usually lighter than lead-acid batteries), making them easier to carry around.
  • Lead-acid batteries Take far longer to charge. Compared with Lithium-ion batteries they cost less up-front, but have a shorter lifespan.

In most cases, charging your electric scooter is as simple as plugging in a cable and turning the power on at the mains. You’ll usually find the charging port somewhere on the base of the scooter, but if you’re unsure, check the user manual or the manufacturer’s website.

If your electric scooter comes with a removable battery, the process can be a little fiddly. Removable batteries are usually found somewhere on the underside of the deck and you’ll probably need a screwdriver to get access to the component. Once you manage to remove the battery, you can charge it at home or in the office without taking the whole scooter with you. 

Charging an electric scooter

How to calculate the cost

To find out how much money you'll spend on charging, you need to know the size of the battery and the cost of your electricity.

Let's use the Ninebot KickScooter MAX G30 for our example. This has a 551 Wh battery. The average rate for electricity in the UK is 18.75p per kWh, based on the standard variable tariffs of the biggest 10 firms.

We divide 551 by 1,000 to find the Ninebot's battery size in kilowatts – this gives us 0.551 kWh. Then we multiply that figure by the electricity price (18.75).

This tells us that, based on the average electricity price in the UK, it would cost around 10.3p to charge the Ninebot KickScooter Max G30 fully. 

Based on the manufacturer's range claim, this means it will cost you around 10p, on average, to travel 40.4 miles.

Making your escooter battery last

Use our top tips to make sure you’re getting the most from your electric scooter battery:

  1. Charge the battery every chance you get – don’t wait for the battery to drain entirely before you plug it in again. Try and get into the habit of charging your scooter after each long trip.
  2. When your scooter needs a charge, use the same cable (with the same current output) that came with it when you first bought it. If you lose the cable, you might be tempted to grab a cheaper third-party alternative, but doing so can be harmful to the battery as voltages will vary between products.
  3. If you’re charging a removable battery, make sure it's away from direct sunlight. 
  4. Turn off the power socket before you take a removable battery from its charging case.
Electric scooter charging port

Best electric scooters

We've tested ten electric scooters from leading brands Xiaomi, Unagi, Segway and more. 

We put the scooters through a variety of tough tests at the birthplace of British motor racing, Brooklands Transport Museum in Surrey. 

Our tests included hill climbing, acceleration, braking, maneuverability, comfort, stability and much more. 

To learn more about our testing and find out which scooters we rate, and which we don't, head to our electric scooter reviews.