Who Invented The Electric Scooter and How Did It Become So Popular?
The very first non-motorized scooters invented in Germany in 1817 were meant for children. While you can still easily find regular kick scooters, electric scooters have taken the world by storm and they aren’t just for kids anymore. Some motorized scooters can reach speeds up to 50 mph and travel 80 miles per charge. They’re an eco-friendly vehicle for both recreation and commuting. Who invented the electric scooter? And how did they become so popular today? Their history goes back further than you might think.
The first motorized scooter: the Autoped
The story of the electric scooter as we know it begins in 1916. The first motorized scooters were actually powered by gas. The Autoped, the first mass-produced motorized scooter in the US, had a gas engine over the front wheel. The patent for the Autoped belongs to inventor Arthur Hugo Cecil Gibson, but Joseph F. Merkel deserves design credit, as well. Battery-powered machines did exist at this time, such as the battery-powered bicycle patented by Odgen Bolton Jr. in 1895. A later version of the Autoped relied on electricity, but it was slower than the 35 mph offered by the gas-powered version.
At first, some thought this motorized scooter was too strange. However, Autoped did a good job of marketing itself as a versatile, convenient, and cost-saving vehicle. Everyone from business professionals to servants to grocers to messengers could benefit. While it lasted longer than critics thought it would, the Autoped didn’t sell well enough. It couldn’t compete with cheaper bicycles or more comfortable motorcycles. It still left a bit of an impression on the culture, though. Even after manufacturing in the US stopped in 1921, Amelia Earhart could be spotted riding one around California in the 1930s. The Autoped also inspired other attempts at gas-powered scooters, but most failed.
The electric scooter craze begins
In 2000, Razor burst onto the scene with its manual kick scooters. Three years later, Razor introduced its first electric scooter featuring a rechargeable battery. In 2009, Myway (now Inokim) also established itself as a leading electric scooter manufacturer. Their scooter used lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are more eco-friendly and efficient than other battery types. Lithium-ion has now become the battery of choice for quality e-scooters. Besides Razor and Inokim, big brands include Dualtron, Segway, Glion, and Unagi. You can find scooters designed for every age group and budget.
In 2017, scooter-share startups Bird and Lime started putting electric scooters all over major cities. Their popularity was shocking. Bird became the fastest startup to reach a $2 billion valuation. “The rapid rise of these scooter ride-share companies shows that people today are interested in green, affordable, and portable forms of transportation,” says Paul Strobel, owner of Eridehero. People aren’t only keen to rent electric scooters. Riders are buying them, too. In 2019, the global electric scooters market was estimated at USD $18.6 billion. Estimates show that by 2030, the market could be worth up to $41.98 billion.
How did e-scooters become so popular?
Why are electric scooters so popular? There are a few reasons. The first is simply cost. It’s much more expensive to buy and maintain a car or other gas-powered vehicle than an electric scooter. For the vast majority of the world, saving money wherever possible is important.
Another key reason is the desire to protect the environment. Pollution and greenhouse emissions are on a lot of people’s minds these days, so making a transportation change is one way to help the planet. While there’s still lots of room for improvement, especially when it comes to the manufacturing process, an electric scooter ride is still greener than driving a car.
Convenience, especially for shorter trips, is the third reason for the E-scooter’s popularity. This is especially true in cities where many trips are less than 5 miles. It’s easy to hop on a scooter and travel the whole way or use the scooter in conjunction with public transport. Modern electric scooters are easy to fold and fairly lightweight, so riders don’t need to worry about parking once they reach their destination.
Final thoughts: the electric scooter is more than a trend
The electric scooter craze and scooter regulations are still in their early days, so it’s hard to say what the future holds. By all accounts, however, it looks like the electric scooter is here to stay. As technology improves, the E-scooter’s promises of convenience and eco-friendliness will likely continue to draw people in. It will also be interesting to see what long-term effects the COVID-19 pandemic has on commuting and electric scooter use and sales. Will scooter-share companies thrive or fail as people avoid other forms of public transport, but commute less? Will scooters become more of a recreational vehicle than one used primarily for commuting? We’ll have to wait and see.