Urban mobility: The electric scooter; its challenges, its trends, its assumptions, its mistakes.
An electric scooter is a light motorcycle driven by an electric motor with small wheels and a low seat mostly used in urban areas.
The scooters are not new and have been around for almost 100 years. The most common shape under which we can easily identify them goes back to 1946 with the Vespa & the Lambretta.
These days’ image and design outweigh functionality despite market opportunities. Similar to the car industry that still makes you believe you drive an airplane without wings ready for takeoff. Scooters sell the image of ‘la dolce vita’ with a handsome Italian and his girlfriend going to the beach.
Marketing imposes on us images that we often are not ready to challenge for better solutions and when we are confronted to change we are unable to appreciate them at their right value. Preconceived ideas and habits have made of us consumerist passive user without any sense of positive criticism when change could make the difference. Without being dogmatic lets have an overall look at ergonomics and safety as both elements are tightly related.
Most people would like to go on a scooter but fear the safety of a two wheeler. This part of the population in most cases would not even consider the use of a motorcycle. Like the most of us we are simply looking for a practical, functional, inexpensive, reliable and safe mobility tool to commute around that would take us to close destination without having to worry about parking and time consumption. If for most people jumping on a scooter remains a safety issue first it is most probably due to bad ergonomics. Strangely enough the first prototypes and first scooters designed where in most cases having a handle bar much higher than the one’s we can see on most scooters today.
With a sitting position that vertical due to the low seat and the high feet platform you would be inclined to raise the handle bar much higher than what we can see on this scooter. That ergonomic posture is totally wrong, unpractical, and unsafe. You have to lower your shoulders to reach and maneuver the handle bar which by definition provokes fatigue and stress due to the a bad ergonomic posture imposed by a lowered handle bar. When you sit at a table you have about the same sitting posture as the one illustrated here on the scooter but your hands will be higher from your knees and frankly speaking you would not consider eating with your plate on your knees. The scooter wants you to drive with your hands on your knees! We live in the 21th century but scooters are designed for the middle ages considering that people will not be bigger than 170 cm in height. No wonder we feel unsafe driving them. An urban bicycle for a normal adult with as reference the Dutch bike is more comfortable then the scooter see: http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/01/anatomy-of-dutch-bicycle.html
Big wheels are safer than small wheels especially on wet slippery surfaces. Obviously our scoter driver wears a helmet. You really don’t want to break your neck on the pavement in traffic. Speed also is of course not helping in that case especially if the ergonomics of your mobility device is badly designed; you rather prefer to be in control when things go wrong. You wouldn’t consider driving a motorcycle with scooter wheels would you? Well the scooter is a motorcycle with small wheels whatever you may think.
Personally I rather drive a motorcycle or a Dutch bicycle in terms of safety. The Dutch bicycle for its comfortable user friendly features and the motorcycle for its bigger wheels, its structure in between the legs allowing you to feel part of the machine and in full control of its behavior. Let’s imagine the following scenario: you are in a bent by a rainy day on a slippery road at speeds up to 45 km /H – 28mph and you drive in a pothole followed by a big bump in the road. Which vehicle would you be rather sitting on? I believe you have as me chosen for the motorcycle. The driver on the scooter with his small wheel might not survive the pothole and if he does he will then be projected in the sky; his bum no longer seating on his seat and his legs not tight to the platform and you simply can’t tighten your legs on the structure as you have no structure to grip on.
The electric scooter in terms of propulsion is no longer in question when it comes in terms of performances. The motorcycle racing industry is there to break all records of: autonomy, speed, torque, acceleration, noise, and pollution. The main concern is and I believe it to be a major one; do you need reloading stations like the cars are trying to implement or do you rather make use of your own plugs with which you recharge your phone today? Would you consider the time you need to recharge your phone at home too long for a similar time to reload your battery packs? With the constant progress made in battery technology one can easily state that to day you might have to reload your battery packs only once or twice a week for a daily intensive use. Going electric with battery packs seems to me the best solution and being autonomous in terms of reloading your batteries the best solution without having to depend on an external system for which you will have to wait at least to or 3 hours anyway. Just charge your batteries while you sleep and you will be all fine for the rest of the week.