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Should I Buy an Electric Bike or an Electric Scooter?

12 Mins read

Electic bikes and e-scooters are both popular methods of transportation in the United States, but some consumers confuse them for each other.

After all, they both function the same way, have two wheels, and have features that resemble their pedelec scooter and bike counterparts.

The major differences between an e-bike and e-scooter are the laws that govern their use. However, there are still minor differences between weight, speed, price, range, safety, durability, and overall look. You may even want both electric vehicles for various purposes.

To clarify, in this article, ‘scooter’ won’t refer to the four-wheeled variety that’s used by people with mobility issues nor the push wheel kind.

E-scooters are often interchangeable with mopeds because they are both electric-powered vehicles without pedals.

In this article, we will engage in the analysis of both e-bikes and e-scooters and compare which is better and which will attend to your daily needs.

Before we do that, let’s make a distinction between human-powered bikes and scooters and the definition of electric vehicles.

10 Reasons to Buy an Electric Bike or E-Scooter

If you’re thinking of joining in on the electric transport craze, consider these reasons to pick one up before getting into the more important details.

  1. It doesn’t take a lot of practice to ride an electric vehicle safely.
  2. You can get a great cardio workout with an electric bike.
  3. Both the e-scooter and e-bike are more affordable than a car or motorcycle.
  4. E-bikes and e-scooters enable seniors and the physically disabled a method of travel.
  5. Motors will kick in on an e-bike if you’re too tired to pedal.
  6. They can reach high speeds, although higher speed models may require licenses or road use.
  7. Capable of riding in bad weather conditions or on slight inclines with motor support.
  8. Requires little maintenance in comparison to a motorcycle or car.
  9. Both e-bikes and e-scooters allow you to sit or stand.
  10. E-vehicles use simple throttle technology to power and change its speed.

Why Electric Vehicles are Perfect for Cities


Photo Courtesy: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/Unsplash

Depending on where you live, purchasing a car is out of reach or impractical. If you live in LA and drive to work, you’re familiar with the slow-moving highway traffic and frequent accidents that make commuting even slower.

On top of that, you need to spend time looking for parking in a busy area. Often, it’s more cost-effective and less stressful to take a bus or walk because you save money on gas and don’t need to find a space to park.

Even though public transport solves most of these problems, busses run on their own schedule, only drop you off at key locations, and are often crowded and unsanitary. Now, you have no control over your trip, and it may take a large chunk of time out of your day to catch the bus.

An e-bike or e-scooter solves all of your problems, and in many cases, they are better for travel than trains, buses, or cars. A folding scooter or bike doesn’t even need a parking spot – you can just bring it with you while you shop or place it under your desk at work.

Can’t a Human Powered Bike or Scooter do the Same Thing?

Absolutely. A human-powered scooter or bike can take you where you need to go and are a practical means of transportation. They also give you a cost-effective method of exercise and are an eco-friendly option that most people can use daily.

However, many people don’t live close to their work, or they don’t have the physical fitness or capability to bike for miles a day. Even for those who are capable of biking long-distances, you will almost always arrive a sweaty mess.

An electric bike or scooter is accessible for all ages, fitness levels, and physical capabilities because the motor provides additional support for longer or harder commutes. You won’t find yourself stranded if you can’t pedal or kick your analog vehicle long distances.

E-Bikes vs. E-Scooters

Photo Courtesy: Lucian Alexe/Unsplash

There is some confusion surrounding e-bikes and e-scooters. Even though both bikes are 2-wheeled, they feel different when you ride them, and their legal requirements, mileages, and benefits vary greatly.

Electric Bikes

Electric bikes are 2 wheeled bicycles that come outfitted with functional pedals – usually. Some e-bikes won’t come with pedals, but those are usually models that are small, less than $500, or aren’t fitted initially because they come at an added price.

Even though e-bikes look similar to human-powered bicycles, they have motors planted on the frame. Typical places to find the motor vary on model and manufacturer, but a rear hub motor, front hub motor, or center hub motor are common.

E-bikes will also have a battery to power the motor, a drive train to turn the power generated to propel the bike forward, and a throttle to manage and change speeds. Otherwise, an electric bike has the same parts and components as a regular bicycle.

Pedal assisted e-bikes give your bike an extra boost while pedaling, and some models require you to pedal to start the motor. While some e-bikes will need physical effort to maintain speeds, others will either make pedaling optional or will be 100% motor functionality.

Electric Scooters

Electric scooters are a two-wheeled vehicle that differs from a skateboard because it has handlebars. In comparison to an analog scooter, the e-scooter will have a motor and is self-propelled after the users’ initial kick-off from the pavement.

The powerful accumulator can help you overcome a more considerable distance than what may have been capable of a human-powered scooter. You also won’t have to push off the ground to keep momentum continuously – you just have to use the throttles on the handlebars to maintain speeds.

Some e-scooters will include a seat that makes them more similar to a moped than a scooter, but the seat can add extra comfort for anyone who doesn’t want to stand for long distances. E-scooters with seats are more expensive than standing versions.

Since e-scooters never come with pedals, there aren’t pedal-assisted scooters. If you want to go faster, you could kick on the ground – but you’ll probably hurt yourself. E-scooters aren’t for people who wish to exercise during their commute.

Legal Requirements

The United States has confusing laws when it comes to understanding what a street-legal electric scooter is. This is because the US federal law governing electric bikes also applies to electric scooters as well.

Electric Bikes

US2002 Federal Law states that an electric bike will become street legal if it has a top speed of less than 20 mph (32 km/h), and the motor power is below 750W. However, because most states don’t follow this law, or have implemented a Class system for bikes, this isn’t always true.

The chart below shows legal bike speeds (20 mph – 28 mph) and illegal speeds (35mph or higher). It’s possible to rig an e-bike to go faster than what’s listed on this chart, but it won’t be road legal.

Battery + Motor (Flat Terrain 165 lbs Male) Max Speed Average E-Bike Cost Average Charge Time
250w 20 mph (32.19 km/h) $500 – $1000 20 minutes
500w 25 mph (40.23 km/h) $750 – $1250 40 minutes
750w 28 mph (45 km/h) $750 – $1500 60 minutes
1000w 35 mph (56.32 km/h) $1000 – $1500 80 minutes
1500w 40 mph (64 km/h) $1500 – $2000+ 120 minutes

The 3-Class System

Here is a breakdown on which e-bikes classify for Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 under the legislation. Since 2014, the national bicycle advocacy group PeopleForBikes has helped over 30 states pass standardized regulations for e-bikes with the use of the 3-Class System.

  • Class 1: Assists pedaling but not your throttle, these e-bikes are passive and are allowed to function on bike paths. Pedal-assist only (absolutely no throttle), and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph (32.19 km/h).
  • Class 2: Known as low-speed throttle-assisted e-bikes. These e-bikes have motors that proper the cyclist without pedaling. The rider cannot exceed more than 20 mph (32.19 km/h) like Class 1, accept Class 2 e-bikes must be throttle-assisted.
  • Class 3: Known as speed pedal-assisted electric bikes and provide assistance to the rider if they’re pedaling. Cannot have a throttle. Class 3 e-bikes can have a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph (45 km/h). However, the US only allows bikes on the road that have a maximum of 20 mph (32.19 km/h).

All e-bikes, no matter the Class, limit the motor’s power to 1 horsepower (750W). Be aware that the class system is specific to e-bikes, whereas e-scooters have their own system in place that is similar, but not the same.

Electric Scooters

In the United States, electric scooters are allowed on roads that lack bicycle lanes as long as they don’t exceed speed limits of 25 mph (40 km/h). Similar to e-bike regulations, this varies based on state. E-scooters are sometimes their own category but are usually treated as e-bikes.

California, for example, uses the classification of Personal Light Electric Vehicles and can ride on pavements, roads, and cycle lanes as long as you’re over the age of 16 and are wearing a helmet. However, in San Francisco, it’s illegal to leave your power scooter unattended.

E-scooters don’t require a license to operate, although some US states do require one if you want to operate an e-bike. Always check your local laws before operating either electric vehicles to ensure you aren’t breaking any state laws.

Overall, it’s easier to own an e-scooter because less licensing is needed to operate one, and you are less likely to break any laws. Just ensure that you wear a helmet with an e-scooter and follow traffic rules in your state to avoid a ticket.

Price Comparison

Photo Courtesy: Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash

On average, e-bikes are more expensive than scooters on the initial purchase, but in general, electric-powered vehicles are cheaper than gas-powered ones. When compared, electric scooters and electric bikes generally have a lower running cost than gas-powered vehicles.

A 5 km (3 miles)ride will only cost you 5 cents in electricity, whereas gas can cost upwards to a dollar per 4km (2.5 miles). However, calculating the cost of the vehicle doesn’t just start and end when you buy the product. You also need to factor in the maintenance and quality of the e-vehicle.

Both the range of the prices for electric bikes can start low (less than or equal to $500), they can sky-rocket as their specifications increase. Due to the popularity of e-bikes, it’s likely the e-bikes will become cheaper as the parts become cheaper to produce.

Even though an e-scooter is cheaper initially, electric bikes are cheaper to maintain if you don’t have expertise in electric vehicles. Maintaining your e-bike is more convenient than e-scooters are because more mechanics know how to service their parts.

E-bikes have one significant value advantage: you can electrify most regular bikes. E-scooters don’t have conversion kits readily available, but e-bikes do. For example, a conversion kit like Swytch can quickly turn any human-powered bike into a motor-powered one.

In general, higher-priced e-bikes or e-scooters will provide a better range, higher speeds, and are made of higher quality material. Paying more for an e-vehicle also translates to lighter weights rather than a jump in raw power once pricing exceeds $1000.

Portability Comparison

Unless you have a scooter that’s as big as a moped, e-scooters are almost always more portable than e-bikes. Most scooters are tested to fit in a trunk or sedan and are allowed on public transportation and Ubers. E-bikes are often too big for most cars.

E-scooters are also lighter than e-bikes because there are fewer components on the scooter itself. A scooter is basically 2 long pieces of metal, 2 wheels, and 2 handles. An e-bike has more complicated machinery and is usually heavier and has a bulkier frame.

Few e-bikes weight less than 40 lbs (18 kg), and only a few expensive (over $1500) e-bikes will weigh less than 30 lbs (13 kg). More affordable models will run you higher than 60 lbs (27 kg). However, e-scooters average 30 to 50 lbs (13 kg to 22 kg).

These comparisons are not a hard and fast rule – some e-scooters and e-bikes are small enough to fit in suitcases. Overall, scooters are usually less expensive, smaller, and more portable, whereas e-bikes can be bulky, heavy, and may not always bend in half.

Range Comparison

Photo Courtesy: Galen Crout/Unsplash

E-bikes have better ranges than e-scooters – period. It’s rare to see an e-scooter go beyond 40 miles (64 km) on a single charge, but many e-bikes will go at least 70 to 120 miles (113 to 193 km). On top of that, e-bikes can go farther – at a lower price.

Unfortunately, once your e-scooter runs out of juice, you’ll need to kick the ground to get moving again. However, it’s harder to do so because the scooter is incredibly heavy. An e-bike has a pedal assist and constant momentum, which makes pedaling an e-bike effortless.

Still, if your battery does run out of the scooter, you can always call a cab because they can fit in the trunk. With an e-bike, you’ll have no choice but to power it yourself because most Ubers and taxis won’t let you store a bicycle in a car.

Exercise Comparison

If you want to use your mode of transportation as an exercise device – don’t pick an e-scooter. Sure, you can push the scooter along, but it won’t provide you the type of full-body exercise that a pedantic e-bike can.

Riding an e-bike gives you the option of a serious workout, and more often than not, e-bike riders get more exercise the cyclists. E-bike riders tend to make longer commutes, which usually involves pedaling to either get to the destination faster or because the option to exercise is already there.

Lugging a 70 lbs (31 kg) e-bike up a hill with the assist turned off will give you quite the workout and will undoubtedly activate your quadriceps. An e-scooter can’t do that; it would actually be safer and faster to walk up a hill while bench pressing a piece of metal.

Speed Comparison

Both the e-scooter and e-bike are capable of speeds faster than their human-powered equivalents. In the Legal Requirements section, we governed the regulations of e-bikes compared to e-scooters, where e-bikes are more regulated based on speeds.

In the US, e-bikes cannot exceed 20 mph (32 km/h) in most cases. Since US laws differ from state to state, it’s better to research each individual state before using an e-bike that may exceed 28 mph (45 km/h), which is the legal limit is some states.

E-scooter have mostly unenforced or ambivalent laws. You are unlikely to get stopped by the police for speeding on an e-scooter in a bike lane or on the road. It’s bizarre because it’s easy to buy or rig e-scooters to exceed 40 mph (64 km/h).

Technically, e-scooters can go faster because they’re legally allowed to. Plus, e-scooter are more compact, meaning you can either carry them around with you or in a backpack, which saves you time. Locking up your bike takes extra time and more security precautions.

Utility Comparison

Photo Courtesy: Kumpan Electric/Unsplash

While e-scooters excel in portability, e-bikes are perfect for extra cargo and are capable of holding multiple add-ons. It’s possible to attach baskets on the front and back of cargo e-bikes for grocery trips or to haul your projects to and from work.

Even if your e-bike isn’t meant to hold cargo, you can equip your regular city or commuter e-bike with trailers, rockets, baskets or panniers. E-scooters simply don’t have the space or stability for a large amount of cargo or add-on accessories.

Safety Comparison

It’s difficult to compare safety on the e-scooter or e-bike because they’re only as safe as the operator is at handling them. Safety can vary tremendously based on the make, model, and type of electric vehicle you’re riding.

E-bikes have bigger wheels that can travel over potholes and debris without the fear of bouncing too high or off the seat. These tires can also navigate wet weather, and the heavier frames offer more stability. E-bikes are also more visible on the road.

An e-scooter, however, makes you more agile so you can quickly navigate around pedestrians or cars. You can hop off the scooter if necessary to avoid a severe accident, which is more challenging to do on an e-bike – especially with the motor or battery in the way.

On average, there are more accidents from e-scooter than there are from e-bikes, and it’s likely because of the lack of regulations. Still, e-scooters have larger tires and a better suspension, so day to day use is more comfortable and accessible than on an e-bike.

Another recent study shows that e-bikes have a distinct pattern of severe injuries that result in hospitalization. Overall, e-bikes result in fewer accidents, but the accidents are more severe, whereas e-scooter users are more likely to have accidents that aren’t life-threatening.

Always wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet can reduce many injuries, especially injuries involving the head, neck, and shoulders. If you happen to fly off your e-bike or e-scooter, you can save yourself from a severe concussion or brain injury.

Durability

E-bikes have more direct support if they have a flat tire, a bent spoke, or need general maintenance. E-scooters don’t have the same accessibility because they are less prevalent than e-bikes, so many mechanics aren’t knowledgable on e-scooter components.

To make matters worse, e-scooters aren’t as durable as e-bikes. E-bike manufacturers have the 200-year history of bicycle maintenance under their belt, as well as the decades of knowledge-based around servicing e-bike specific components.

If you want at least a 15-year relationship with your electric vehicle, opt for an e-bike. They’ll often last longer, have better parts, and maintenance is easier. If you own an e-scooter, you will need to learn a lot of maintenance tips yourself.

Are you an e-bike or an e-scooter enthusiast?

Are you interested in many other articles, like this one, that gives in-depth information about different e-bikes and e-scooters?

Visit our website for more information on the best electric bikes and scooters that can make your commute more stylish and fun.

Before you go, leave a comment on your preference – do you like e-bikes or e-scooters more?

Be sure to read one of our other articles about the history of bicycles and e-bikes while you’re at it!

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