How Does an Electric Scooter Work?

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Updated August 24, 2022

Depending on your point of view, electric scooters could be considered an urban nuisance or the newest electric vehicles to grace the travel industry. But one thing’s for sure: they’re here to stay. The best electric scooters have amassed a large market within the past decade, and many purchase them for their convenience and affordable cost. But just how does an electric scooter work?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Electric scooters have a simple design consisting of only three major components.
  • Of all battery options, lithium-ions hold the longest-lasting charge, are environmentally friendly, and weigh less than other battery options.
  • A scooter’s motor determines the machine’s top speed and how efficiently it translates electrical energy into mechanical motion.

If you want to look at different electric scooter models, check out our article comparing the GOTRAX XR Ultra vs Xiaomi M365.

How an Electric Scooter Works

Electric scooters are surprisingly simple devices with only three main parts: a battery, a controller, and a motor. When the rider twists the throttle, the battery releases electric energy, which powers the electric motor that turns the wheels. Overall, it’s a straightforward process, but there are some things users should know about each part before purchasing.

Insider Tip

When accelerating, leaning forward saves battery and prevents strain on the motor by transferring the center in the direction the scooter is traveling.

If you already own an electric scooter and are having issues, read our piece explaining common reasons why an electric scooter won’t move.

The Battery

Scooters come with many different rechargeable battery types. However, the lead-acid battery is the oldest battery technology commonly found in earlier scooter models. Lead-acid batteries are usually bulkier than other types but are also the most affordable.

Lithium-ion is the newest and most powerful battery. While pricier, they have the longest battery life and are smaller and lighter. Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly found in more recent models, mainly because of their eco-friendly design.

A battery’s range is how far you can travel without losing the charge. And as the market grows, more and more manufacturers are coming out with longer-range batteries. For more about this, read our guide on the leading long-range electric scooters.

The Motor

All scooter companies use DC motors, usually located near the rear wheel. Motor power is measured by watts, which determines the scooter’s top speed and ability to drive at an incline.

Two types of motors standard in electric scooters are brushed and brushless. The difference between these two is the mechanism to transfer the electrical current to mechanical power. Brushed motors use carbon brushes to move the electrical current to the rotors. In contrast, brushless motors use an electronic switch to control the flow of electricity.

Overall, most prefer brushless motors as they last longer, are more efficient, and are less complicated. For this reason, most electric scooter manufacturers implement brushless motors into their machines.

Warning

Because electric scooter motors are so quiet, operators must exercise additional caution when driving around other vehicles and pedestrians.

If you want to read more about some of the nuances of scooter motors, we have a great piece explaining why you’d want to use a 24-volt electric scooter.

STAT: The average electric scooter battery holds a charge for about 10-15 miles and lasts anywhere from 18 months to five years. (source)

How Does an Electric Scooter Work FAQs

How far should you ride on an electric scooter?

Frequently taking scooters on long rides may wear out the battery faster. But rides of over 10 miles shouldn't be an issue for scooters with larger batteries.

Are electric scooters environmentally friendly?

Like all forms of electronic travel, the environmental impact is much less than gas-powered options.

Do you have to drive electric scooters in the bike lane?

It largely depends on where you live, but in most cases, electric scooter operators should stay out of bike lanes.
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