Folding Electric Bicycle vs. Electric Scooter. You, The Commuter, Will Decide.

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Are you ready for the big confrontation? It’s time for the folding electric bicycle vs electric scooter life-and-death battle.

Well, it’s not quite that dramatic. But it’s as serious as it can get, especially if you’re into personal transportation vehicles or micro-mobility or e-mobility.

No need to say that transportation is a massive issue for most of us working stiffs, especially if we live near a city of any size.  Moreso if it is a large city.

Getting around has become so large of an issue that companies have been formed in an attempt to fill the gap with convenient and relatively inexpensive personal mobility devices to help us get around. 

Even car manufacturers can see the way that urban transport is heading.  Some cities are closing off areas to cars and allowing just foot or mobility devices to operate.

In 2018, General Motors announced that it would get into the electric bike market.  In 2019, GM began selling its ARIV brand in Europe, with two versions, the Merge, and the Meld.

BMW released a rather unimpressive electric scooter, but it does show that they have an interest in the market.

Peugeot has already created a folding e-bike in 2018. Skoda has a unique mash-up of an electric bike/scooter.

All of this activity on the part of car manufacturers goes to show that personal mobility devices are a viable form of transportation that shows no slowing down in popularity.

Which to choose? A folding e-bike or an e-scooter?

For me, the flat out answer is that it is based on personal preference and the environment in which you will be using the vehicle. 

I learned how to drive a stick shift car out of necessity.  While it was valuable to know and served me well, I would never purchase a stick shift or drive one now if I didn’t have to.

The choice between the two vehicles is not as clear cut as it might seem. It will depend on various factors that are both preferential and physical. Here are a few of those factors:

  • E-scooters riders stand throughout their commute, which can be tiring.
  • E-bikers sit, but the posture is often hunched over. 
  • E-scooters are lighter than a folding e-bike for carrying into your destination and your home.
  • E-scooters take up less space, but some folding e-bikes fold up small enough to be placed under your desk.
  • You need to have a good sense of balance on an e-scooter as compared to an e-bike.
  • A folding e-bike can take the bumps, debris, and small potholes better than an e-scooter
  • Both scooters and bikes can attain some impressive speeds. Just remember neither vehicle provides any protection.
  • A folding e-bike tends to have a higher resale value.
  • You will get some exercise on a folding e-bike and none on an e-scooter.

While the above points give you something to think about, there are other factors to consider.  

How long is your commute?  Is it in a city center or a university campus that is relatively flat ground and short distances?  

In that case, an e-scooter makes sense as it is light and compact. If you park and use your transport for the last mile, a folding e-bike makes better sense. 

Are Electric Scooters Faster than Electric folding bikes?

At this point in time, the short answer to this question is that e-scooters are typically faster than folding e-bikes.  

Please note that we are talking in generalities. We are not making comparisons with high end or modified vehicles, of either bikes or scooters.  

Most folding e-bikes have an average rate of 20 miles per hour. An e-scooter can achieve speeds of up to 35 mph. 

Most cities have established regulations that cap speeds for e-scooters at 10 to 15 mph. Operators of shared-ride scooter and e-bike companies install a governor—or speed limiter—that’s meant to keep the vehicle’s speed below the caps set by local regulations.

A personal mobility vehicle that is personally owned will not have the same speed limiter on the vehicle.  Just be aware that you will be expected to obey the rules regarding speed if operating within a city. 

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Factors Contributing to the Speed of an E-scooter

Man riding a black electric scooter

First and foremost, the e-scooter will be limited by the amount of power, measured in watts, that the motor on the scooter can produce.  

Speed will also depend on aerodynamics or how well the scooter lets the airflow past, reducing the amount of drag.  The wider your profile is, the more resistance you will incur when riding.

The type of tires is also a factor regarding speed. If the tires are airless, that means there is less friction with the ground.  The ride is not pleasant on rough terrain though.

A tire filled with air depends on the pressure within the tire. High pressure will mean less friction with the ground, and the scooter will go faster, and the battery will last longer.

The weight of the scooter itself,  the weight of the rider, any backpack, or equipment being carried will affect how far the scooter can go.

External conditions, a windy day, a rough roadway, and an uphill climb will all make a difference in how fast you will be able to zip around. 

Factors Contributing to the Speed of a Folding Electric Bicycle

Young lady wearing a pink t-shirt riding an electric folding bicycle

Your folding e-bike will more than not, have a DC motor. That motor is voltage-dependent, so a higher voltage means higher speed.  Keeping your battery charged up will give the bike more speed.

Charge your battery after every trip. If you get an inexpensive charger, you can leave one at work and another at home.  

It might seem counter-intuitive, but we do have to mention that if you leave your battery at full charge for weeks or more (this means storing at full charge), it can be bad for the battery.

This article explains if you are you killing your battery. It states, for example, that heat is not a battery’s friend. 

Most folding e-bikes have good airflow around the battery, but avoid any battery holders that are a case or bag. 

Smoother tires have less resistance and can add a mile or two per hour more. If you use a higher tire pressure, closer to their maximum rating, it will help boost your speed. 

However, the downside will be a harsher ride. You’ll feel each bump a bit more without soft, spongy tires to absorb road irregularities.

Just know that the more tire pressure, the bumpier the ride will be, so it might be a trade-off for you.

Make sure that your brakes are correctly tuned so that they are not adding friction from brake rub. Check it yourself, or have your nearest bike shop do so.

Just a final thought on speed. Laws that regulate speeds differ depending on where you are riding. It is up to you to know what those laws are.  

It has been shown that at faster speeds, kinetic energy increases and reaction time decreases. 

Be smart and be careful no matter what you ride. The whole idea is to get wherever you are going safely, right?

Are electric scooters allowed on trains?

Lady wearing boots on electric scooter passing by a yellow train

In a previous article, we’ve talked about the widespread phenomenon that is the e-scooter.

Recent statistics say that the number of electric scooters will hit almost 50 million worldwide this year. Global sales – electric scooters and bicycles 2020

For the purpose of this article, the e-folding bikes and e-scooters that we will be discussing will be ones that are personally owned, not ones that are rideshare options. 

An e-scooter is fast and light and can reach virtually any part of a city without ever getting caught in traffic.

The downside of traveling on an e-scooter is that the distance one can go on a single charge is somewhat limited.

At this point in technology, the most you can expect under optimal conditions is 10 to 20 miles. That may sound like a whole lot of travel distance, but several factors go into achieving that many miles.

To spare their battery, some commuters will choose to use the train to reach the city and then zip around on the e-scooter to their destination. 

Fortunately, a folding electric scooter can be brought onto a train in most countries.

There are some cities, such as Chicago, that will only allow electric scooters on the transport when the trains are less crowded. 

In Chicago, e-scooters are allowed on trains before 6:30 am and after 9:30 am.  

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It might go without saying, but I will say it anyway. Different countries and the different states in the United States, along with various train companies will have their own policies, so check to see what their rules are before taking your e-scooter along.

What is the difference between a moped and an electric bike?

While they can resemble a bike, a moped is a small type of motorcycle with pedals. The name of a moped is derived from the words “motor” and “pedal.” 

The gas engines on a moped still require a pedal start, which makes them a hybrid type of vehicle. They are usually powered by a small two or four-stroke engine of 50 ccs (cubic centimeters)

The top speed of a moped ranges from 18 to 47 mph, depending on the size of the engine. Mopeds can be ridden on most roads, but not on highways. 

Some mopeds allow for two riders. They have the same step-through frame like an electric bike, with the motor in the rear of the driver, below the seat.

Mopeds can travel on bike lanes, but not on sidewalks or bike paths, and cannot park in bicycle areas. A folding e-bike can also travel on bike lanes and can park in bicycle areas. 

A folding electric bike, while it shares the step-through frame with a moped, has functional pedals. The other main difference between a moped and an electric bicycle is how they are powered.

As is mentioned above, a moped has a gas engine that requires 93 octane gas as fuel. With an electric bicycle, it is powered by a lithium battery that will need recharging in an electrical outlet.

If you have an e-bike, consult your owner’s manual for directions on charging the battery, but this short video can show you that it is a pretty straightforward process.

How much faster is a scooter or an e-bike than walking?

Man on electric folding bicycle passing by another man on electric scooter

The average person on a slow walk can travel one mile per hour, and a fast walk at three miles per hour.  

Translate that to a city block.  Depending on the city, there is, on average, seven blocks in a mile. If you were a slow walker, it would take you one hour to travel those seven blocks. 

Even with cities capping the speed of scooters and e-bikes at about ten miles per hour, it would take a rider about ten minutes to go the same distance as a slow walker.

Which is safer: a folding electric bicycle or an e-scooter? 

One of the major deciding factors as to how safe either a folding e-bike or an e-scooter would depend on the rider. 

We all know someone who should not be allowed to operate a blender much less any type of vehicle.

Nevertheless, we will forge ahead with some factors that should be considered for each. Some elements will overlap for both vehicles.

An E-scooter:

READ THE MANUAL: Before purchasing, get a hold of the manual. Often times, PDF versions of owners manuals are available online. 

Read the manual beforehand. Most people purchase first and read the second. The advantage of reading first is that you will know before you buy just what it entails to ride the scooter and what its safety options are.

If you are not comfortable with the operating procedures, you will be able to consider a different model rather than being stuck with a vehicle that you are not comfortable operating. 

WEAR A HELMET: You want to have many days of scootering. Accidents can happen, and you can protect yourself and minimize the effect that an accident could have.

So, always wear a helmet. As you probably know already, there are helmets that can be used with any type of bicycle or scooter, but there are also helmets designed especially for scooters.

Consider a high visibility shirt or jacket. You have a much smaller profile on a scooter, and a piece of clothing with high visibility will increase your chances of being seen by other vehicles.

PRACTICE: Once you get a vehicle that is new to you, practice on it. Just like with a car, a scooter will have its own quirks. Find out what they are before you take it on its maiden voyage.

You don’t want to wait until you are among pedestrians or in traffic to develop an instinctual understanding of how your scooter functions. Become thoroughly familiar with the brakes, lights, dashboard, and speed beforehand. 

NO HITCHHIKERS:  An electric scooter is designed for one person. So even if your kid sister needs a lift, don’t be tempted to take a passenger on your scooter. 

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Riding tandem could turn out to be dangerous, and it is not worth the risk to life and limb.

KNOW THE RULES: Be familiar with the traffic laws in the area that you will be riding in. If you are not sure, check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles.  

Laws will vary from state to state concerning where you can ride your scooter. As we said before, practice before you head out into heavy traffic.

KNOW HOW YOUR SCOOTER FUNCTIONS:  If you become familiar with the systems on your scooter, you will (hopefully) be able to fix minor issues while riding.  

Take some close up pictures of battery connectors, wiring connections, and other parts of your scooter while it is still new.  You will be able to use them for comparisons if something acts up.

IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING:  No stunts, no tailgating, and no attaching to other vehicles. 

A Folding E-Bike:

ALL OF THE ABOVE:  The tips listed above for scooter safety also apply to foldable electric bikes. There are a few extra tips for bikes below. 

USE EXTRA LIGHTS:  Protect yourself when the sun goes down by turning on your lights.  Have at least one blinking on the front (white) and one on the rear (red).  

Attach more if possible.  A light on your helmet will not go amiss.  Spoke lights will also help with visibility.  

AN EARLY WARNING SYSTEM: A folding electric bike is entirely silent.  Just a whoosh as you glide by.

Install a bell and an air horn on your bike.  The bell can be used to alert pedestrians that you are behind them.  The air horn will be for warning cars when you are close to them.

TAKE THE LANE:  On an e-bike, ride in the lane if you can travel the posted speed limit of the road. It is safer to ride in the lane with the cars so that they can see you. It is dangerous to hug the curb and get passed by cars. 

KEEP YOUR TIRES INFLATED: Proper inflation will give you a better range on your bike.  More importantly, the correct inflation in your tires will provide you with better control should you need to react quickly. 

Periodically check the tread and look for any nails that you might have picked up in your journeys. 

DEFENSIVE DRIVING:  Be a defensive driver.  Most drivers think that bikes are slow and that they have plenty of time to turn in front of you, not realizing you are on an e-bike and moving far faster than they thought. 

Be ever on the watch and assume that others will be on bad behavior. Don’t give drivers the benefit of the doubt, but be prepared for incorrect assumptions on their part. It will allow you to break or get out of the way.

USE A MIRROR: Bike mirrors are inexpensive and easy to install. It helps to know what is behind you, and if you have to swerve for an object in the road, a mirror will give you the ability to check the lane before you move further out into it.

MAKE EYE CONTACT:  Intersections can be tricky if you assume that the other drivers see you. If you make eye contact or even sound your horn, the other drivers will know that you are there.

In Conclusion:

Do your homework before you purchase it. Consider how and where you would be using the electric vehicle for most of your trips.

Go for a test drive more than once. Get advice from owners of the vehicle you are interested in.  

Don’t go cheap.  If you are going to invest, get the vehicle that will do the job. 

Don’t skimp on the safety items: helmet, pads, a visibility shirt and bells, and whistles.

If a mobility vehicle could ease your commuter hassle, it is worth looking into. I was going to say that it is the wave of the future, but the truth is that the future is already here!

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