As with any debate on modern pieces of technology, the electric bike vs electric scooter one is a heated one. Context and personal needs always come first, but the electric scooter is better than the electric bike for many scenarios.
Electric scooter vs electric bike
The electric scooter is more versatile and more efficient than the electric bike for urban use. It is designed to better handle many common scenarios and use cases, especially for commuters. Electric scooters are cheaper, faster, more portable, and easier to maintain than their electric bike counterparts.
Of course, for a number of use cases, the electric bike is better. But usually, the electric scooter is a better choice overall for most people.
Let’s see the advantages of each, and when is each of them a better solution than the other.
Electric bike advantages
There are a few points that make the electric bike a better piece of transportation device than the electric scooter.
You can ride an electric bike with an empty battery
Perhaps the biggest advantage of electric bikes (and the biggest disadvantage of electric scooters) is that you don’t need a full battery. You don’t have to depend on an external power source, unless you want to.
While you can ride the scooter that way too, it’s not nearly as effective.
And not worrying about the battery can be very liberating.
If the battery of your scooter dies, you will likely have to resort to pushing it or riding it manually.
With the bike, an empty battery means almost nothing, you just have a regular bike then.
Electric bikes have larger wheels and the rides are more comfortable
Another big advantage of electric bikes is their wheel size. As they will typically have 22 to 26 inch wheels, they will provide much more comfortable rides.
The 8 to 11 inch wheels on the scooter will be inherently less stable (although there is a huge difference between 8 inches and 11 inches).
Additionally, bikes can take advantage of the existing bicycle wheel and tire technology, which has been around and developing literally for decades. Electric scooters are a relatively new phenomenon, and their wheel and tire technology, while far from bad, still has a long way to go.
Electric bikes have longer range
When it comes to range on a single charge, no extra batteries, and no manual riding, electric bikes and scooters have similar ranges. The average for an electric scooter is a bit over 23 mi / 38 km, while the average range for electric bikes is between 20 and 35 mi / 32 and 56 km, or around 27 mi / 44 km on average.
In most scenarios, this is not that important since we’re only talking about a handful of kilometers. But it is certainly a point for the electric bikes.
Of course, there are many long range electric scooters with ranges over 60 mi / 100 km. There are electric bikes like that as well. But the price of a device like that will be outside the price range for most people.
Another possible way of looking at things is that electric bikes have an infinite range. They are designed to be ridden as regular bikes too. So they will keep going as long as you, the rider, provide the energy.
Even though it’s not exactly practical, you can still ride your electric scooter manually as well. However, they are not built for that, and you can’t really do that effectively for a long time.
Anyway, that’s not the point of an electric rideable.
Don’t get me wrong – it is truly amazing you can ride electric bikes with an empty battery. A battery-independent transport method is clearly superior to a battery-dependent one.
But when we’re talking about range, we are talking about what the vehicle can do for you. If you are the real hero behind the curtain, the vehicle is not doing its job.
Electric scooter advantages
The electric scooter has some definite advantages over the electric bike. They are very important advantages, that will make the decision easier for a lot of people.
Electric scooters are cheaper than electric bikes
For me, this would be a deciding factor.
Electric bikes are very expensive. Electric scooters, while not trivially cheap, are way cheaper in comparison.
The average price for a budget electric scooter is around $500. A very popular, battle-tested scooter of solid quality like the Xiaomi M365 Pro will cost you less than $600. For a higher-end model, it’s around $1200-$1500. In the electric bike world, the models that cost around $1200 are called “budget”.
That makes it undeniably clear – electric bikes are a lot more expensive than electric scooters.
On average, the electric scooter will be cheaper than the electric bike, at least by $500-$700, likely much more. In fact, I’ve seen several people in the electric bike world recommend that if your budget is not at least $3000, you should not even consider an electric bike. Yikes.
If I’m about to get similar performances in terms of battery life and motor power, why pay more?
Electric scooters are more portable than electric bikes
There are some truly lightweight scooters, hardly weighing more than 22 lbs / 10 kg. There are only a handful of bulldozers, that weigh 66 lbs / 30 kg or more.
Almost all of the modern scooters are very portable. After folding, they become a nice little rectangle that is not so hard to carry around.
Some of the same things can be said about electric bikes. They usually weigh about the same, although on average they will be a few lbs/kg heavier. Also, only the true off-road beasts will weigh more than 66 lbs / 30 kg.
While their weight is pretty similar, where I see scooters win is the volume and overall portability.
Many bikes are not foldable at all. That gives them the same portability as a regular bike. As you probably know, not the easiest thing to carry around. Not because of its weight necessarily, but because of its shape.
The bikes that are foldable, even when you fold them, look like strange, alien contraptions, with many parts sticking out of them.
Electric scooters are more maneuverable than electric bikes
Scooters occupy less volume than bikes, and turning is easier with them as well. This is especially important in urban settings.
I’ve never met a single person that hasn’t learned how to ride an electric scooter in less than a few minutes. On the other hand, I know people that even to this day don’t know how to ride a bike (they are even weirdly afraid of learning for some reason).
I clearly remember needing to learn how to ride a bike for some time. With the scooter, it took almost no time.
It may be that scooters are easier to maneuver because they are easier to ride. For an average ride through the park, their control and difficulty riding is mostly the same.
But when you’re avoiding pedestrians on a crowded city sidewalk, the scooter is a much better option.
It is also a lot easier to push if you have to.
Electric scooters are faster than electric bikes
While the average top speeds for the average models are similar, the fast electric scooters can be way faster than the fast electric bikes. There are many more scooters that can go as fast as 60 mph / 100 kmh than there are bikes.
However, this does not matter that much.
The speeds of both the scooter and the bike will be enough for the casual rider and commuter. Very few people need dangerous speeds close to 60 mph / 100 kmh.
I’m not exactly sure why I couldn’t find electric bikes with crazy top speeds as we see in the scooter world. The battery technology is similar, and the motor tech should be comparable. I can only guess it is entirely possible to make an electric bike go 60 mph / 100 kmh as well, but for some reason, there are not that many electric bikes like that.
There’s one more speed-related difference. With electric bikes, you will often need to pedal in addition to hitting the acceleration to hit the maximum available speed. With a scooter, you keep both feet firmly planted on the deck. The scooter goes fast without your help.
So speed is an advantage for the scooters.
Electric scooters are more theft-proof
It comes down to portability. You can easily fold the scooter and take it with you inside your home or office. It will not take up too much space. With the electric bike, not only will you not be able to fold most models, but they will still occupy more space, and the temptation to leave it locked somewhere out of sight will be greater.
Electric scooters are easier to maintain than electric bikes
The parts that can truly go wrong, meaning the electrical parts, are almost the same in both scooters and bikes. If either the battery or the motor goes wrong, you either need to be an expert or get your vehicle to one to get it fixed.
Electric bikes and scooters also have a lot of other commonalities when it comes to maintenance. Both are simple to clean. They are made out of the same materials so the same procedures will likely apply.
And in general, both will last about the same, meaning:
- the chassis, the motor, and the other components will last as long as something doesn’t happen to them
- the electric battery will last anywhere between 2 and 3 years, and will likely have to be replaced afterward
Where scooters are better is their lack of chains and gears.
If you’ve ever had a bicycle for more than a few months, you will know that the chain is the one thing that gets broken down the most.
And it can be bad when it happens. The bike basically becomes useless.
True, many electric bikes have hub motors, and this is not an issue for those models. But for the older models with geared motors, this is still an issue. Plus, pedals always require chains anyway.
Since electric scooters have fewer moving parts, there are fewer opportunities for something to go wrong, and they will be simpler to maintain.
Electric scooters are kinda cooler
I was considering whether to include this part for a long time. But I figure it’s true, at least in my opinion, so I guess we should mention it.
Electric bikes, while great, still look like bikes.
No matter how useful and amazing they are, bikes have been around for centuries now. People are used to seeing them.
When you ride an electric scooter, however, it doesn’t matter that people have already seen them a few times. It is still a cool new device that mostly young people ride.
So while this doesn’t deserve more than a short paragraph, it is true. Electric scooters are kinda cooler.
Electric scooter and electric bike similarities
With both vehicles belonging to the electric rideable family, they do share a few traits.
At the core of these two transport technologies is the electric motor.
Both electric scooters and electric bikes typically have brushless DC motors (BLDC), especially in newer models. Older electric scooters and electric bikes can have the older, brushed DC motors.
Also, both can have either geared or hub motors. This is where this similarity ends though.
Hub motors are motors that are integrated with the wheel itself and directly spin it.
Geared motors cause movement outside of the wheel. They use chains and gears to translate the movement onto the wheels.
Geared motors in electric scooters are pretty rare nowadays. They are more common in electric bikes.
Hub motors are typically better, since they are more efficient. Also, they have one less very complex mechanism, which makes them less error-prone. Geared motors have the advantage of flexibility in the torque they can provide, simply changing the chains and the sprockets can get you more power.
The battery is the beating heart of all electric rideables.
Naturally, both of these vehicles have it.
It is difficult to compare the batteries on both. For a large part, they are similar in terms of capacity, voltage, and charge. That results in comparable ranges they provide for the vehicles.
Since very few companies produce both electric scooters and electric bikes, the design and specs of the batteries will be different.
Still, looking at the specs, we can notice a lot of similar numbers.
And since there aren’t thousands of electric battery manufacturers, we can safely assume they both use either the same or similar batteries.
The top speeds available seem to differ. The average speed, for the average models of both vehicles, however, is very similar.
Both of them can, and frequently will go with speeds between 12 – 18 mph / 20 – 30 kmh. Going faster than 25 mph / 40 kmh is possible with most models. But those are speeds already bordering on unsafe.
This will also be subject to local laws. Often, traffic laws for electric scooters will be similar to the ones for electric bikes. Most of the time, they will both be ridden in the same dedicated lanes for standard rideables too.
Well, almost free.
Compared to every other means of transport outside of rideables, they sure look like they are free.
The electricity cost of a single charge for an electric scooter, while varying depending on the location and the model, will never surpass a few cents.
Scooters and bikes usually have very similar batteries and motors, in terms of power and capacity as scooters.
Therefore, the cost of charging an electric bike will be similar to the cost of charging a scooter.
Both of these vehicles don’t require you to do anything other than hit the throttle in order to move.
The electric bike can easily be ridden like a regular bike. While that requires your energy to propel you forward, it is still a plus in general. You simply won’t have to rely on the battery to be full in order to move.
But a true transportation device should not require you to do anything to move, and that’s provided by both.
Both electric bikes and electric scooters are good for the environment (and their analog counterparts, for that matter). Both are at the spearhead of the battle for saving the planet.
Cities that adopt policies that are friendly towards electric rideables often see a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
True, they both have electric batteries, which can be difficult to dispose of properly. The right education and recycling practices need to be applied to tackle this problem.
However, the cost of the problem is almost negligent.
Consider how much greenhouse gas emission is prevented because of electric rideables.
As they get more universal, the population will get familiar with how to dispose of electric batteries. Manufacturers will get even more efficient at both prolonging their lifespans and recycling them.
Great for commute and avoiding traffic jams
The biggest general use cases for all rideables are pretty similar. They include:
- navigating busy urban traffic with ease
- avoiding traffic jams
- solving the last-mile transport problem
Both the electric scooter and the electric bike occupy a bit more space than a pedestrian would, and they can often use even the smallest pathways to avoid crowded streets.
Of course, it is much, much better if a city has dedicated bike or rideable lanes. That way, scooters don’t need to avoid pedestrians on sidewalks.
Riding on sidewalks is not recommended. It should only be done as a small and infrequent shortcut. However, in cities without lanes for rideables, it may often be the only option.
Electric scooters would probably be better here. They are both smaller and more maneuverable.
Still, we’ll count this one as a similarity, since they both behave very similarly in dense traffic. Both vehicles successfully solve the problem of traffic jams.
Both electric bikes and electric scooters are made out of industrial-grade aluminum alloy. That makes both of them tough, durable, and still easy to carry.
But also, there is a growing trend to produce carbon fiber electric scooters. That is true for bikes as well, although probably to a lesser degree.
In both vehicles, the most vulnerable part is the battery. It is especially vulnerable to water damage.
How water-resistant the entire device is, and specifically the battery and its casing, will depend on the make.
In general, most models will be at least somewhat water-resistant, and will handle some riding in the rain.
At first, it may seem that electric bikes would have a tiny advantage here. Their battery is usually placed higher on the frame. Most scooters have it below in the deck, which makes it closer to the puddles and water on the road.
However, when riding a bike, the spinning of the wheels will often produce splashes too. That kinda evens this one out.
In short, brakes come in several types for both vehicles:
- mechanical disk brakes
- hydraulic brakes
- regenerative brakes
Some scooter models can have the one extra failsafe brake on the rear fender that you need to push with your foot.
Bikes lack that type of brake (unless you are old-school and use your foot to create friction with the tire).
The fun never stops
Last but certainly not least, both of these devices are a blast to ride.
I’ve rarely met people who have never ridden a bike. As I remember, all of them have this sort of regret, almost as if they’ve missed out on an important part of growing up.
I certainly wouldn’t be able to picture my childhood without one.
As people get older, the bicycle often gets out of their lives. But for many it never does.
Usually, adult bike riders are very passionate, bordering on obsessed at times.
Since the electric bike is still a bike with a few bonuses, it is still a lot of fun to ride. It’s probably even more fun than a regular bike – if you don’t feel like pedaling anymore, you just hit the throttle.
Electric scooters have only become popular recently. Their regular ancestors, the kick scooter, or trottinette as it’s known in some parts of the world, was nowhere near as popular.
But you will be hard-pressed to find an annoyed scooter rider.
Electric scooters are a true hoot to ride. That’s exactly the reason why younger generations have flocked to them.
When to get an electric bike
There are a few types of people for which the electric bike is a better choice than the scooter.
Those that wish to be able to throw in some extra exercise in their day are one clear example of this.
The electric bike is made to be ridden in dual mode, both by using the battery and by riding yourself.
When doing the latter, it will give you a bit more of that cardio if you need it.
In a way, the scooter can give you cardio too… but you will need to fold it, pick it up and carry it to do so :).
People who love bikes will also not have a tough time deciding. But this extends also to people that simply don’t like scooters. Electric scooters are still somewhat novel, and many people still haven’t gotten used to them. Even though they are easier to ride than bikes, some people may be afraid of falling down and will avoid them.
When to get an electric scooter
If you’re not in some of the categories described above, and you need a true, reliable transportation device, you can safely go with the scooter.
The average commuter that looks to go through traffic will have an easier time with a scooter.
If you’re on a tighter budget, or need a last-mile transport vehicle, or both, you will definitely want to go with the scooter.
If portability is an issue for you, consider your options carefully and go individually by the models of both. In general, you will probably end up with a scooter.
There is a big reason why you see thousands and thousands of people getting to school and work, and back home, by riding their scooters. They are simply the optimal, modern solution to a very common problem.
The king of rideables
As we could see, this was somewhat of a photo finish.
The electric bike has a lot of good stuff going for it. Lots of pros and reasons to go with it and make it your next rideable.
Still, when it comes to personal transportation for free, the electric scooter reigns supreme. It is the best possible rideable there is. It is very affordable, efficient, fun, friendly to beginners, and it’s really hard to make a mistake with it.