As with any debate on modern technology, the electric bike vs electric scooter one is a heated one, but in the end, it will come down to context, personal needs, and preferences
Electric scooter vs electric bike
Choose an electric scooter if you want a more portable vehicle, if you want to save some money, and if you want a more modern and cooler-looking transport solution. Choose an electric bike if you want practically unlimited range, better ride comfort, and if you want to get more exercise.
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.
With the bike, an empty battery means nothing for its functionality – you just have a regular bike then. That’s the main reason why electric bikes will also be a very solid option in certain use cases, like for people working in delivery, for example.
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 typical 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 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
Electric bikes are kind of 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 $700. 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.
This is why electric scooters are great for students and other people on a very limited budget, as well.
On average, the electric scooter will be cheaper than the electric bike, at least by $500-$700. 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.
Electric scooters are more portable and easier to store 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, popular commuter 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 bit heavier. Also, only the true off-road bikes will weigh more than 66 lbs / 30 kg.
While scooters are only slightly lighter than bikes in terms of mass, scooters win the day when it comes to volume and portability.
Many electric bikes are not foldable at all. That gives them the same portability as a regular bike, which, as you might know, is not the easiest thing to carry around. Not because of its weight necessarily, but because of its shape and all of the parts that are sticking out.
The bikes that are foldable, even when you fold them, look like strange, alien contraptions, with many parts still sticking out of them.
Storing an electric scooter will also be easier than storing an electric bike because of the smaller volume.
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 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.
Since most electric scooters today have hub motors and 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
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. You will get more eyeballs with it for sure.
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 capable of those speeds.
However, in everyday situations, this does not matter that much.
The typical speeds of both the scooter and the bike will be enough for the casual rider and commuter. Very few people need speeds above 60 mph / 100 kmh.
I’m not exactly sure why there are not that many electric bikes with crazy top speeds as we see in the scooter world. The battery technology is similar, and the motor tech is comparable.
Top speeds 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, and rarely will you be allowed to go faster than 25 mph / 40 kmh.
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, and both will be practically free to ride.
Both electric bikes and electric scooters are good for the environment (and their analog counterparts are even better, 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.
When it comes to commuting, both electric scooters and electric bikes are great tools that are excellent for avoiding traffic jams and solving the last-mile transport problem really well.
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.
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 scooters will be at least somewhat water-resistant, and will handle some riding in the rain.
The same applies to electric bikes as well. In fact, at first, it may seem that electric bikes would have a tiny advantage here, as their battery is usually placed higher on the frame, while 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 which throw water close to the battery, so that kinda evens this one out.
Safety and brakes
For starters, both types of vehicles operate at similar speeds, are used in the same contexts, and often require the same safety equipment. Electric scooter advocates always promote wearing a safe helmet and following scooter safety guidelines, and brands are making great progress in designing and producing electric scooters that are very safe.
Brakes in electric scooters and in electric bikes are also pretty similar, and usually employ the same mechanisms. They both rely on mechanical, hydraulic, or drum brakes. Some electric scooters also have a rear fender foot brake.
So, even though it might have seemed like electric scooters were more dangerous than electric bikes in the past, today, the data shows that the gap has either been closed or has never existed in the first place, and both types of rideables are considered relatively safe.
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. Electric scooter rides are a form of light exercise, but they are not very practical for engaging in more intense exercise.
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.
While electric scooters will typically provide enough range for most commuters, you will still want to go with an electric bike if you believe that your battery running out might be a problem.
Also, if you live in a city where the streets are not well maintained, you may want to go with an electric bike, or a regular bike, as the larger tires will handle potholes and cracks in the road better than the smaller tires of electric scooters.
People who love bikes will also not have a tough time deciding, but this also extends 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 you 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, as most scooters are foldable, and most bikes aren’t.
Also, if you simply want to look cooler, then the scooter should definitely be your pick.