The Las Vegas CES (Consumer Electronic Show) is one of the biggest events in the tech industry. Sadly, it’s only open to people in the tech and the press, but we’ve seen some amazing new tech. Most of the new technology is related to big 4K and 8K TVs, top-performance routers and gaming PCs and laptops, but there were a few cheeky scooters and PEVs that scooted their way to the show floor. Even a Hyundai electric air taxi.
We’re really impressed with the tech and the ideas they have, and hopefully they won’t end up flopping and ending up as one more failed project that’ll be shelved indefinitely, with only a handful of prototypes made. We’ve been in tech and engineering, we’ve sadly seen more projects fail to live up to their expectations (more often than not, financial ones). After the botched launch, the teams disbanded and projects were canceled.
Hopefully, the shining new tech we’ll cover today will continue on and maybe we’ll see the new electric kick-scooters that have cruise control and the remote-less e-skateboards. The prototypes of today are the consumer models of tomorrow!
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New Scooters Unveiled at CES 2020
Self-driving Segway-Ninebot T60
Segway-Ninebot has already announced the T60 in 2019; and they’ve said that the fleets of T60 should start deploying to shared scooter fleets in 2020. While it is a bit early in the year, we haven’t heard any news from them, but we’re hopeful that the new “autopilot” tech will let these scooters return to their charging stations on their own, or even allow you to “summon” one to your location. The three-wheel design is a bit uncommon for regular adult scooters, but we’re hoping it’s as fun and easy to ride as our favorite 2-wheelers.
Making a self-driving vehicle is an extremely hard thing to do; humans are wired to drive alongside other humans, and bots and AI are almost always behind, as they can’t “feel the flow” of traffic. These self-driving scooters act more like “pedestrians” and are much easier to accept compared to self-driving cars that weigh a ton, or self-driving trucks. In short, the worst thing that this scooter might do to you is make you trip, unlike a self-driving car that might seriously injure someone due to a software error.
It’s no secret that scooter-sharing business operates on a razor-thin profit margin, and they’re more often than not accruing loss while staying afloat due to capital investments. These self-driving scooters, while more than 4 times the cost of a regular fleet scooter (about $1300 compared to the $300), might cut down the cost of operating the business by a sizable percent. And this just might keep the companies afloat after the angel investments run out.
And it might help legalize scooter-sharing in states and countries that banned them; most of the time, the ban is due to the used scooters littering the sidewalks and a lack of precise legal rulings on what electric scooters are (some states consider them mopeds and ban them from sidewalks and bike lanes, some other states consider them electric bicycles or bicycles and ban them from being on public roads).
Segway-Ninebot’s The Air T15
Segway-Ninebot continue to impress with their new takes on current technology; a foldable, lightweight, Air T15 cruise-control kick-scooter. What’s so impressive about this one? There are scootes with cruise control, it’s nothing new. The M365 Pro and the Gotrax GXL already have decent cruise control.
The catch is that this is the first electric kick-scooter; the cruise control is activated by kicking along, not by a throttle or thumb lever. This e-scooter calculates how fast you want to go by adjusting itself to the conditions on the road, friction and gradient, and it maintains a constant speed. A pretty cool concept that we’re keen on trying out when it comes out with a MSRP of $699.
The Air T-15 is powered by a single 300 W hub motor; this is a bit on the weaker side but its specs are probably be in the Xiaomi M365 range. It has a reported top speed of ”only” 12.4 mph, which is a decent speed for a scooter that has an unconventional control scheme; to brake, press your foot on the rear fender, just like how you’d brake with a Razor kick-scooter. This will engage the regenerative electronic brake; personally, an old fashioned lever-operated mechanical brake is safer, but electronic brakes are easier to maintain and cut the costs of operation and maintenance down.
It’s portable and foldable, with a weight of 22 lbs, meaning it’s very commuter friendly unlike some high-performance scooters like the Dualtron Spider or the Zero 10X that are too heavy to carry up flights of stairs. All in all, we’re excited to see this scooter in action, and we’re really curious to how good the cruise control feels.
Segway S-Pod Motorized Chair
While it’s not an actual scooter, this PEV is like a Hoverboard with a chair attached to it. It doesn’t actually control like a hoverboard, but it feel rather similar.
It’s quite unique, and at first glance looks like a motorized wheelchair; but Segway says that it’s a new form of urban transportation. While we’re not exactly sold on that notion, we’re curious as to what they’re trying to achieve with this interesting prototype.
The Segway S-Pod can reach speeds of up to 24 mph; but thankfully it’s limited to about 8 mph for now. That might’ve just been the showroom floor speed limit, and we might see them hitting 24 mph out in the wild eventually.
To control the S-Pod, you use a hand-knob, akin to how you’d control a motorized wheelchair; the S-Pod is self-balancing, and feels like a hoverboard that you control with your hand. If you’re going forward, the entire pod leans forward a bit, and if you’re braking, the entire pod leans back. You can stay completely motionless in the chair, unlike most other PEVs.
All in all, we’re not sold on the idea. It’s big, clunky, and takes up a lot of space. A smaller, portable and foldable e-scooter or e-bike is a far better commuting option unless. Even in traffic or on the bike lane, you’ll take up more space than a scooter, skateboard or bike.
What we really like about this prototype is that it looks very comfortable; hopefully it can be used as an actual wheelchair. Electric medical-grade wheelchairs are very serious and expensive vehicles, and if Segway-Ninebot enters the market with a quality, affordable chair, it would benefit a lot of people and their families.
Unagi New Model 2020
Unagi, a new player in the field of small, portable scooters, came out with the new E500 Dual Motor Scooter. With two 250 W motors, this little zippy scooter will now reach 19 mph, which is a sizable upgrade when compared to the previous scooters that had a top speed of 15.5 mph. We’re not really expecting it to be the fastest scooter in the world, but the small increase in Wattage gives it a better hill-climbing ability and makes the ride more enjoyable, especially for heavier riders (above 200 lbs).
The Unagi E500 has a range of about 15.5 miles, which is quite decent for a city-scooter. It weighs 26 lbs, which is about the industry standard for most small city scooters.
And now, the news; Unagi offers the ”industry’s first personalized paint job”; customers can now choose their own colors, patterns and two-tone paint jobs.
We’re not sure how they do it, but they state that they ”impregnate the dye into the carbon fiber frame”, which is more resistant to scratches or the dye fading out in the sun. That’s interesting, but this still leaves the question: what about the aluminum parts of the scooter?
Anodized aluminum uses a special dye that very closely binds to the aluminum via electrolysis; while this is a very strong bond that is resistant to scratches, it will eventually fade out if left in direct sunlight. We hope they paid attention to making the aluminum dye more UV resistant too.
All in all, we’re happy that they offer the custom paint job; most scooters come out of the box in gray or black, and it’s up to us, the end-users, to customize them to our liking with stickers or a fresh coat of paint. It’s nice to have some variety coming pre-assembled to your front door.
Segway-Ninebot’s New E-Scooters and Mopeds
Segway-Ninebot really upped their game on the showroom floor with the new Ninebot eScooter Moped; we didn’t expect that they’d get in on the electric moped/scooter trend this soon. Their three models, the E80C, the E90, the E100, the E125 and the E200P, are all beautiful and feature a sleek new-age design that has a small touch of the classic Vespa.
These scooters equipped with ”light-sensing intelligent matrix LED headlights”; we’re not sure what they do but we’re assuming that they control the light output automatically. The other cool features these scooters come with are a digital display, being able to connect to your smartphone and a sizeable trunk. Segway-Ninebot also boasts that these scooters are highly customizable; there are 100,000 variations on the body panel colors, patterns, seat cushions and other parts. A bold move that we hope pays out for them.
And now, the most important information about these new scooters: the specs.
The specs of the lower-end Scooters
The E80C is the budget-friendly option that uses SLA batteries; the same batteries most cars use. These batteries are very cheap and reliable, but in general perform worse than LiPo batteries. The E80C has a top speed of 31 mph, and a max range of 56 miles; these are average numbers for a basic moped e-scooter. The SLA batteries have one more advantage over the LiPo; in the case of battery failure, they’re much cheaper to replace, and by an extent, it’s much cheaper to have a spare SLA battery tucked away in the garage than buying a spare LiPo one that can cost hundreds of dollars.
The E90 and the E100 use LiPo batteries, and can reach higher top speeds (34 mph and 37 mph respectivelly), and they have a max range of about 62 miles. LiPo batteries last longer, and depending on your luck and how seriously you maintain your battery’s health, might be cheaper in the long run.
The specs of the higher-end Scooters
The E125 is a tad more serious compared to the rest of the scooters they offer; it has a top speed of 46 mph and a range of 74 miles, which are serious numbers. And their flagship scooter option, the E200P is a powerhouse that uses a dual-battery system; it can reach 62 mph and has an astounding range of 124 miles. Amazing (and some might say dubious) stats that we’re hoping they’ll reach out in the open.
All in all, we’re impressed. Seriously impressed with Segway-Ninebot’s newest incursion into the electric scooter market that’s already very competitive. While they’re not that popular in the USA, electric scooters are very popular in Taiwan, Indonesia, China and recently, India. Even Europe is warming up to the small, quiet e-scooter. Hopefully the e-scooter craze will catch up and we’ll see more of these cute Vespa-like scooters on our streets.
The Segway-Ninebot Mopeds
The Ninebot eMoped is pretty similar to the eScooters, but it has functional pedals that legally make it a e-bike. They come in three versions, and they all have the same top speed of 15 mph (they’re rather slow, but this keeps them street legal in pretty much any part of the world). All eMopeds are powered by LiPo batteries (there’s sadly no cheaper SLA option here), and they have a maximum range of 24/37/46 miles depending on the version and the size of their battery.
The Moped seems to be more targeted towads bike-sharing/moped-sharing services than to consumers; it’s still a good option for anyone living in PEV restrictive areas where e-bikes and ICE (internal combustion engine) mopeds are actually legal, but e-skateboards and e-scooters aren’t allowed.
Skateboards at CES 2020 – MIA
Sadly, there were no e-skateboards at this CES 2020; so let’s remind ourselves of the old trailblazers that tried, but were ultimately semi-forgotten after a while. It might be the political climate (the trade war with China isn’t doing us any favors in the PEV world), or it might be that the skateboard tech has settled into an optimal niche.
Old News, Great Tech, The Zboard 2.0
The Zboard electric skateboard is a unique entry, just like all the other high-tech we’ve seen in CES. A remote-less electric-skateboard making it’s debut in 2013, and a perfected version that came out in 2015. It has a maximum speed of 20 mph, and is a pleasure to ride. Press the pressure-sensitive pad to go forward, and press the other one to brake. Not really intuitive, but you can get used to it.
This feature is a lot of fun, and it lets you carve and turn like no other board in the world. Sadly, Zboard went out of business.
In retrospect, a non-intuitive board with only one motor didn’t make the cut, and it was quickly overshadowed by remote-control e-boards like the Boosted boards or the Ride1Up boards.
The Uber’s Electric VTOL Air-Taxi
Uber and Hyundai are developing air taxis. The “car” of the future, in the near future. While it sounds too good to be true, or the ramblings of someone who watched too many The Jetsons cartoons when they were a kid, the Electric Air Vehicles are real. In fact, they’re about a hundred years old; though technically they were airships (zeppelins). Now, a quick history lesson.
The History of Electric-Powered Flight
In 1973, a motor glider was converted into an electric vehicle and it flew for about 14 minutes; this was the first manned electric aircraft in history. It was successful due to the NiCad batteries that were used before LiPo became a widespread technology.
The next breakthroughs happened in 2013 and 2017, where electric airplanes outperformed certain ICE planes of a similar class. These were repurposed gliders or small planes, and the 2017 plane is actually the first ever electric glider-towing aircraft. There have been talks of an electric Cessna since mid-2019, and we’re eagerly waiting for more news.
Why did we give you a small history lesson of manned electric-powered flight? To prove the point that this is a very hard thing to make; even with conventional airplanes that have an easier time flying. As it stands, electric power is finally at a stage where it can be used for light aircraft.
The Problems of Electric Helicopters
Electric helicopters are a different beast all-together, and a formidable challenge we still do not have a solid handle on. The farthest distance an electric helicopter traveled is 35 miles; there are electric scooters with 4 times the range this helicopter did; and the record was set in 2018.
It is very difficult to get a rotary-wing vehicle to take off and stay in the air. And VTOL is a whole other problem that we can’t quite solve even with ICE engines. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is the most famous VTOL in the world, and there are only 200 of them in the world with a shoddy service record. It is incredibly hard to make a plane-copter, or a VTOL of any kind.
Our Take on the Uber Air Taxi
Sadly, the VTOL Air-Taxi has all the cards in the deck stacked against it, and we can only hope that it will make the cut and become a tangible reality. It will be a hard journey that is most likely unprofitable by the end of it all, but they might be the first pioneers into a new, wonderful world of small civilian aerial electric VTOLs.