With the rise of personal electric vehicles, the debate between electric scooters and electric bikes is more relevant than ever. Which is right for you? Let's help you make an informed decision.
Urban areas are getting more crowded, and as people look for better transportation options, e-bikes and e-scooters are becoming incredibly popular, and it's easy to see why.
Since 2019, I've used dozens of electric scooters and several electric bikes for my daily commute. This has given me a good understanding of what's good and not so good about each.
In this guide, I'll compare both based on the following criteria:
Electric scooters are typically more cost-effective compared to electric bikes. You can find reliable commuter electric scooters from reputable brands in the price range of $500 to $1,000. The priciest high-end scooters top out at around $4,000.
Electric bikes from reputable brands are rarely seen under $1,000. Most entry-level models start around $1,500, while specialty and cargo electric bikes quickly cost $2,000 - $3,000. High-end carbon fiber or e-MTB models can cost anywhere between $5,000 - $10,000.
Electric scooters usually have lower maintenance costs compared to electric bikes because they're simpler and have fewer parts to take care of. But remember, the total maintenance cost depends on how often you use it and if you need repairs or battery replacements.
Winner: Electric scooter
There's no denying that e-bikes and e-scooters are highly convenient—they let you breeze through traffic and skip public transportation schedules. However, there are significant differences between the two.
Convenience can be divided into three categories:
Electric scooters shine brighter than electric bikes in terms of portability. They are typically much lighter, easier to fold, and take up less space.
This makes them ideal for commuters who often need to switch between modes of transport or store their vehicle in cramped spaces.
It should be said that there are folding electric bike options, but they typically fall within the gimmicky, low-built-quality category.
In terms of accessibility, both categories have their advantages.
According to a 2022 Ipsos survey spanning 28 countries, almost two-thirds (63%) of adults say they know how to ride a conventional bike. Since the pedaling mechanism and bike frame are already familiar, riding an e-bike would likely come naturally to most adults who haven't tried either before.
On the other hand, electric scooters offer the advantage of being quicker and more convenient to hop on and off, making them a better option for short trips and navigating busy urban areas.
Parking is also less of a hassle with e-scooters, as they can be securely locked in smaller spaces or even brought indoors when needed.
In terms of suitability for various terrains and environments, electric bikes have the upper hand. Their larger wheels make them well-suited for riding on uneven roads, trails, or even off-road. It's important to choose the right e-bike for the specific terrain, but they tend to be more versatile in this regard.
The only thing that speaks in favor of e-scooters as far as versatility goes is their compact size. This allows them to sweep through tight urban settings where maneuverability is advantageous.
Winner: Electric scooter
Top speed and range are two of the most crucial factors to consider when choosing a personal electric vehicle. Your ride begins and ends with its electric motor and battery performance.
Whereas price increases on electric scooters are typically warranted in higher performance numbers, electric bikes focus more on features and construction components.
This difference makes logical sense as most US states have adopted a tiered classification system that limits top speed.
The tiered e-bike class system is as follows:
Almost any major electric scooter retailer worldwide (e.g., Amazon and Best Buy) lets you buy unregulated electric scooters with much higher top speeds.
If you're selecting a personal electric vehicle for your daily commute in urban areas, you probably won't need to go faster than 28 MPH. However, if you're seeking something for exciting recreational rides, electric scooters might be the better choice.
E-bikes generally have a better range relative to battery capacity. They're more energy-efficient as they integrate propulsion with the rider's pedaling.
It's worth noting that this efficiency might not apply to Class 2 e-bikes if you exclusively use the throttle without pedaling.
Keep in mind that range is greatly influenced by factors such as rider weight, terrain, battery efficiency, and tire pressure.
Winner: Electric bikes
The public perception associates electric rides with poor safety and a higher risk of injury. However, several studies challenge that view.
A 2020 study in the Journal of Transport & Health, analyzing over 4,000 riders, found that e-bike and conventional bike crashes are equally likely and severe, indicating no extra risk for e-bike riders.
A 2014 survey of 553 North American e-bikers shows riders feel safer on e-bikes than on traditional bikes. It also found e-bikes encourage more frequent biking, longer trips, and more cargo carrying. Additionally, e-bikes enable those with physical limitations or distant destinations to bike using pedal assist.
The benefits seem to go beyond safety and convenience. A pilot study from 2018 suggests that e-bikes are capable of providing much of the same cardiovascular health benefits as conventional cycling. Another positive found in the study is decreased transportation time, more convenience, and less physical fatigue.
The statistics point in favor of electric bikes being a safe and beneficial commuting option. From a technical standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. E-bikes aren't that different from traditional ones. They're built on the same versatile foundation that has made bicycles the 3rd most popular commuting vehicle in the US. Everything from frame geometry and wheel design to aerodynamics and adjustability ensures a reliable ride - the only addition is the electric drivetrain that helps riders get from A to B.
From my personal experience commuting on an e-bike daily for several months, e-bikes are as safe to ride as conventional bikes once you get the hang of it.
Although scientific studies are scarce, an experimental comparison between e-kick scooters and e-bikes sheds some insight on the topic.
The article found that vibration magnitudes measured on e-scooters were higher than those measured on e-bikes. The difference was more pronounced as the electric scooter was subjected to rougher road conditions.
This hints that electric scooters are generally less comfortable and safe to ride than e-bikes. The reason behind this is that e-scooters have smaller, less forgiving wheels.
However, it isn't all bad. Another study analyzed vibrations on e-scooters with different wheel sizes.
"The comparative results suggest that e-scooters with larger wheels can efficiently alleviate vibrations during a ride compared with those with smaller wheels. To improve riding experience and safety, it is beneficial to use larger-wheel e-scooters, given other similar riding conditions."Source: Transportation Research Record
These findings align with my personal experience testing dozens of electric scooter models. Small, solid tires and narrow handlebars feel unsafe, but scooters with large air tires and additional suspension instantly feel a lot more comfortable and safe to ride.
Winner: Electric bike
The laws governing electric scooters and e-bikes vary from location to location. It is tough to make a direct comparison, but you must familiarize yourself with regulations in your area before making a buying decision.
There isn't a single comprehensive source for electric scooter laws, so it's best to search "electric scooter laws [your area]" on Google for the latest updates.
Based on a general overview of current laws, electric scooters appear to face more stringent laws compared to electric bikes in the US. This includes licensing, age restrictions, maximum speed limits, weight limits, and street usage.
Winner: Electric bike
Electric bicycles typically require more maintenance than electric scooters as they have more moving parts.
Most intermediate electric bikes use mid-drive motors, which means they have gears and a chain like regular bikes. This electric motor setup requires more maintenance than a hub motor setup, which is most common on electric scooters.
Getting a professional repair is different. The e-bike market is larger and has more retailers and service centers. Regular bicycle shops often also do repairs on e-bikes.
This also goes for getting spare parts. With a broader industry, replacement parts are more widely accessible. This can mean cheaper and quicker repairs overall, although it depends on the scope of the issue at hand.
Winner: Electric scooter
Most electric scooters are smaller and more portable. With fewer moving parts, they also require less maintenance. Electric bicycles are typically heavier but are safer, more intuitive, and excel on longer trips.
Both electric scooters and electric bikes are eco-friendly compared to gas-powered vehicles.
However, electric bicycles may have an edge as they incorporate pedaling, which promotes physical activity and decreases battery consumption.
Most electric bikes are better for longer commutes as they're more comfortable over longer distances and use less battery when you use pedal assist.
The average electric scooter is superior for shorter commutes due to its portability and ease of use in crowded urban areas.
Both electric scooters and electric bikes can use bike lanes in many areas, but local laws vary. Check the specific regulations in your area to know where you can ride safely and legally.
An e-scooter is generally easier to store and transport due to its compactness and lighter weight. E-bikes are larger and require more space for storage.
Electric bikes provide a better workout, given you use the pedal assist. When using pedal assist, you engage the same muscle groups as on a traditional bicycle. This gives a light workout for your lower body. As electric scooters are purely throttle-controlled, there is minimal exercise involved.