Getting to and from work in the city can be a painful experience. Using a car in heavy gridlock and parking it is costly, time-consuming, and stressful. Riding a regular bicycle can mean arriving to work covered in sweat. Public transport can be slow, unreliable, risky during the pandemic, and isn’t available everywhere. Fortunately, nowadays more options are available than ever, as personal electric vehicles are getting cheaper, better, and more widely available than ever.
I am the fortunate owner of both e-bikes and an e-scooter. I’ve tested both extensively for commuting purposes, so I will offer the pros and cons of both options.
E-bikes and scooters both have advantages and disadvantages for commuting. E-bikes are better for longer distances, for when it’s colder and to travel faster. Electric scooters are better in warm weather, and on flat, smoother ground.
Over the course of several years that I’ve been riding an electric bicycle to work, there are many factors to consider. Read on for a more detailed comparison between these two commuting options.
Which is Better for Commuting- an E-bike or Electric Scooter?
E-bikes and e-scooters have their pros and cons. Let’s compare them in the table below and examine each aspect in turn.
|Electric Bicycle||Electric Scooter|
|Cost||Good quality e-bikes are not cheap to buy – but they often will save money in the long run. They normally start at $1500-2000 in price||E-Scooters are cheaper than e-bikes, they start around $400-500 or so.|
|Range||E-bikes have more range, especially since the rider does some of the work on pedal-assist bikes||E-scooters have less range than e-bikes, as there is less room for batteries and the motor must do all the work|
|Speed||E-bikes will assist the rider up to 28mph in the US, 15.5mph in Europe. You get to your destination quicker||Most affordable E-scooters travel up to 20mph in the US (some expensive models go up to 40-55mph), and up to 12.5mph (20km/h) in the EU.|
|Comfort||E-bikes are more comfortable on uneven ground. The larger wheels dampen out bumps more, while sitting means you don’t get leg or feet cramps||E-scooters are quite uncomfortable on uneven ground, but great on smooth ground. The steering column transfers bumps to your hands and wrists|
|Exercise||Pedal-assisted e-bikes are a great way to get exercise||You don’t get any exercise on an electric scooter.|
|Sweat||You will sweat somewhat on a pedal-assisted e-bike, especially in warmer weather, if you ride quickly, and where there are lots of hills||Sweating isn’t a concern on an e-scooter|
|Portability||An e-bike can be tricky to maneuver in tight spaces, such as a small apartment or up a flight of stairs||Most e-scooters are highly portable, with folding handles. Therefore they can be stashed in a free corner or in your office- great for charging at work!|
|Cargo||E-bikes have a huge range of possibilities to carry cargo and luggage, from baskets, trailers, to dedicated cargo electric bikes||E-scooters have limited cargo capacity compared to e-bikes, however additional storage bags can be added|
There’s no getting away from the fact that quality e-bikes are not cheap to buy. Quality e-bikes start around $1500 or so, but fancy, high-end models can be far more expensive than that. However, if you’re using an e-bike as a car replacement, or even a partial replacement, the cost savings quickly become apparent. The fuel- charging the battery– costs very little, there is no registration or tax and insurance is optional. You can even go riding with your children or dogs and haul groceries with a trailer. For shorter distances, I find that I really don’t need a car in most cases.
E-scooters are quite affordable for almost anyone. This is one of their most attractive selling points. Some of the best all-round scooters are sold by Chinese brand Xiaomi, such as the M365 or the Pro 2. E-scooters get better and cheaper all the time, as they benefit from improving batteries and intense scale due to the sheer amount of ride-sharing scooters on the streets all over the world.
E-bikes are the clear winner if range anxiety is a factor for you. Pedal-assist e-bikes mean that you do half the work, so you get exercise but also sparing the battery from discharging as much as on a scooter. The amount of range you get from your e-bike battery is determined by several factors- the amount of capacity the battery has (measured in kilowatt-hours or kWh), how much pedal assistance you use, how fast you travel, and how many uphill sections you traverse.
E-scooters on the other hand must do all the work, all the time, to move forward. This means that the battery is constantly being discharged. This limits the range compared to an e-bike. The smaller size of scooters also means that the battery capacity is often less than an e-bike battery. However, a good tip to reduce range anxiety is to simply charge up the battery at work! That’s what I do, and range anxiety is never a concern. The amount of range you squeeze from the battery is similar to an e-bike- the speed you require, and the number of hills you drive over.
For speed, e-bikes are once again the clear winner. In the US e-bikes commonly go up to 28mph (45 km/h) and in the EU up to 15.5mph (25km/h). You can travel even faster than these speeds under manual pedal power, especially at the lower EU speed limits. If you wish to travel faster, you can get an S-Pedelec bike but keep in mind you’ll need a moped license, and registration, and insurance in many European countries, and you usually cannot travel on cycle paths.
Riding a pedal-assist e-bike is surprisingly comfortable in mild or colder weather – provided you wrap up warmly! (Check out our warm biking gear recommendations). My tip is to wear enough layers so that you’re a little bit chilly starting off, as five minutes later you’ll be nice and warm.
I find that in very warm weather, you’ll be sweating slightly- especially if your route has lots of hills, so wear a light-colored T-shirt ideally. You’ll sweat a bit less if you don’t have a backpack, which I normally stash in a rear basket for convenience and comfort (check out our basket and storage recommendations).
I loop one of the backpack straps around the seat pillar to give peace of mind against theft while on I’m the go.
On uneven ground, an e-bike is more comfortable as the larger wheels don’t sink into even bump and hollow. On flat ground, there is no difference in comfort.
On an e-scooter, I find that driving on cobblestones or other bumpy surfaces almost impossible for more than a few paces. It feels like your brain is being rattled around in your skull! This is important to bear in mind if your route has lots of bumpy, uneven ground. There are upgrades you can install- rubber vibration dampeners in the steering column, larger diameter tires, and even front and rear suspension. You can also wear heavy-duty motorcycle or motocross gloves that take some of the impacts. Sealskinz gloves are a great option.
Riding an e-scooter doesn’t get the blood flowing, as you’re just standing on the footboard. Staying warm is a much bigger challenge, particularly in windy weather or in winter. Therefore it’s important to wrap up well- with a windproof coat, scarf, and gloves (check out our warm clothing recommendations). I particularly like Buff merino wool tube scarves, which cover your neck and mouth and double as a face mask in a pinch.
A pedal-assist e-bike will give you plenty of exercise. Studies show that e-bike riders get more exercise than normal bike riders as they go further in general. Additionally, you achieve a significant percentage of the same heart rate on an electric bike as on a normal bike – great for burning fat and losing weight, effectively combing exercise and commuting into one activity.
An e-scooter on the other hand provides little to no exercise. However, in my experience, it’s still much more calming to ride in the fresh air and not worry about parking than to make the same trip in a car in traffic.
For bike commuters, sweat is a concern. E-bikes provide all the convenience of a regular bike, with less sweat when you get to the office. If you pedal hard in warm weather you’ll still sweat somewhat, but this is at least controllable by you – simply ease off the speed and let the motor work more by increasing the boost assist, and you’ll sweat much less. By having a small USB fan on my desk, I can cool off quickly avoid having to change my shirt.
The only sweating you’ll do on an e-scooter is stressing about work! With the motor doing all the work, you’ll never sweat, which is a massive advantage that e-scooters have over e-bikes, particularly for those commuting to work in hot or humid climates.
An e-bike can be tricky to maneuver in tight hallways, cramped corners, or even carrying it upstairs if you’re unfortunate enough to have to do that. This can be a headache when looking for a place to store the e-bike or charge the battery. Therefore, you should always double-check that your e-bike has a removable battery before you buy it. If you wish to store your e-bike inside, and you don’t live on the ground floor, then it can be painful to navigate stairs without a lift.
An e-scooter on the other hand is much more portable. The steering column on most models folds flat, taking up much less space and it doubles as a convenient carrying handle. To avoid the risk of theft, I store my e-scooter inside my home and when commuting, I wheel it all the way into my office. This also allows me to charge it up at my desk. I fold down the steering column and it fits nicely underneath the desk until I need it again. E-scooters are also ideal when you wish to use multiple other forms of transport on your commute, especially public transport. It’s very easy to fold down the steering column and quickly take your e-scooter on a bus or train. You may wish to purchase an e-scooter carrying bag to avoid having a mud-covered scooter trailing dirt everywhere.
Maintenance and Upkeep
An e-bike is similar to a regular bicycle when it comes to common maintenance issues, like replacing brake pads, tubes and tires. Inserting parts like nicer pedals or a more comfortable saddle is identical to a normal bike. If you don’t fancy doing this work yourself, there are bike repair shops everywhere that can do this work for you. When it comes to fixing electric components, there are increasingly more repair shops popping up in cities, however, if you live in a sparsely populated area you may find it easier to attempt repairs yourself with the aid of YouTube.
Since e-scooters are a newer technology, you may find it tricky to find someone who can repair them for you. Luckily, scooters are relatively simple devices there are many helpful tutorials on YouTube. For issues like replacing a battery (batteries will eventually wear out offer a certain number of charging and discharging cycles), it may be as simple as opening the floor deck and plugging in the replacement. If there is an issue with the speed display – especially if you own a popular model- the same applies, you may simply be able to unplug the broken part and plug in the newer replacement part. Since the parts are fairly simple and made by Chinese manufacturers, they’re normally quite affordable, albeit you’ll have to wait a few weeks if ordering from China.
E-bikes have a wide range of options for carrying cargo and luggage, from baskets, trailers, to dedicated cargo electric bikes. If you only have the need to carry cargo infrequently, but still wish to use your electric bike as a car replacement, a trailer, such as a Thule trailer, is a fantastic option. With a trailer, you can carry 1-2 children, depending on the model, enough groceries for a small family or a small dog. Some electric cargo bicycles, like the Riese and Muller Load 75 can carry 440 pounds (200 kg) of cargo without issues. These are especially useful for frequent trips where storage or extra seats are needed, such as school runs with children, deliveries and more.
E-scooters have limited cargo capacity compared to e-bikes, however additional storage bags can be added. Normally, I keep my work items, like a laptop or notepad in a backpack while riding a scooter to work for simplicity. If you wish to carry small items, like a smaller grocery shopping trip, a hanging hook for a bag is a great option.
Related E-bike vs E-scooter Questions that you may have
Can an Electric Scooter go Uphill?
Yes, an e-scooter can travel uphill. It will travel much slower since the motor is pushing both you and the scooter uphill, and it will discharge the battery more quickly due to the extra effort needed. If you are trying to squeeze every last drop of energy out of your battery or are worried about not making it home, you can always walk up extra steep slopes in a pinch. In general, I’ve noticed no problems riding my e-scooter uphill in several months of testing. One thing to watch out for is if the slope is bumpy- in which case I recommend getting off and walking until you hit smooth ground again.
Can an Electric scooter keep up with a bike?
No, it’s not even close. For most popular e-scooters models, the top speed is between 12-15mph, while many bikes (especially e-bikes) can travel at double that speed on flat ground. There are rare, expensive scooters, that cost upwards of $3000-5000, which travel between 40-55mph, but a scooter at those speeds is, in my opinion, dangerous since hitting a bump at that speed with smaller wheels will almost certainly throw off the rider. E-bikes are much more balanced at higher speeds than scooters, so if speed is a priority – get an e-bike instead of an e-scooter.
E-bikes and e-scooters have their pros and cons. I personally own and use both regularly. If getting to work more quickly, on hilly ground, over longer distances, and carry occasional loads is more of a priority for you – an e-bike is the better, more flexible option.
For those who commute shorter distances, who don’t care about getting exercise, travel on flat ground, or who live in hot or humid climates – an e-scooter is the ideal option to choose.
If I could only choose one option- I would get an e-bike, but living in the city with a mixture of journey types I find that I get plenty of usage from both vehicles.