Can Electric Scooters Be Used Manually?

Electric kick scooters have been developed with one thing in mind: to significantly improve the ride over that of a conventional kick scooter.   People who use electric scooters do so because they want to get to their destination quickly and with limited tiredness.  For these reasons, e-scooters are not optimal at being manually kicked on longer distances.

All electric kick scooters can be used manually, but the ride is slow, uncomfortable and you will get tired quickly.  In other words, e-scooters are not the best choice for manual operation for an extended period of time.

For those of you who have never ridden an electric scooter and are considering buying one, thinking that it can be used both manually and with the assistance of electric power, I just want to say that electric scooters are far from being fun, or practical while being used manually.  I’ve ridden a conventional kick scooter many times, and must admit that they’re lots of fun.  They’re light and roll freely.  This is not the case with electric scooters, which are heavy and cumbersome to operate manually. They have been designed with a different purpose in mind, and it is perfectly fine.

Situations in which an electric scooter might need to be used manually?

Whether you are a regular commuter, or use your e-scooter for an occasional quick and fun trip to a local grocery store, there may come a time when you will need to kick it manually or, more likely, just walk it home.

  • Dead battery.  This is probably the most common reason why e-scooters stop working.  Lithium-ion batteries used in today’s electric scooters are high-quality and high-capacity, but they will eventually run out of juice to power your two-wheeler.
  • Electronics malfunction.  In an e-scooter, the electronics configuration is not exceedingly complicated.  However, it may occasionally break down and stop the scooter from working properly.  Water damage, worn electric wires, all can lead to a short-circuit in the system, rendering the scooter inoperable.
  • Brake problems.  I have never had any problems with the brakes, but I’ve heard of situations where the brake became loose and the user had to push the scooter for his own safety’s sake.  Nobody should be riding any type of vehicle that has no or bad brakes.  Fortunately, adjusting the brakes that have become loose is quite simple.  You just need to have the right tools for the job on hand.
  • Loose handlebar. Some e-scooter models have minor design flaws that may lead to safety issues. Such is the case of my Xiaomi M365. It runs out that the handlebar folding mechanism tends to become loose with time. I have never experienced it, but personally know people who had this happen to them. One guy fell flat on the pavement while riding his electric scooter, after his handlebar came loose. This issue is easily fixed with proper tools, but if it happens while you’re riding, then you will have to stop your ride immediately.

Can all e-scooters be used manually?

In theory, all electric kick scooters can be used manually.  This is true by the way that they have been designed.  

You see, in order to increase the safety of the rider, the gas throttle along with the electric motor will only work when the scooter is in motion. Most models have to be moving at least 1.8 mph (3 km/h) for the electric motor to engage.  So, in order for the e-scooter to start moving, the rider must first kick or push it, while applying pressure on the gas throttle.  Within a second or two the electric motor starts working and the scooter begins to accelerate.

This safety mechanism has been deployed in e-scooters as a way of preventing injury to those standing near the scooter.  Imagine someone accidentally pressing the gas throttle while trying to move the scooter.  Had it not been for this mechanism, the e-scooter would immediately start accelerating, potentially hitting anyone standing in its way.

Since this safety feature is present in nearly all electric scooters available on the market today, it can be safely assumed that, yes, all electric kick scooters can be used manually… in theory at least.  As I explain below, they are not comfortable, nor easy to use manually for longer distances of travel.

What makes e-scooters unsuited for prolonged manual use?

While e-scooters can be kicked or pushed manually to move them forward, the process of doing it so is not easy, nor fun, as it is the case with conventional kick scooters.

Weight.  Electric scooters weight considerably more than standard kick scooters.  In fact, the average e-scooter has a mass of 12-15 kg, which is far from being considered “light”.  It is considerably more difficult to push an e-scooter, in part due to its increased weight. 

A couple of key components contribute to the overall weight of the e-scooter.  The alloy frame, electric motor (or motors) and the high-power lithium-ion battery.  Unfortunately, the features that users want make the scooter heavier.  A durable heavy-duty frame will weight considerably more than a standard one.  A powerful electric motor (some e-scooters have two motors) for more power and higher speed will have a higher mass than a low-power one.  Higher-capacity battery that will allow for a longer range of travel will also weigh considerably more, than a low-quality, low-power battery.

Large wheels.  The wheels on most electric scooters are relatively large.  They range in size from 8 to 10 inches, for most models.  Consider this, if you are standing on the base plate of an e-scooter with 10 inch wheels, then your feet will be at least 5 inches above the ground.  Lets assume than an average base plate is about 1 inch thick, then it means that you are standing 6 inches above the ground.  If you try to manually kick the e-scooter, then your feet will be 6 inches apart.  Such positioning can be disregarded for one or two kicks needed to start the scooter, but it will make you tired (especially your knees) quite fast.  

Electric motor.  The tires are directly connected to the electric motor.  There is no clutch or “Neutral”.  As a result, the scooter will not roll freely.  There is resistance provided by the electric motor that is not operating at the moment.  The amount of resistance is not much if you try pushing the e-scooter a few times, but it does get cumbersome with relatively longer “trips”.

Having spoken with countless number of e-scooter users, I must say that most admit that it is easier to walk an electric scooter rather than manually kicking it.  I completely agree with this statement.  There were literally only a few times when I had to resort to manually pushing my M365.  The battery died on me twice and I got a flat rear tire once.  You don’t have much choice when you get a flat tire.  You can’t ride the scooter by any means.  All you can do is walk it back home and get it fixed there.  However, if the battery loses its power, you have the option of manually pushing the scooter to your destination.  As I quickly found out, this alternative only works for very short distances.  In my case, I managed to manually push the e-scooter for about 300 feet (90 meters), or so.  I realized that it’s simply too tiring and cumbersome to do.  So, I walked the scooter home.  Not a big deal.

How to extend the range of an electric scooter?

Battery maintenance.  A healthy battery will provide more power, giving you longer range.  First of all, do not overheat it. In general lithium-ion batteries are best used at temperatures of around 77°F (25°C).  Higher temperatures tend to cut the life of the battery and will result in the need of a replacement sooner than expected.  Lower temperatures will cause the battery to provide less power to the electric motor.  In other words, avoid temperature extremes.

Extra battery.  If a given e-scooter has a factory-installed battery that gives it a range of, for example, 12 miles (20 km).  Will adding a second, similar battery double the range?  The answer is: not quite, but close to double.  In an ideal world, the answer would be “Yes, the range will double”, but you have to consider the additional weight of the extra battery (and batteries are not light).  

I have seen people attach a second battery to their e-scooters.  Others choose to take out the one that the e-scooter came with originally, and replace it with a single extra-capacity battery.  Both options do work, just not as great as one could imagine.  One important factor to consider is that any modifications made to the e-scooter’s electrical system (including battery), may and will result in voided warranty.  So, please keep this in mind, before attempting to make any modifications.

Tire pressure.  Just like in cars, tire pressure in an electric scooter does have an impact on the range of travel.  Each e-scooter model will have different specifications, so be sure to check the owner’s manual for proper values specific to your device.  Please note, these values will be given in “pounds per square inch” (PSI), will be different for the front and rear tires, and will vary based on the rider’s weight.

For my Xiaomi M365, the recommended optimal pressure values are as follows:

  • Rider’s weight: 50-70 kg | Front tire: 35-40 psi | Rear tire: 40-50 psi
  • Rider’s weight: 70-90 kg | Front tire: 40-45 psi | Rear tire: 45-55 psi
  • Rider’s weight: 90-100 kg | Front tire: 45-50 psi | Rear tire: 50-60 psi

In general, a lower psi will give you a smoother ride.  Higher psi will be needed for heavier users, but is associated with increased risk of tire puncture.

It is recommended to check the tire pressure on a weekly basis.  In practice, I usually do it once every three or four weeks.

Interestingly, I found that the longest range of travel was with tire pressure of around 45-50 psi.

Acceleration.  The way you are driving your e-scooter has a considerable impact on the range of distance.  In order to extend the range, you should ride at a steady pace, at an average speed (avoid going too fast), and keep away from accelerating/decelerating too much.  

I would like to add that some e-scooter models are equipped with regenerative brakes.  This technology is supposed to charge the battery while the brakes are being applied.  In all honesty, I have not found this to be of any real benefit.  Maybe I’m wrong and am missing something, but based on my experience, I have yet to find it to provide any real advantage.

Read more: practical tips on increasing the range of an electric scooter.

Final thoughts

Electric scooters are a great and fun way of traveling short distances.  I literally can’t say enough good things about them, that’s how much I enjoy riding them.  In the past, I never thought that I would ever ditch the car for anything.  This has changed since I bought my M365.  

However, having said that, I have to admit that e-scooters were not made for manual use.  As much as one could think that it shouldn’t be too difficult to “manually” kick an e-scooter, I must say: just forget it, it’s not practical! 

Recent Content