When you think of electric vehicles, your mind likely goes to passengers cars, but the reality is the electric vehicles category includes a growing number of vehicle types. One of those vehicle types is electric scooters and to date, they’ve had a pretty rough introduction into Australia, with concerns around their legality and where they’re allowed to be used. Internationally, electric scooters are forming a key part of their transportation network and Australia should open their minds to how these could work for us on a wider scale.
At a time where we’re looking at reducing traffic congestion, there’s an opportunity to enable more modes of transportation to flourish and when those new options are zero emissions, we should think long and hard about how we support their use.
Scooters land in an awkward position, often being too fast for the footpath, but too slow for the road and even the bike lanes. In the right conditions, and used appropriately, it is possible to get from A-to-B in a really fun way, so we have to work through that challenge to our traditional segmentations.
JB-Hifi, who sell this product, offer this disclaimer to potential buyers:
‘Each state and territory in Australia has a different set of rules and regulations pertaining to the usage of e-scooters, e-boards and e-bikes (including where e-scooters, e-boards and e-bikes can legally be used and whether these products need to be registered with the relevant road traffic authority). Any user of this product must ensure that that they check and abide by their local by-laws and use responsibly. Ride with caution and always wear a helmet and protective gear when riding your e-scooter, e-board or e-bike.’
After spending a couple of weeks and a lot of kilometres on the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2: Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Edition, I have lots of thoughts and this review will lay those out and let you know if this is the future of transportation, or an expensive toy.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
So much on offer here
There’s been a lot of thought put into the design of this scooter. Built on the framework of the Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2, the design of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Edition offers a very different look, and if you’re into F1, you’ll recognise the famous grey, black and green colour scheme.
The regular version is a matte grey finish, with a red accent around the front wheel. After seeing the Mercedes version in person, I definitely prefer it, I think it looks far more premium than the base model, but that Mercedes logo does come at a pretty big premium, when functionality-wise, they offer the same experience.
Most scooters I’d come across were kids scooters, so when I unboxed this one, I was a little taken back by the scale of it. This is definitely no kids toy. The official specs list the rider age as 16 year olds and up (or 12 and older with adult supervision), this has no problem accommodating a fully grown adult. I’m 6’3′ and felt very comfortable riding this, with great proximity to the handlebars.
Unfolded the scooter is 1.13m long and 1.18m high. With that scale, it has a real weight to it, tipping the scales at 14.2kg, however it does support a max load of up to 100kg. If you’re borderline to that, it is important to remember to include the weight of a backpack (with laptop and accessories) in your weight calculations if you plan on commuting with it.
To kick things off, you’ll need to power on the scooter with the power button, located at the base of the control interface, this also plays the role of other tasks like mode selection and turning the headlight on and off.
The display also show your current state of charge and current speed. After riding in a variety of lighting conditions, I find it really easy to read, so they’ve definitely done a nice job with this display.
After an initial push to get the scooter rolling, your speed is controlled by a very simple accelerator, controlled by your thumb. This provides granular control over how fast you go, allowing you to modulate it easily to adapt to the changing circumstances around you. Imagine you’re travelling along a path and approach an oncoming family of bike riders, you can ease off the acceleration until they pass.
After holding the accelerator for a while, you’re likely to want to maintain that speed for a period of time and holding it could become annoying. Thankfully this electric scooter has cruise control. This works so well, just connect to the scooter using the Xiamoi Home mobile app via Bluetooth and enable the Cruise Control option. Then after holding the accelerator down for 5 seconds, you’ll hear a beep to let you know you can release the accelerator.
If at any time you need to slow down, you can press the accelerator or brake to disable cruise. For those travelling multiple km per day, this is an excellent inclusion.
When it comes to stopping, there’s a very familiar brake which you can apply with your left hand. This works very similar to what you’re used to on bikes, but this has some serious stopping power.
Not only does the scooter feature a generous disc brake, it also has E-ABS, meaning when you need to stop fast, applying the brakes won’t lock the rear wheel and potentially become unstable beneath you. Like in your road car, ABS monitors the traction and ensures the brake application is regulated to minimise stopping distance.
As with all good electric vehicles, this scooter also features regenerative braking. You can select from 3 levels of severity in the mobile app, but like the single-pedal driving in electric cars, this feature could mean you virtually never have to use the brake. When you get out of the accelerator, the scooter will slow using regen braking and send that kinetic energy back to the battery, enabling longer ride times.
When you step on the scooter, everyone is likely to have a slightly different stance and there’s no wrong way. Personally I arrived at a comfortable position by placing the lead foot at the front of the deck and my rear foot positioned at sideways. I feel this stance, combined with some flexibility in your knees, provides a great foundation to be stable regardless of your riding surface.
The deck is a great size, accommodating my size 13 shoes, but it’s not wide enough to have both of your facing forward, side-by-side. The deck itself is finished with a ruberrised surface, complete with subtle grip studs to ensure you won’t slip, even if you happen to have wet shoes. It’s design attributes like this that really show the designers thought through how people will use this device.
Most scootering is likely done during daylight hours, but there were definitely times I found myself riding on sunset, which turned into nightfall by the time I returned home. To service this night time riding, the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 features a reflector at on the front, and on either side of the rear wheel. This will reflect light in the event a car light is shining on it, ensuring you’re able to be seen in the dark.
To ensure you can see your way through the streets, there’s also a headlight built into the front of the frame. This can be enabled or disabled by simply pressing the power button. This creates a very generous light field in front of the scooter, ensuring you can see the upcoming terrain and at top speed this is really important, because it can come quickly at you.
There’s also a rear light that blinks when you’re on the brakes, or can be set to always be on through the mobile app.
On the handlebars you’ll find a bell to get the attention of others, but this bell is designed to do dual-duties. When you need to transport the scooter, simply unclip the 2-step clip at the bottom of the handlebars and rotate it down. You’ll find the arm of the bell used to ring it, connects to a latch on the top of the rear wheel guard.
Once folded and clipped in place you can now use the front stem as a handle to carry the scooter. At 13kg+ I don’t expect you’re going to be carrying this far, but could get you off the train and up some stairs, before unfolding and rolling away.
This folding and clip mechanism could have easily been an ugly extra hanging from the handlebars, but designing it into the bell, that needs to be there anyway, is just a really smart design attribute that’s incredibly functional.
The final design element I want to mention is the stand. This little kickstand is strong and robust, supporting the scooter to stand up while charging, or just waiting for your next ride. If you own a nicely designed product like this, you’ll want to stand it up, rather than lean it up against a wall and having the potential of it falling and getting scratched.
How does it perform ?
When it comes to measuring the performance of an electric scooter, there’s really two main attributes to pay attention to.
The first is range and the second is speed.
The amount of range you have access to on a single charge is the determining factor for when you’ll use the scooter. Fortunately Xiaomi has included a massive 12,400 mAh/446Wh battery, which drives the 600W Burshless DC motor (in the front wheel) and you get up to 45km of range. At that distance, it’s way more than I would use daily, in fact many may get away with multiple days of use before they need to charge.
If you do need to charge, you can use the included charger. It is unlikely most people will ever drain it completely, but if you did, it’d take 8-9hrs to recharge. Realistically, I think those using the scooter for a regular 5-10km daily commute, would connect it to power to top up each night. While possible, I doubt most people would attempt a 20km commute (each way) every day and more casual use may see even a full week of use before recharging is required.
When it comes to battery performance, the manufacturer says even after 500 charging cycles, you’re still likely to get 70% of the capacity. In terms of range, that’d still be over 30kms, so I think we’re really talking years before you have to seriously contemplate a battery replacement. With the battery integrated into the deck of the scooter, it’s not something that is rapidly switchable like that of an eBike, but given what we’ve just discussed, it’s unlikely you’ll need to care.
As far as speed, this scooter is no joke, offering a maximum speed of 25km/hr which is plenty fast enough to get your to your destination well ahead of walking. In fact the average walking speed is around 5km per hour, so at 5x that, you can cover some serious distance in just a few minutes.
Max speed is one thing, but it’s also important to talk about the different speed modes available:
- Pedestrian – 5km/h
- D – 20km/hr
- Sport – 25km/hr
When it comes to the ability to ride on different surfaces, the 8.5″ pneumatic tires allow you to soak up most moderate bumps, which avoids the need for suspension. This works well for most hard surfaces, however longer grass will be a challenge.
If you try to get creative and take this off-road, or are just unlucky and get a nail through one of the tyres, there is an included spare in the box which is really appreciated.
Not everything’s perfect
There’s a lot to love about this electric scooter, but the biggest sticking point for most people won’t be a question about it’s technical capabilities, rather the simple challenge of affordability.
Some people buy second hand cars for the price of this scooter and while the objective may be different (being clean and green), when it comes to functionality for price, even an old cheap car offers many positives including storage, additional passengers, higher speeds and the ability to travel in any weather condition.
It is clear you’re paying a premium for the design of this high-performance electric scooter and given design is a very personal thing, only you can decide if that’s worth it to you.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
As discussed above in the design section, the Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 is essentially the same product, minus the Mercedes F1 flair and design. That logo comes at a significant cost premium, so despite how much more I like the design, I know there’ll be plenty more budget conscious users that would choose the Pro 2.
- The Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Edition cost A$1,499.00.
- The Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 usually costs A$1,099.00, however currently is listed as A$699.00.
At more than double the price, for what amounts to some different styling, it’s a really hard recommendation to make. If you’re a Mercedes F1 fan and want to be like Lewis Hamilton, then you will have to open the wallet and pay a big premium for it.
To the question I raised in the intro – if this product is a window into the future of transportation, or just an expensive toy, I absolutely come down on the side of transportation. With the right legal framework, electric scooters could really take off here in Australia.
Usually there’s a chicken and egg battle where an early product in the market lacks the appeal to many consumers and requires many iterations to arrive at a compelling mainstream product.
With this scooter, the single biggest question of range, followed by performance is absolutely answered and already ticking the right boxes. The range is ridiculous and speed is great, while still feeling safe, when used appropriately and in the right environment.
This leaves me thinking that state-regulators in Australia need to lift the ban hammer, and be far more nuanced about setting guidelines around when and where you can use an electric vehicle with a top speed of 25km/hr.
At the end of the day, riding this electric scooter is way more fun than I ever expected. Most days I found myself setting time aside to go for a ride, not always because I had a destination, but because I enjoyed it so much. Sure, part of that use was to learn its capabilities to inform this review, but now that’s complete, I still can’t wait to ride it more, to new places and explore further and faster than I ever would on foot.
Definitely recommend this if your budget can support it, if not, consider the more affordable design of the Pro 2, without the Merc badge.
- Battery Life / Range