Electric scooters are quickly gaining popularity among commuters looking for a quick and eco-friendly way to get around.
- Electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular in cities across the world
- There are concerns about whether e-scooters are safe and they’re currently illegal in the UK
- The government is considering next steps on whether the law should be changed
Despite being dubbed ‘the future of transport’, personal use e-scooters are currently illegal in the UK. Rental e-scooters are legal, and trials of rental e-scooters are in place around the country. Our guide explores exactly why that is, why they’re so popular in other countries and whether UK law will change.
What is an e-scooter?
An e-scooter or evo scooter is a motorised 2-wheel vehicle, also known as a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV).
They’re completely motorised, use no pedals and don’t require you to push along with your foot to keep going. Electric scooters have an average speed of 12mph and travel around 16 miles before needing a recharge. This has made them an attractive prospect for city dwellers. It’s no secret that densely populated cities are badly congested and polluted. Using an e-scooter could help reduce the environmental impact of their commute, as well as save them time.
Folding PLEVs are light enough to be taken on the train or bus, reassembled for that final mile or so to the office.
Are electric scooters road legal?
Personal use electric scooters are not currently road legal in the UK and are subject to the same rules as other motorised vehicles, meaning they can’t be insured or used on pavements.
Rental e-scooters are legal as part of government trials. Under the new e-scooter rules, rental scooters can be used in cycle lanes and on roads, but not on pavements. You'll need to hold a full or provisional driving licence to use a trial e-scooter. Those who don't hold a driving license will be able to apply for a provisional one, but must be 16 or over.
Personal use electric scooters are not currently road legal in the UK and are subject to the same rules as other motorised vehicles, meaning they can’t be insured or used on pavements. Rental e-scooters are legal as part of government trials.
Electric scooter use in other countries
As commuters become increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, some are looking for greener forms of travel, while others just want to spend less time on the road. In both Europe and the US, it seems electric scooters have become the answer.
Global e-scooter usage has grown in recent years, with the number of users in Europe estimated to hit 55.5 million by 2026. Many cities offer pick-up-and-ride day rentals, similar to London’s “Boris Bike” scheme.
In well-loved European destinations like Paris and Rome, the e-scooters are commonplace and available to hire via an app.
According to reports, in 2021 there were an estimated 19,000 e-scooters in Oslo, one of the top cities for e-scooter sharing in Europe. Their numbers are also high in traditionally bike-friendly nirvanas like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Though an increase in scooter numbers alongside bicycles has led to congested cycle lanes and roads.
Benefits of an e-scooter
Here are just a few of the potential reasons e-scooters have seen an increase in numbers:
- Cost-effective*: there’s no need for petrol with an e-scooter, and most can be charged on the mains at home or at the office.
- Eco-friendly: by running on batteries, there are no harmful emissions, helping to improve inner-city air quality. However, their production does have an impact on the environment.
- Time-saving: by avoiding traffic or speeding up long walks, electric scooters can save time on a morning commute or when passing through busy city centres.
Remember, you can only use private e-scooters on private land and not on public roads, cycle lanes or pavements.
* With bills set to rise, electric vehicle drivers may be wondering if now’s the time to change tariffs, switch to smart chargers or change where they charge. But before you make any decisions, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons, and to make sure any changes suit your lifestyle and EV usage.
Will there be a change in the law?
The UK government had been considering whether to repeal the ban on evo scooters for some time, as part of their efforts to make travel greener. However, the coronavirus crisis has meant looking at ways to reduce the numbers of people on public transport, making e-scooters a more viable option. As the government works towards net zero emissions by 2050, e-scooters could help to reduce road use.
Critics have called for tighter regulations due to an increase in e-scooter-related accidents in the UK. Figures show the number of injuries saw a threefold increase in 2021 compared to 2020.
Though e-scooters are banned from UK roads, there are still those that ride them. In July 2019, the UK saw its first electric scooter-related death when a 35-year old rider was struck by a lorry.