This might be the top gift in anyone's list this year - even if it is a gift to yourself. Back in the early 2000, inventor Dean Kamen touted his upcoming invention, codenamed "Ginger", as a fundamental revolution in urban transport. I think he had the right idea (change urban transport) but the wrong decade and wrong format. The Segway did not change how we move around town. But after trying Lime (the electric scooter rental service) and using the Mi Electric scooter for a few weeks I think the Segway was probably over-engineered and more expensive than it really needed to be to change urban transport.
An electric scooter is a great device for the daily commute or last mile commute (providing you don't have to take it on a bus, where it will be a hindrance due to its size. It is great for people on a campervan that need to move around town quickly - for grocery shopping, an afternoon tea or something like an escape to the village.
The Xiaomi Mi electric scooter fits the bill. It is not too heavy (12.5 kg), has good motor that can take an average person around the streets up to 25 km/h and a range of up to 30 km when fully charged.
The build is of great quality - built with aluminium and corrosion resistant materials. It actually uses tyres (and you get two spares with the scooter) for a smooth ride, and an ABS-type brake system, including disc brakes.
It is very easy to use. There's a power button in the middle of the handle bar, a throttle button on the right side of the handlebar, and a bell on the left side. The bell button also doubles as a latch for when you fold the scooter, but locking into a buckle on top of the rear mudguard/tyre cover. Folding the scooter is an operation that will take you less than five seconds after a couple of tests.
The scooter comes with a hexagon screw driver which you use to fix the handlebar in place with four supplied screws. This is the only required assembly needed.
To turn the scooter on you push the power button once and four LEDs will indicate remaining battery power, as well if the scooter is running in standard or power-saving mode. A single button push will turn the lights (a front white LED and a back red LED) on. Another single button push will turn the lights off. A double-push switches between full and power-saving modes.
To start you push as normally for a manual scooter and then push the throttle button down. As mentioned it is a smooth ride and you might need only a few minutes to get used to the acceleration, how the brakes work and to make sure you don't put your foot on the ground too early when stopping.
In terms of speed, the manual says it can reach up to 25 km/h but again this is for a person weighing 75 kgs. Your weight will affect both range and speed. You feel the acceleration and it is actually a great sensation. Remember to slow down over speed bumps, when going over kerbs or uneven surface and you will be fine.
As soon as you take your thumb off the throttle an energy recovery systems kicks in, transferring part of the kinetic energy back to the battery. You can actually feel the scooter slowing down as if the brakes were applied. If by any chance you apply the brakes, the backlight will blink (even if the light is off).
Going uphill is another story. The manual says it can go up a 14% angle. The thing is... From the bottom of my street to my house there is a 800 m road, and elevation goes about 200m - this is a 25% climbing, so there's no way to go uphill with this scooter in my case. But other more gentle slopes were no problem for the scooter. You will notice though your battery won't last as long if your ride include those slopes - consider this when using the scooter.
There are some settings you can control using a mobile app over Bluetooth. You can for example set the backlight to be always on, change the energy recovery system settings (high, medium, low) and enable cruise control - once this is enabled you can then turn it on and off by pushing the throttle button to set the speed and then release it to keep going until brakes are applied or the button used again.
The app also allows you to set a "lock" that will turn the motor off and make it beep if you move the scooter. You probably still need a good lock for it though because anyone could just carry it away if left unattended.
The first time I started the app I saw there was a firmware update available for the scooter, so remember to check this as well. You also find information such as battery charge/range, average speed, total mileage and trip mileage - good idea to perhaps get a phone holder for the handle bar so you can keep an eye on these if interested at all.
While the documentation says the Xiaomi Mi scooter is IP54 rated (protect from limited dust and water spray) you shouldn't really ride it under rain or wash it down.
Regarding the legality of using electric scooters on the road, a recent search resulted in a NZTA page stating that electric scooters are declared to not be a motor vehicle and you can use them without registration or a drivers licence. You can read this on the Gazette. Electric scooters can be used on the footpath or the road – except in designated cycle lanes that are part of the road (which were designed for the sole use of cyclists). A helmet is not legally required to be worn when using an electric scooter, but is recommended - which is also the position Xiaomi is taking.