Traffic in Seattle is terrible and the city is not car-friendly so public transportation is the preferred means to get into the city for work. Common forms of commuting include biking, busses, ferries, and trains. However, one still has to get to and from the bus station, train platform, or ferry terminal and taking a car means you are still driving as part of that commute.
For the last couple of weeks I have been riding the Mi Electric Scooter from Xiaomi. It launched last year, but is now being sold on Amazon, currently priced at $499.99, so is more accessible for commuters in the US.
My commute currently consists of a 3.2 mile car drive to the Sounder train station, a 45 mile train commute, and then a 0.8 mile walk from the train station to my office. This is repeated on the way home. Thankfully, my daughter works in Seattle as well so we can park in a carpool spot in Puyallup since there is very limited parking in that city.
I have the option to leave the car at home though and can walk, run, or bike for the eight miles on either end of the train commute. The electric scooter proved to be faster and more fun than walking, easier to transport on the train than a bike, and allowed me to wear work clothes without having to shower at the end of each four mile leg.
- Motor power and torque: 250W and 16 N-m, 500W instantaneous power
- Frame construction: Aerospace-grade aluminum
- Max load: 220 pounds
- Tire size: 8.5 inches at 50 psi
- Battery: 30 LG 19650 lithium battery cells under the standing board
- Lights: 1.1W front headlight, red LED taillight, 4 LED indicators
- Folded dimensions: 19.29 high x 42.52 inches long x 16.93 inches wide
- Extended dimensions: 44.88 high x 42.52 inches long x 16.93 inches wide
- Weight: 26.9 pounds
- Braking distance 13.1 feet on dry asphalt from 12.4 mph and 165 pound person
- Water and dust resistance: IP54
- Max speed: 15.5 mph (165 pound person)
- Range: 18.6 miles (165 pound person, flat terrain, no wind, 9.3 mph speed)
As you look at the specifications above, note that some of them are provided for a 165 pound person in ideal conditions. As you read my thoughts below, know that I am a 250 pound person who is 6 feet, 1 inches, so I exceed the max load and measured different maximum speed values.
The Mi Electric Scooter arrived in a very large box that contained the scooter in its folded position with the handlebars removed from the stand and folded over with all cables attached. The retail package from Amazon includes two spare tires, an air hose extension to help you pump up the tires, and a T-bar wrench so you can tighten up screws after you connect the handlebars to the front stand pole.
The alumimum material appears to be of high quality with very good welds connecting the stand pole to the standing platform and other parts of the frame. It feels quite substantial and at 26.9 pounds it is not a lightweight scooter that everyone will be able to handle. I am not a small person so carrying the scooter around for extended periods, check out my experiences below, is not a problem.
Starting at the top, we have a front LED headlight that has worked very well for my early morning rides in the dark. The LED lit up enough of the sidewalk to make riding comfortable and keep me aware of objects on the sidewalk. It is toggled on and off by a tap of the power button when the scooter is powered on.
The handlebars extend straight out from the center and have comfortable grips with nubs on them to make them easy to grasp. On the front of the left handlebar is the hand brake for the rear tire. The braking system is a regenerative ABS system so that braking works to charge up the battery and slow you down gradually. Pulling the brake handle won't cause instantaneous stops so plan for this as you ride. I think instant stopping on a scooter may be more dangerous than the rated 13 foot stop, but I did find it stops fast enough for all of my riding conditions.
There is also a manual bell on the left side that you activate with your thumb. Simply flick down on the button to ring the bell. This is great for making sure people are aware of you coming down the street or sidewalk.
Just to the inside of the right hand grip you will find the accelerator. This is activated by pressing your thumb down on the rotating piece and the further you press it the faster you will go. Once you connect your smartphone, you can enable cruise control in the app so that pressing and holding maximum acceleration for more than five seconds turns on cruise control. When cruise control initiates a beep sounds. To turn off cruise control, you either pull the brake or tap the accelerator button.
In the center of the handlebars, you will find the power button and four LED indicators for power level. Press and hold the button to turn the scooter on and off. Press the button once when on to toggle the headlight and taillight on and off.
Moving down the stand, we have the release mechansim to fold the handlebar pole down and onto the rear wheel. The flip switch for the bell secures into the plastic tab on the top of the rear wheel fender so that you can easily pick up and walk around with the scooter.
The release mechanism is a simple long lever that you raise and lower. There is a sliding ring that locks the pole up as well so it doesn't accidentally move down on you. I noticed a bit of movement in the stand when in upright position, particularly when braking hard. I wasn't concerned about safety or anything, but do wonder about this movement over an extended period of time.
The front wheel houses the electric motor that propels you forward and is a solid wheel. Behind this is the stand that has a textured mat to make it safe for standing. I wear size 12 shoes and was able to easily stand comfortably with both feet on the scooter and still have room to shift my feet around.
The charging port is underneath the stand on the front left side. Further back, about 3/4 of the distance of the stand, you will find a kickstand that holds the scooter securely in an upright position. The batteries are located under the stand with screws present to access this compartment, if needed.
The rear wheel fender contains the tab to secure the handlebar to for carrying the scooter. On the back side of the fender is a red LED. This light turns on when you turn on the headlight. When you brake the scooter, this light flashes slowly too so that people behind you know you are stopping.
The disc braking system is found on the rear wheel. This wheel has a more open design than the front wheel too.
A very basic smartphone app is available for iOS and Android. Download and install the Mi Home app and then you can connect the scooter when the scooter is on and Bluetooth is enabled on your phone.
The home page of the app shows the scooter and the current speed in the upper right. Current battery level, average speed, and mileage from the current trip is also shown on this screen.
Tap the upper left menu button to access more settings for the scooter, including a cruise control toggle, history of total mileage ridden, and an option to update the scooter firmware.
The software is very basic and really only useful for historical information. To see the top speed, I held my phone in one hand and measured it several times. This is not the safest way to handle things so if you are really interested in your speed, then you should consider mounting your phone on the handlebar.
You can also lock the scooter by swiping across the display. Check out my experiences below for more on this functionality.
Daily usage and experiences
It has been many years since I jumped on my daughters' kick scooters and messed around in the driveway so I was a bit apprehensive about using this electric scooter for my commute. After fully charging it up and installing the smartphone app, I tested it out around the neighborhood before deciding to try it on my commute.
As I wrote above, I am well behind the tested specification weight and even above the maximum rated load. Thus, the scooter doesn't really provide any uphill assistance to me. It is rated for powering people up some incline, 14 percent, but for me it is zero.
Downhill is another aspect where my weight exceeds the braking capacity of the system. I have some steep hills in my neighborhood and in downtown Seattle so if they are too steep then I walk the scooter down. I build up too much momentum for the brakes to work down steep hills.
I was also worried about the scooter being too short for me so was very pleasantly surprised to find the handle very comfortably positioned just above my waist level. It may be too tall for some people, but looks to be at a level acceptable to the masses.
The Mi Electric Scooter is a bit heavy so make sure you are comfortable carrying around 30 pounds before committing to this scooter.
Learning what does and does not work: In order to check if the Mi Electric Scooter could be used for the eight total miles a day that I would normally drive or walk to and from the Sounder station, I committed to using it for these eight miles a few times during my testing. On this first day I learned a tough lesson.
I live on a hill that has an elevation of about 400+ feet above the main road that leads to the train station. I started out from my house and the scooter quickly picked up speed. The brake did nothing to slow me down so I used my foot to slow down (thankfully I had my running shoes on at the time) and made sure to never let the scooter gain enough speed again going down to overcome the brake. I walked the scooter down the last VERY steep hill that enters my neighborhood.
I then cruised for about two miles on flat sidewalks and all was going well. I measured my personal top speed as 12.2 mph, which is slower than the rated 15.5 mph, but still much faster than walking, by holding my smartphone in my hand as I rode. My phone was then placed back in my pocket. I stopped at a crosswalk for the red light and then after it turned green the scooter just kept beeping at me and would not go forward. I tried holding down the power button to reset it and nothing worked. I lifted it up and the front wheel would barely turn. I figured it was just defective and had crazy thoughts of leaving it by the side of the road.
I folded the scooter up and walked the remaining 3/4 of a mile or so to the train station (also watching the train I wanted to catch go by) and then had about 20 minutes to kill before the next train. Since the scooter has a smartphone app, I figured maybe the app could help me troubleshoot the scooter. I pulled my iPhone X out of my pocket and discovered that the app screen had swiped over at some point, thus locking the scooter. A simple swipe back and I was good to go. Thus, make sure that you do not lock the scooter while riding it.
Is the Mi Electric Scooter a last mile solution?
Yes, the Mi Electric Scooter is a solid solution for this last mile and in my case, the first and last four miles. It normally takes me about 10-12 minutes to drive and park in the morning since there are several lights and turns to get from my house to the train. The Mi Electric Scooter took me about 20 minutes from the door of my house to the door of the train. It then usually takes me about 15 minutes to walk from the train station to my office. One the Mi Electric Scooter, I cover that 0.8 to 1 mile distance in about eight minutes or nearly half the time.
Overall, the time for these four miles each way is within just about three minutes. However, I can make the commute without every starting up a gasoline powered vehicle and riding the scooter is a lot of fun. The rated endurance is 18.6 miles and with my commute, I was able to go two full days (16 miles) between charges so the endurance at my weight is about the same as rated. Some of that endurance may have been gained through downhill braking too.
The scooter folds down and fits underneath the Sounder train seats, but the handlebars do keep it from hiding fully underneath the seat. The scooter is too large for the overhead on the train, but you can always set it up on the kickstand down in the bike storage area too.
I enjoyed my time with the Mi Electric Scooter and I am considering it as a regular form of commuting on a daily basis.