Tuesday 15 October 2019

Review: Seat EXS

€599 from Seat: Electric scooter cuts the commute

€599 from Seat
€599 from Seat

What is it?

It's a large electric scooter (about four feet by three and a half feet), with a rechargeable battery attached. You kick off manually, then press a blue button and the battery takes over. Press the opposite red button and it brakes.

How fast does it go?

Up to 25kmh, depending on the surface and slope. It goes a little faster if you're going down a hill at full throttle.

How long can it go on a single charge?

Twenty-five kilometres is the claim. I tended to get between 15km and 20km. It takes around three to four hours to fully recharge in a normal socket. I ran out of juice one time but it was still somewhat usable as a manual scooter.

Is it easy to use?

Yes. You need a modicum of balance but no more than is necessary for a bike. It advises a maximum passenger weight of 100kg (16 stones). You can use it in dry or wet conditions.

What kind of time saving do you get?

My commute to work is normally 35 minutes on foot, 25 minutes by bus or 20 minutes by car (including parking). On the e-scooter, it ranged from 12 to 14 minutes, something similar to a bicycle.

How does it perform?

As an electric vehicle, it's very quiet and speeds up quickly (although not instantly). There are three performance modes. The basic one tops out at 20kmh but gives you better battery life. The boost mode (which I used most of the time) brings you to 25kmh with lesser battery life. There's enough space on the eXS scooter's platform to stand fairly comfortably. It is also balanced fairly well; I was able to take corners at some speed. Going downhill, the scooter prevented me going any faster than 27kmh. Going uphill, it usually got to around 15kmh. Braking is simple although not powerful enough to ever throw you off (for braking too quickly).

Because of this, keeping extra distance from things at top speed was very important. If something unexpected happened, I knew I wouldn't be able to fully brake immediately.

The scooter has a front and rear light, and an undercarriage that glows for travelling at night. There's an accompanying app that pairs with the scooter which offers additional controls and gives you some basic information.

What's it like to use on Dublin city streets?

Overall, fine. The eXS handles most surfaces pretty well. But city roads are varied in finish and texture. One moment you're gliding on something relatively smooth, the next it feels like you're travelling via a 1970s VW over a mountain-top trail in Pakistan. Once I made the mistake of cruising on to cobblestones. It was like being on a wonky gutbuster (gym vibrating) machine. Generally speaking, when you hit small bumps it's with a bang. That said, the eXS scooter is supposed to be one of the better models at absorbing shocks and bumps (I've only ridden a small handful of them so far so can't directly compare).

I only had it a week, but the wheels seemed unfazed by the bumpy terrain I sometimes encountered.

What do you do with it when you reach your destination?

It has a small kickstand if you want to stand it up. It's possible to thread a chain lock through the back wheel and tie it to something.

But I generally just brought it into locations with me.

The scooter folds in two so you can pick it up and stow it somewhere inside. It's actually quite heavy (12.5kg) so you wouldn't want to be bringing it around a shop, especially when you also have a helmet to carry.

I found I could bring it into cafes. Work was fine, too, as I plonked it down beside my desk. But I didn't think it appropriate to bring into a restaurant.

Does it have indicators?

No. This sometimes left it at a practical disadvantage to a bike. I was often in a position where I needed to change lane or turn right to a side road. But I had no way of indicating.

A cyclist generally puts his or her hand out. It's much more difficult to do standing on a scooter. I'd thoroughly recommend that future versions of e-scooters should include indicators.

How do others treat you on the road?

In general, my experience was that you're treated similarly, or lower, on the food chain than a cyclist.

Cars pay even less attention to you than cyclists, even with a high-visibility jacket on.

On my last day commuting into work, a car on a side road was waiting for a break in traffic to emerge. It turned out that I was that 'break' in traffic.

The car pulled out towards me as if I simply wasn't there, almost hitting me. The woman in the car either didn't see me or didn't care.

There is also a general feeling of being much more exposed. On my commute into work, there is a right turn at a set of traffic lights. The only way to do it as a road vehicle is to stay in the yellow box in the middle of the road and wait for a break in traffic. Cars do this naturally. Bicycles do it frequently.

But on a scooter, you feel much more exposed. And this isn't helped by the sense that cars may regard you with less legitimacy and more impatience than more traditional road users.

What about the legality? Will a Garda stop you?

This is where it's all a bit tricky. In a very Irish way, electric scooters are tolerated without being legal. The official position is that these are regarded, in law, as being closer to a moped than a bicycle.

That means that by law, they are supposed to have tax, insurance and a licence. But there are no insurers for electric scooters in Ireland.

And they appear not to be taxable either, as they don't have the required technical data for the tax office. So they exist in a legal limbo. I passed Gardaí several times. None of them looked twice at me or made any unusual gesture. It appears to be the same for thousands of other scooter users in Dublin. But strictly speaking, a Garda could stop you under current law. (If I were to guess, I'd say your chances of getting stopped increase if you don't wear a helmet or use it on a footpath.)

Is this one to be recommended?

Looking at what else is on the market, this one seems well-priced. For the money, you get a relatively good range and top speed. It felt fairly robust.

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