When I told my colleagues I had just gotten an M3 in for review, they looked all jealous and rushed down to the garage to check it out. But rather than BMW's legendary weekend racer, I was talking about EcoReco's M3, an electric scooter. Unlike the Beemer, the M3 E-Scooter runs on electricity, can fold up for easy storage, and gets up to only 20 mph.
Similar to the types of scooters Razor repopularized in 1999, the M3 E-Scooter consists of a wheeled deck and steering column with handlebars. Instead of foot power, however, the deck contains a lithium-ferrophosphate battery pack which powers a 250-watt electric motor in the rear hub.
The structural pieces of the M3 E-Scooter are made from thick aluminum, giving the scooter a solid feel. Solid rubber wheels mean no flats, but also less cushioning for the ride. A front suspension with small, coiled spring dampers helps a little. Most useful, a kickstand on the deck lets you stand it up anywhere.
The handlebars hold the drive controls, which consist of a handbrake, accelerator lever, start button, and a round LCD. The LCD shows speed, battery charge, and an odometer. Cables and wiring run from the handlebars into the steering column, then down into the deck. I felt the wiring could be dressed better.
EcoReco includes a charger with the scooter, a black box that plugs into any 110-volt AC outlet and the scooter's own charging port. Although you can see the battery level on the scooter's LCD, the charger also has an LED that turns green when charging is done. According to EcoReco, the battery pack charges from empty to full in 4.5 hours, or up to 80 percent capacity in 2.5 hours. The company also points out that the lithium-ferrophosphate battery chemistry means it can handle more than 2,000 charging cycles.
When I received the M3 E-Scooter, it was charged up, and I was eager to give it a try. I put a foot on the deck, pulled the accelerator lever, and...nothing. I turned it off then turned it back on again, and still nothing.
Finally resorting to the manual, which is printed on recycled-looking paper, I found that I had to start off by rolling the M3 E-Scooter forward, getting up some momentum, before the accelerator would activate. That seems like a smart safety feature, eliminating the danger of the thing accidentally leaping away from you.
Setting out in the approved fashion, the torque from the hub motor soon had me speeding up and down the halls of the CNET offices. The deck offered plenty of room for my feet and I was able to maintain slower speeds when maneuvering around cubicles. The motor kept it from freewheeling, so I could generally slow down enough just by letting off the accelerator.
The brake, which stops only the rear wheel, proved adequate. As a safety feature, pressing the brake turns off the accelerator, so if you panic and squeeze both handlebar levers, the M3 E-Scooter will still come to a stop.
Getting more adventurous, I took the M3 E-Scooter out to Treasure Island, a flat, man-made island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Deciding to lap the island, I donned my helmet and jumped on board. A few things immediately became apparent. First of all, on rough asphalt the ride was far from comfortable. Vibration throughout the scooter proved tough on my ankles and wrists, and only got worse the longer I rode. Riding over some brick paving, I was shaken so much my eyes could barely focus.
The LCD position, on the right handlebar, made it difficult to monitor my speed. I concluded that a center-mounted gauge would be easier to see at glance. That gauge has back-lighting, useful at night, but the M3 E-Scooter lacks any rear or front safety lighting. A white LED on the front and a red one at the rear would make this scooter much safer for riding at night.
On a straightaway, I maxed out the speed, but a glance at the LCD showed I had only attained 15 mph, not the 20 mph maximum claimed by EcoReco. I weigh about 180 pounds, so I figured I wasn't too much of a load for the scooter.
Finishing my lap of the island, I had gone 3.3 miles according to the odometer, and I wasn't up for any more of that punishing ride. To be fair, on smooth concrete the ride was fine, but I encountered many stretches that were very uncomfortable.
Over that 3.3 miles, the battery charge indicator dropped two of its five bars, which seemed excessive. EcoReco claims a range of 20 miles, but at this rate I would have been lucky to make 10, if I could have handled riding the M3 E-Scooter for that long.
Later, I took the M3 E-Scooter on the hilly streets of San Francisco. Getting up to speed on a flat road, I continued on up an ensuing hill. Once the scooter's momentum petered out, it slowed to a stop, the hub motor lacking the power to keep going. I tried a moderate ascent and got a similar result. This electric scooter definitely doesn't have the stuff to handle the San Francisco urban environment.
EcoReco built the M3 E-Scooter as 'last-mile' transportation, something you can take on a train or bus, then ride to your ultimate destination. As such, this scooter is designed to fold up. I found it easy to fold the handlebars down and collapse the steering column, but the levers that let the steering column fold down to the deck sometimes proved finicky. As the entire front wheel assembly also folds up, this front hinge needs to be very strong, so the catch holding it up would not always release easily.
Once collapsed, I could lift the M3 E-Scooter by its steering column. However, at 34 pounds it is a little heavy to carry up long flights of stairs day after day. Also, some sort of strap or handle would make carrying it less awkward.
EcoReco lists a price of $999 for the M3 E-Scooter, making it a little pricey for the occasional rider. Likewise, other electric scooters that can be found online generally run about half that price. The M3 E-Scooter weighs less than most, making it a bit more portable, and its claimed charge cycles mean it should offer a longer lifetime than other scooters.
At this price, I would expect more features, such as the lights I mentioned above. But what really brings the M3 E-Scooter down is the ride quality. Unless you live in an area with miles of very smooth pavement, you won't want to ride this scooter far.