The urban commute is under pressure. Driving even a few miles to and from work feels like a chore, and an irresponsible one at that. Gas prices go up and traffic gets worse; another day of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Bicycles and bicycle sharing programs are appealing but tiring, and mass transit still runs on the city’s timetable, not yours. One company wants to relieve all of this pressure by providing a lightweight, collapsible, electric scooter, as quick as a bicycle and as stylish as an iPhone.
Urb-E, short for Urban Electric, is a small company in Pasadena, California. Its namesake scooter was just an idea three years ago, when co-founders Grant Delgatty and Sven Etzelsberger brought together their engineering and design backgrounds to solve the urban “pain points” of power, connectivity, and transportation. Funded by a very successful IndiGoGo campaign and local California investors, the Urb-E electric scooter is the result of a “farm-to-table concept, except with electric vehicles,” as Etzelsberger puts it.
Assembled in the back of its Pasadena location with most of its materials sourced and fabricated in California, the Urb-E scooter is an impressive piece of engineering, no doubt owing to the backgrounds of the company’s employees. Co-founder Etzelsberger was a head engineer at Porsche before moving from something that can go 200 miles per hour to something with a top speed of 15. In back, performing quality checks and installing battery packs, you’ll find an MMA fighter, a submarine builder, and a few former shoe designers. Everyone is there because they believe in what Urb-E represents — a stylish and well-engineered way to close the transportation gap for urban millennials.
What sets Urb-E apart from other electric vehicles is the ease of use. When you’re not using it, waiting on a bus, or shuffling into an elevator, the scooter folds up in the middle, taking up about as much space as a person would. If you’ve ever had to try and bring a bicycle on a train or on public transport, you can guess how useful this feature is. And thanks to Urb-E’s materials — carbon-fiber handlebars and an aircraft-grade aluminum body — moving this condensed conveyance only means moving a 30-pound frame.
Riding it is just as easy as traveling with it. Simply insert a key into the side of the large, rechargeable battery pack that sits inside the body of the scooter, turn the motorcycle-like throttle, and you’re off.
Urb-E currently offers two models: a white/grey scooter for $1499 and an anodized black version for $1699. The difference in price comes from the color upgrade and increase in acceleration that the black model offers. (It also looks like the scooter Batman would use, so why not.) If you want to trick out your model, plastic inserts to change the faceplate are available, as are cup-holders, headlights, wire-frame baskets, and iPad/iPhone sleeves.
The scooter doesn’t disappoint in perhaps an electric vehicle’s most important property: the range. On a full charge, the Urb-E can go 20 miles before needing to be plugged into a normal wall outlet for around four hours. The idea is that you can ride to work, leave it charging, ride back home, and plug it in overnight. The top speed of both models is around 15 miles-per-hour (it could go faster, but that would put it into regulatory waters beyond bicycles), though the all-black model reaches that top speed much faster.
Since they started shipping a little over four weeks ago, Urb-E has already sold 200 models, become a sustainable businesses, and is looking to upgrade. The next scooters will likely have a better range, acceleration, and top speed. An off-road model could be coming as well.
But none of Urb-E’s design, innovation, or environmental consciousness would matter if the thing isn’t actually practical, or at least fun to ride. Thankfully, it’s both.
During my time with Urb-E, I commuted to work and back (six miles each way), took my sweet time rolling around the park, and tested its design as best I could. There’s no other way to say it: Urb-E turns heads. I was stopped a handful of times to explain what I was riding, and to refer them to the company that made it. And like the company claims, the scooter is indeed stored in a snap, customizeable, and fun to ride. There is just something about going bicycle speed without pedaling that makes you feel like you’re the first one on your block with a jet pack.
Urb-E isn’t without its drawbacks. I couldn’t commute to work more than one day in a row, as the seat and lack of wheel shock absorbers punished my backside. That lack of shocks and the rigid metal frame also meant that any bump or crack in my path higher than a half-inch off the ground at best feels like a groin kick through a pillow and at worst a possible crash. And though you could save a lot on gas over the course of a month if your job is close, the initial price of Urb-E means those savings wouldn’t start adding up for a few years.
Still, my time with Urb-E was mostly positive. The scooter is perfect for a quick trip to the supermarket or as your main mode of transportation, given your daily commute is a short one. It turns heads, goes pretty quick, eliminates the need for gas, and can even charge your phone. If you can afford it and it’s right for you, there aren’t many reasons not to get an Urb-E.
To check out all of Urb-E’s products, click through here.
IMAGES: Urb-E; Kyle Hill
NOTE: Urb-E provided Nerdist with two scooters for review, which were subsequently returned.
Kyle Hill is the Science Editor of Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.