Why we need a utility scooter

 

It's not easy or convenient to carry stuff on a typical e-scooter.

 

You can wear a backpack, of course, but that really limits the size and weight you can carry. It also makes you less stable, plus it can be tiring, not to mention sweaty on a hot day. Some people hang bags off the handlebars instead, but that's awkward and makes it hard to balance and steer.

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Plus there's the fact that so many scooters have feeble brakes, wobbly handling, tiny wheels that can send you flying if you hit a pothole, flimsy builds...


At the minimum, a quality electric scooter needs excellent stopping power, stable handling, a smooth ride, and a robust build.

But for that scooter to be a truly useful vehicle, it also needs to provide a safe and convenient place to stow a handbag, groceries, a yoga mat, a load of meal deliveries, a pet, your work tools... whatever you need to take with you.


That's why Scootility is developing a utility scooter.

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That's the first prototype in action above; as you scroll down the page, you'll see a few more short clips of the prototype. As it's a basic proof of concept, it's quite minimalist and lacks many of the features that will be in the production model (things like lights, a lid for the cargo box, front suspension, etc.), but it still gives you a good preliminary idea of the product we're developing.



Is Scootility's utility scooter just a regular e-scooter with a cargo box tacked on? (Hint: no)

 

Add cargo capacity to an e-scooter: sounds simple enough. But the devil is in the details, as they say.

 

Most approaches to adding cargo capacity force you to sacrifice on a number of fronts and you end up with a scooter that's too long, too wide, the weight is placed high making the scooter unstable when riding at low speed and prone to pitching over when braking, the steering mechanism gets in the way when loading and unloading, the turning circle is too large, the wheels are too small, the steering response is sloppy making riding unsafe and unpleasant, the steering uses complex mechanisms that increase cost and reduce reliability, the scooter looks excessively dorky...


The challenge is to develop a design that minimizes—and where possible, altogether avoids—these kinds of compromises.

Scootility's patent-pending design achieves that.



Interesting. Give me more info...

In brief: the utility scooter can carry a surprisingly large volume of cargo despite its compact overall form and low centre of mass. So, it's easy to park and it fits in spots too tight for typical cargo bikes. And the ride is much more stable and the braking much more effective than on a typical scooter, thus boosting safety and comfort and making it more friendly to beginners and less confident riders—yet it's still agile and fun for those who enjoy quick handling and carving out turns. And it's rugged to stand up to heavy use.

For a bit more detail, read on.

The cargo box provides ample capacity—140 litres or 5 cubic feet (in the first prototype)

 

For comparison, daypacks generally hold around 15 to 25 L, a typical carry-on suitcase fits around 40 L, and most meal delivery bags are in the 25 L to 70 L range.

You can fit a lot of stuff in a 140 L cargo box, as you can see in the clip below. (And while the first prototype was designed to provide 140 L of enclosed storage, we'll boost the volume a bit for the production model.)

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At the same time, the cargo box is narrower than the handlebars of a typical scooter or bicycle

So, the utility scooter fits comfortably in a typical bike lane, and it's easy to park.

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The utility scooter (on the left) is similar in overall width to a typical scooter (when you include the handlebars, which is the minimum width that a scooter occupies when riding)

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And even with all that cargo capacity, the utility scooter is still a bit shorter than a typical bike.

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The utility scooter (top) is a bit shorter than most bikes

And it's much more compact than a cargo bike

This makes it easy to park and nimble to ride. It does limit the size of cargo you can carry, but if you've got a really bulky load to haul, it makes more sense to use a big beast of a cargo bike. Otherwise, the utility scooter has you covered.

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The utility scooter (top) is much shorter than most cargo bikes

The floor of the cargo box is very low

The cargo box is closer to the ground than in a typical Long John cargo bike, and it's much lower than a front cargo box that's positioned above a bike's front wheel, as you see on some delivery bikes.

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The low cargo box makes for a low centre of mass of the scooter, rider, and cargo, which makes it easy to handle when starting, stopping, parking, and otherwise riding at low speeds. Locating the centre of mass as close to the ground as possible is crucial—if you've ever carried even a modest load in the front basket of a bike, you'll know how awkward it can be to keep a two-wheeled vehicle with a high centre of mass upright and under control when you're at a standstill or riding slowly.

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The low centre of mass also improves stability when braking hard, unlike most scooters, which are prone to pitch-over, especially on downhills. This improved stability makes it possible to install more powerful brakes for a shorter stopping distance. The low centre of mass also improves stability when descending hills. At the same time, there is more than adequate ground clearance to negotiate bumps and bank into turns.

The cargo is placed near the front of the scooter—but not too far forward

This places the centre of mass of the scooter, rider, and cargo in a position that allows for a balance of stability and agility, providing handling that's both safe and fun. But the cargo isn't placed too far forward—the cargo box is located behind the contact patch of the front tire and the ground—thus ensuring stability when braking and descending hills.

The cargo box is deep, but not excessively so

The low floor of the cargo box makes it possible to fit ample cargo without having to stack items high. Meanwhile, the box walls don't extend too high—ensuring stability in crosswinds.

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The front walls of the box are low

This ensures that the rider has a good view of what's ahead, which is especially important when starting from a stop and when parking. Many cargo bikes don't afford this unobstructed visibility of what's just in front of the vehicle.

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The cargo box is integrated with the rest of the chassis

While an open cargo bed is great for those occasional wide loads, most of the time it's more useful to have a closed cargo box with walls and a lid to keep your things secure and shielded from the weather. That's especially important if you're making a stop during your trip. (The first prototype, shown in the clips on this page, is a minimal proof of concept, and so is lacking a few features, like a cargo box lid.) Scootility's design integrates the cargo box with the chassis of the scooter, so the box actually adds strength and stiffness to the overall structure, which is not the case if you simply mount a cargo box (whether permanently or as a removable module) atop the chassis, as is the case in a typical Long John cargo bike, where it is just more dead weight for the rest of the scooter's frame to support. The box walls can also be used as a broad surface for things like lighting for better visibility, solar photovoltaic panels for trickle charging, and customizations like graphic artwork or company or sponsor branding. That said, some users may prefer the option of an open cargo bed for very bulky loads, and that's something Scootility will look at for a later model.

The turning circle is small

That makes parking and low-speed manoeuvring easy. A wide turning circle (like you see with many cargo bikes) might not seem like a big problem if you can lift the vehicle and turn it around, but that's not easy for everyone, especially when you're carrying heavier loads. And if you have to make a seven-point turn to turn around on a sidewalk, that's annoying both for the rider and for everyone around them.

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A much tighter turning circle than a typical cargo bike

The handling is stable

The utility scooter tracks far more safely and reliably than typical scooters. Typical scooters have very "twitchy" handling, so much so that many people find it difficult or impossible to even raise one hand from the handlebars to make a turn signal. If you're more confident and skilled on two wheels, you might be ok with that twitchiness, but for most people, it makes riding less comfortable and less safe, and it deters many people who might otherwise want to ride.

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Scootility's utility scooter has much more stable handling, thanks to several aspects of the design, including geometric factors such as the wheelbase, which is longer than a typical scooter, the location of the centre of mass which is set low and more rearward, the carefully tuned "mechanical trail", and the larger wheels and fatter tires.

It's stable enough that even someone without fancy skills can ride without hands for a few seconds—if you've ever tried it, you'll know that's not easy on a typical scooter. (That said, even with the greater stability of Scootility's utility scooter, any competent legal advisor will tell you it's still smarter to keep your hands on the handlebars.)

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At the same time, the handling is agile
 

The wheelbase is similar to that of a typical bike, so the handling is still sprightly, with none of that barge-like feeling you get from a Long John cargo bike. And even when carrying a heavy load, the steering remains light, thanks to radical (and unorthodox, but grounded in R&D) design choices, like the steep steering axis.

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The steering is accurate and responsive

 

The steering mechanism is designed to minimize the "backlash" (a loose, sloppy steering feel which reduces your control and ability to balance) that afflicts many cargo bikes.

 
 
The low centre of mass of the scooter makes it easier to control

This improves stability when braking hard, descending hills, accelerating, and climbing hills. It especially improves stability when starting, stopping, and parking—if you've ever ridden a bike with a top-heavy load, you know how a high centre of mass reduces your control at low speeds and forces you to fight to stay upright.

There are other aspects of the design that improve control, such as how your hands are positioned somewhat in front of the steering axis of the handlebars—this offset position boosts stability when your weight shifts forward on hard braking and on downhills. But there is another particularly unique design element that improves handling. You might think that a cargo box would only be a detriment to handling, but you can actually use the cargo box on Scootility's utility scooter to improve your connection with the vehicle. On a conventional scooter, you're physically connected to the vehicle only at the footdeck and at the handlebars—this is one of the reasons that scooters feel wobbly in comparison to bikes (among several other factors, of course). Scootility's utility scooter is different: if you want extra control, you can rest one or both knees against a pad on the rear wall of the cargo box, which gives you a more locked-in feeling and greatly improves your precision in shifting weight and balancing. Another way to say this is that the mass of the rider is more rigidly coupled to the mass of the scooter. This is similar to how you can shift weight at the saddle to help control a bike. (Note that the knee pad is one of several features that wasn't included in the simplified design of the first prototype.)


You can further enhance your weight-shifting control by placing your feet in a side-by-side stance on the wide footdeck—more on that below.


Overall, the stable yet agile handling makes for a safe and fun ride.

The tires are much larger and wider than those of a typical scooter for better control and comfort

 

On most scooters, the tires are 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in diameter and 2.5 inches (6 cm) wide; contrast that with the 15.4 inch (39 cm) diameter and 3.75 inch (9.5 cm) wide front tire and the 13 inch (33 cm) diameter and 6.5 inch (16.5 cm) wide rear tire on Scootility's first prototype. And those dimensions will be tweaked upward in the production model.

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Much larger tires than a typical scooter

The large wheels and fat pneumatic tires greatly reduce impacts when riding over bumps, giving a much smoother ride, improving control, protecting the cargo, and reducing wear and tear on the scooter. There's a significant boost in comfort compared to a typical scooter where even a road with a slightly rougher texture, let alone one riddled with cracks and potholes, rattles and buzzes through your feet and spine and fatigues you surprisingly quickly. The larger contact patches (the area where the tires touch the road) provide better traction, which especially comes in handy on wet roads.

Large wheels also enable the utility scooter to avoid one of the literal pitfalls of conventional scooters, where the small wheels can get caught in potholes and catapult the rider.

It is possible, however, for wheels to be too large, simply because they would stretch out the overall length of the scooter excessively, making it harder to do things like squeeze into tight parking spots. Scootility's utility scooter hits a sweet spot where the wheels are big enough for a smooth ride but small enough to keep the vehicle compact.

Though it's not included in the simplified first prototype, the production model will also feature suspension. While larger diameter and fatter tires are the most effective means of reducing impacts, a suspension mechanism provides extra control and damping, particularly on the biggest bumps.

The wide footdeck lets you place your feet side-by-side

Unless you have Cinderella-proportioned feet, the narrow footdeck on a conventional scooter forces you to stand one foot in front of the other, which can be uncomfortable to sustain and isn't a particularly balanced stance.

On Scootility's utility scooter, you have plenty of room to comfortably place your feet shoulder width apart, which feels very natural and is a great position for controlling how you shift weight laterally.

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Much wider footdeck than a typical scooter

And you can still place one foot back if you like.

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More stance options means the utility scooter is more comfortable for people who might not feel as secure on a conventional scooter. And the wide footdeck means it's also more responsive for riders who enjoy riding nimbly and carving out turns.

Key electrical components, including the batteries, are located under the footdeck—and since the footdeck is wide, there is space for higher-capacity batteries with more effective temperature control (fire prevention, in other words) than on a typical scooter.

The wide double kickstand is super-stable

You often see scooters tipped over and sprawled on the pavement, thanks to ineffective kickstands. Some scooters have double-sided kickstands, but because they're sized to fit under narrow footdecks, they're still quite prone to tipping.


The double kickstand on Scootility's utility scooter provides a much wider and more tip-resistant platform.

A few other things...​

While we're not exhaustively covering all of the details here, a few other points are worth mentioning. The production model will have ample torque for hauling heavy loads and climbing steep grades, in contrast with typical scooters that can only handle light loads and gentle hills. Battery capacity will be high to enable extended usage, and batteries will be easily swappable to minimize downtime. The build quality will be burly to stand up to intensive use over a long lifespan. A built-in IoT device will enable vehicle tracking and fleet operations. Handlebar height will be adjustable to fit a range of bodies. And there are numerous other boxes that will be checked when in the production model... on that note, if you have feature requests, do send them!



I have more questions...
Why didn't you design the utility scooter in some other way?

There are numerous possible ways to add cargo capacity to an e-scooter; the challenge is to develop a design that checks several boxes at the same time: ample cargo capacity, stable handling, yet agile, excellent stopping power, smooth ride, easy to park, robust, etc. Most of the design options force you to compromise too much on one or more fronts. Looking through the various possibilities: