Traveling those first miles or last miles of your journey, such as from home to the bus or train station and then from the transit hub to a destination, can be easily done with good old manually pedaled bicycle, or with significantly less effort, an electric bicycle, but unless you can take your bike with you on the bus, it doesn't do you a whole lot of good on the other leg of your commute.
One solution that could help commuters solve their last mile challenges is an electric vehicle that can easily go with them on any sort of public transport, can be folded up and stored under a desk or in a locker or closet, and that has enough of a range to cover their daily transportation needs. I previously covered a small folding electric vehicle, the URB-E, which has a seat and resembles a tiny bicycle, and which went on to have a very successful crowdfunding campaign, but there's another option for covering the last mile, and a relatively new contender in the tiny electric vehicle market, the EcoReco scooter.
The EcoReco looks just like your favorite kick scooter from your childhood, but other than sharing the same basic design, they're as different as night and day. The EcorReco can go as fast as 20 mph, can cover about 20 miles on a single charge, and can then be recharged to 85% of capacity in just 2.5 hours. It can also fold up to be carried on a bus or train, or in the trunk of a car, weighs just 34 pounds, and can be easily stored in a small space.
The EcoReco team ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign back in December, which then ended up being suspended by the crowdfunding site, for reasons that aren't very clear. It appears that there may have been some violations of the site's policies, or some miscommunication about the product or campaign, but the campaign did manage to raise $85,000 in pledges (on a $15,000 goal).
The product, called the M3, is now being shipped to customers, and I got to spend some time scooting around town on one, thanks to a review unit from EcoReco.
"EcoReco M3 e-Scooter is eco-friendly, energy-efficient, compact and intelligent, designed for your everyday urban use. It is foldable, lightweight, safe, and easy to use. It provides a fun and convenient ride for you, and cleaner air for all.
Whether you're going the distance or just that extra mile, you can just hop on and zoom off. It's perfect for coffee runs, quick visits to crowded downtown, stops or patrol among buildings at a large campus /warehouse/factory, or just exploring new places."
The M3 weighs in at 34 pounds, which is plenty light enough to carry with you on a bus, train, or up stairs, yet the scooter is solidly built and seems to be very well designed. The hand grips fold down along the upright post, which then also folds down and locks into place above the deck of the M3, creating a compact and portable unit that would fit under a desk, in a closet, or in a locker for storage. Setting up the M3 out of the box was drop-dead simple, as all that's necessary is to remove the packaging and unfold it, at which point it's ready to roll.
Riding the M3 is a blast. It's as small as a standard two-wheeled scooter that you may have ridden as a child, but when you pull the accelerator lever, it takes off with a lot of torque, and will quickly hit its top speed (about 20 mph) on a flat surface. The scooter has a "jerk-free" feature on it (no, it doesn't keep jerks from riding it) that requires users to start it rolling before the motor can be engaged, at which point the rider can accelerate at will.
Keeping in mind that this scooter is almost as small as child's scooter, when you start cruising along the road or sidewalk at 15 or more mph, it seems ridiculously fast, so much so that you might consider wearing a helmet while riding it. The top speed is configurable to limit it to 12.5 or 7.5 mph, thru hardware connectors under the foot deck, which might be a good option for younger (or perhaps older) riders. A single brake lever stops the scooter easily, although not fast enough to go into a skid or to stop on a dime, and steering the M3 is less about turning the handlebars, and more a matter of carving or leaning it in the direction you want to go it.
The M3, which has solid rubber wheels and a small suspension system on the front wheel, is designed for smooth hard surfaces, and while you can ride it on rougher roads, because of the solid wheels and minimal travel of the suspension springs, it will be a rough ride. The first time I rode it, I went up and down an older road, which was full of cracks and small potholes, and quickly found that while it was definitely ridable, I certainly wouldn't want to spend much time getting my teeth rattled on a rough road with it. I asked Jay Sung, CEO and co-founder of EcoReco, about it, and he said they have some different tire options and a bigger wheeled version in the works, which may be of interest to some riders.
The backlit LED dashboard displays the speed, battery charge status, an odometer, the trip distance and the total charge cycles, and is located on top of the handlebar. I didn't find that I needed or wanted to look at the dashboard while riding it, as taking your eyes off the road on a scooter at 18 mph didn't seem like a wise choice to me, but for everyday riders, this information could be useful, especially the charge indicator. A small kickstand on the deck holds the scooter upright, both when folded and unfolded, but seemed to be more of a convenience than a practical feature, as most riders are probably not going to lock this up on the street (but could use a cable lock through the front fork to do so).
The M3 comes with a charging unit that plugs into any standard wall outlet, and delivers a full charge in 4.5 hours, or a partial (85%) charge in 2.5 hours. The charger isn't tiny (about the size of several laptop chargers combined), but unless you need to ride long distances every day, it probably isn't necessary to carry with you. According to EcoReco, just $1 of electricity will power the scooter for about 500 miles, which is probably the cheapest method of transport ever, aside from a bicycle (although I imagine that when you consider the cost for all of the calories it would take to ride 500 miles, the M3 still comes out ahead). The company's website states that the scooter gets about 2,000 MPGe, with zero emissions (well, no local emissions, but obviously there are emissions associated with any fossil-fuel electricity generation).
What I really liked about the M3, other than that it's quick and nimble, is that it's simple and easy to ride (if you are comfortable balancing on a small platform, it's pretty intuitive to ride, and shouldn't take much time to get used to). The scooter can easily fit into the trunk of a car or under a chair or desk, and has plenty of range for most daily 'last mile' commutes (up to 23 miles). I could see this scooter being incredibly useful for getting around campus, or for most walking or biking errands in the city, especially if you live within a couple of miles of most of your daily destinations. The M3 costs $999, comes in two color options (black or red), and customers can also choose to buy a carrying case ($139) or an extra charger ($79, for if you want one for home and one for work) and right now, EcoReco is offering free shipping, which sweetens the deal just a little bit more.
EcoReco M3 Specifications:
Top speed: configurable at 20, 12, 7 mph
Range: 20 miles
Battery: 36V 8ah LiFePO4 (2000+ charge cycles)
Charging time: 2.5 hrs to 85%
Dimensions: Folding 3' x 1'x 1/2'
Weight: 34 lbs
Brushless 250W DC hub motor
LED back-lit dashboard
Safe start feature and 2 stage braking
[Disclosure: I received a media review unit of the M3 so that I could do a hands-on trial of the scooter, but all opinions, as well as any factual errors, are mine alone.]