The 10 Best Self Balancing Scooters
Simplify Your Commute
Commuting choices are personal and greatly depend on how you feel, how far you have to travel, what the weather is like, and how easy the streets are to traverse. Bicycles are reliable, but require physical energy which can be tolling if your commute is lengthy. Cars are environmentally hazardous, nor are they the healthiest form of commuting on a daily basis.
A more cost-effective, eco-friendly, and easy-to-use alternative is the self-balancing scooter. We're not talking about futuristic hoverboards as seen in Back to the Future Part Two, as the term is sometimes used to describe the similar concept.
Technically speaking, balance scooters are portable and rechargeable battery-powered, featuring two side-by-side wheels. Placing your feet on the pressure pads allows for control of the device. Some only have one wheel instead, with two pressure pads on either side. The main components of a self-balancing scooter (with two wheels) include a central processing unit (CPU), battery pack, two gyroscopes, infrared sensors, LED lights, two electric motors, two tilt and speed sensors, a charging port, and pressure pads that sit on switches.
Think of the CPU as the brain that interprets the overall status of the scooter, its current speed, and the tilt of each wheel. The tilt and speed sensors detect wheel revolutions per minute (RPM) and are housed inside the wheels along with the electric motors. The sensors are controlled by a combination of a person's feet, the shifting of weight on the scooter's pressure pads, and the interruption of the scooter's LED lights.
To accelerate, a rider leans forward on the scooter with both feet. The more a rider leans forward, the faster the scooter goes. This occurs because the tilt sensors and gyroscopes are interpreting the motion of leaning forward as a command to increase the scooter's speed. By increasing speed in this manner, a rider's center of gravity is maintained, much in the same way the inner ear maintains a person's sense of balance.
The infrared LED lights (located on the underside of the scooter) act as command markers for each sensor. When forward pressure is applied to the front of both pads, the scooter's front switches (located underneath each pad) are also pushed down. The depression of each switch causes a small plastic barrier to slide in-between each infrared LED and its corresponding sensor, thereby interrupting the LED light. When the senors detect this interruption, the CPU instructs the appropriate motors to spin forward.
To slow down, stop, or move in reverse, the rider simply leans backward and applies pressure to the back of the pads (activating the rear switches) with their heels. Turning left or right is accomplished by operating the pressure pads with either a forward or backward tilt. To turn left, for example, a rider applies pressure with the front of their right foot and the heel of their left foot. This instructs the scooter to spin the right wheel forward and the left wheel in reverse. The wheel spinning in reverse influences the direction of the turn.
Because it is powered by a rechargeable battery, operation is quiet with virtually no harmful emissions released into the environment. It also saves you a small fortune in filling up your gas tank, and is much lighter and transportable too.
Self-Balancing Scooter History, Hitches, And Hope
The overall consensus credits the Chinese manufacturing industry with the origin of the self-balancing scooter. Due to the fast pace of the industry, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which Chinese manufacturer got there first. It is thought that Chic Robotics (also known as Hangzhou Chic Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd) was the first to invent the self-balancing scooter. The company was originally founded in 2013 and is associated with the prestigious Zhejiang University. The company released a scooter named the Smart S1 in August 2014.
The following year, the market saw numerous Chinese knockoff scooters, where monetary greed outweighed safety necessitation. This developed into inevitable problems, particularly with some models of scooters catching fire. Incidents in locations like New York and Louisiana prompted a recall of over a half-million self-balancing scooters by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission in July 2016.
But don't click away just yet. While these incidents were serious, it's important to understand what prompted such defects in the first place. In 2015, the self-balancing scooter was on a lot of Christmas lists as the newest and hottest accessory that so many people wanted under the tree. This was true for both celebrities and civilians. Due to such a high demand over the 2015 holiday season, various Chinese manufacturers began mass production of the scooter using low quality materials in the hopes of attracting everyday buyers with more affordable prices.
It's not an uncommon occurrence for production to be cheapened in the face of high demand in order to keep up with it. For that reason, one cannot single out Chinese manufacturers as the only ones who do this. Mass production and franchising often leads to a watering down of a product's quality in order hit one's financial bottom line for profits. It so happens that for the self-balancing scooter, the main culprit behind many of the 2015 defects and recalls were the lithium-ion batteries used.
Many of the batteries were located under a scooter's pressure pads. Fires were prone to occur, regardless of whether the scooters were plugged in and charging or not. With low-quality batteries, bumping into things with a scooter could become significantly more dangerous. Additionally, the separator between a cheap battery's cathode and anode, both of which conduct the electrical current, could be misaligned. In this situation, short circuits were more likely to occur due to increasing heat inside the battery cell.
Contrary to how depressing this problem may appear, there is light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the Underwriter Laboratories UL2272 safety standard that was introduced in early 2016. This standard requires the self-balancing scooter to undergo a rigorous testing process during which the electrical, battery, and charger systems are certified. This certification would provide additional confidence to consumers that their purchase was a smart and safe investment.
Some of the newest models of scooter come equipped with built-in Bluetooth speakers and additional lights. Recent popularity of the scooter in the United States is attributed to the celebrity factor and the American-found company PhunkeeTree, which began distributing self-balancing scooters after its co-founders were introduced to the scooter at the 2014 Hong Kong Electronics Show.
So what's in store for the self-balancing scooter of the future? Some companies, such as IO Hawk, have been working on scooters that offer WiFi connections and extended battery life. For the busy commuter, staying connected and traveling a greater distance without having to recharge are welcome advantages. Even Lexus is currently working on its own form of magnetized hoverboard technology with the use of liquid nitrogen-filled cryostat that cools the board's superconductors. While it's not quite ready for Marty McFly's epic hoverboard chases from Back to The Future Two, it certainly looks like a step in the right direction.
Taking It Slow
Battery life, top speed, and charging time are all important considerations for the scooter one chooses. Superior models deliver a top speed of up to ten miles per hour with a traveling distance of up to fourteen miles on a single charge. For newcomers, setting aside time to adapt to the way the scooter operates is important.
This can be done using a wall for leverage when learning how to balance on the scooter. A beginner's mode is sometimes built into the design of the scooter to limit its speed at first. Some scooters also come equipped with steering bars for extra control and comfort, particularly when traveling on busy streets.
Consider the style of the scooter you want. It comes in a multitude of different brands and colors, so finding one that speaks to you and your personal preferences will make all the difference when you plan to ride it all the time. Some of the best self-balancing scooters also have sturdy pneumatic tires with shock absorption capabilities.
When it comes to self balancing scooters, safety and reliability are of the utmost concern. If you can find a scooter that is certified by Underwriter Laboratories (UL),the American safety consulting and certification company, you're taking a step in the right direction. A UL-certified battery means it has been tested, inspected, and validated to meet safety requirements, and is particularly important for extra peace of mind.