Electric Scooter History—How It All Started

If you’ve visited a big city recently, you’ve likely seen sightseers and city-dwellers alike zipping around town on electric scooters. Micromobility companies have helped revolutionize the era of personal transportation, making it easier, faster, and more fun to get from A to B. 

 

And while the creation of an electric scooter market has brought these powerful machines into the mainstream of public awareness, they are by no means a new invention. In fact, electric scooters have been around for more than a century.   

 

Does that surprise you?

 

If so, you’ll be interested to learn that the electric scooter history is rich and fascinating. Today, we’ll briefly discuss the evolution of this incredible technology. 


When Were Electric Scooters Invented?

Motorized scooters are as old, if not older, than the first cars. While wooden kick scooters date as far back as the early 1800s, the first motorized scooter designed for adults wasn’t developed until 1913. And the finished product wasn’t released to the public until 1917. 

Photo by courtesy of the National Museum of American History. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_746073

 

But the concept dates back even further.


In 1817, Baron Karl von Drais De Sauerbrun, debuted a two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle known as the velocipede—an early forerunner to the monowheel, bicycle, tricycle, and scooter.(1) The word he coined was derivative of two Latin words: 


  • Velox, veloc – ‘swift’ 
  • Pes, ped – ‘foot’ 

Over the next century, his invention inspired several other creators to produce motorized personal vehicles. For example, Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted the first patent for a battery-powered bicycle in 1895 (2). These men helped set the stage for the Autoped. 


Who Invented the Electric Scooter?

The first motorized scooter for adults was created by inventor Arthur Hugo Cecil Gibson. On July 26th, 1913, he filed a patent for the Self Propelled Vehicle, which he would later dub the Autoped. (3)

The design of the Autoped looks quite similar to a modern electric scooter. Obviously, it’s bulkier due to technology restrictions and the machine was gas-powered, but the bones remain the same. In the patent application, Gibson described his invention as follows:(3)


“The objects of my invention are to produce a vehicle which will be extremely small, compact, and light in comparison to the load to be carried, and will be sufficiently powerful to offer adequate means for quick locomotion under ordinary conditions and relatively extreme economy in use and operation.”


By 1916, the patent was approved and Gibson and his business partner Joseph Merkel began to develop the first line of commercial scooters. Their factory was housed in Long Island, New York, and the original models were listed at a price of $100 with the following specs(4): 

  • Engine mounted over the front wheel
  • Air-cooled, 155cc four-stroke engine
  • Estimated speeds of 30 mph
  • Weighed over 100lbs
  • Everready Battery Company battery and coil charging 
  • Steering column activated brakes
  • Collapsible steering rod for easy storage

One of the earliest advertisements for the Autoped named it “the motor vehicle of the millions.” It described the scooter to would-be buyers as(5): “It is new, but has been thoroughly tested by two years’ road use. It is light, easily operated, easy riding, and runs 125 miles on a gallon of gasoline. And its price is so low that almost everybody can afford one.”

  

Another advertisement demonstrates that the Autoped was marketed to men, women, and older children(6): 


“The Autoped is an ideal short distance conveyance for business or professional men or women to and from their places of business...for physicians to make their regular daily calls or to answer hurry calls; for the older children to go about quickly for outing or school...All will enjoy the comfort and pleasure of AUTOPEDING.”


In its short lifespan, the machine was embraced by a variety of people and professions, including the mail service, army bases, and suffragettes. But the venture was not a commercial success. By 1921, US productions ended after the company missed its sales target. 


The technology simply wasn’t there yet. 


Clearly, the idea was ahead of its time. 

 

The Genesis of the Razor Kick Scooter

Over the next eight decades, there were a series of follow-up concepts on the motorized scooter. With each successive iteration, small improvements were made to the technology and design. But none of the projects caught on commercially. Back then, everything a motorized scooter could do, a motorized bike could do better. 


But everything changed in the ‘90s when Wim Ouboter, a Swiss businessman and tinkerer, created a foldable aluminum scooter using inline skate wheels (7). Allegedly, Outboter had built it to make it easier for him to reach his favorite bratwurst shop in Zurich, which was more than a mile from his house—too far to walk, too close to drive.   


What he created was a solution for a problem that hadn’t even been coined yet, but would later be known as the “first-mile, last-mile problem,” which states that there’s a certain cut off point—typically a mile or less—where pedestrians are not comfortable walking or driving to a public transit stop or a general destination.


In 1998, he debuted a three-wheeled version of his scooter—titled the Kickboard—at the International Sports Fair in Munich. It was received with great enthusiasm, helping him launch micromobility Systems in 1999, a manufacturer dedicated to producing his two-wheeled scooter concept. 


The invention caught on, especially in walking cities. 


In Japan, for instance, young people in Tokyo embraced the portable personal mobility device as a convenient means for going to and from public transit. It became so popular that Ouboter’s Taiwanese production partner, JD Corp, made a licensing deal to distribute the scooter in the U.S. under the name “Razor.” 


And, as they say, the rest is history.  


Scooters Rise in North America

For Ouboter, the goal of his product was to “fundamentally change urban transportation.” He envisioned it as an urban-last mile transportation solution for the modern worker—one that eventually used an electric motor with a rear-mounted rechargeable battery.  


The team at JD Corp, and its American subsidiary, Razor USA, saw it differently. Gino Tsai, president of JD Corp, wanted to market it as a kid-focused product. And his gamble paid off. According to Bloomberg: 


“The Razor was selected as the ‘Spring/Summer Toy of the Year’ by the Toy Association in 2000; by 2001, 7 million of them were whizzing along America’s suburban cul-de-sacs. But a funny thing happened to the tiny silver machines that leaped from Ouboter’s imagination onto the sidewalks of the world at the turn of the millennium. Ouboter had never thought of his creation as a toy.”


Thus started the kid-scooter frenzy. 


But the Razor USA team knew it had to capitalize on the success of the initial model. By 2003,(8) Razor debuted its first electric scooter, which used a twisting throttle and boasted speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. But once more, the technology simply wasn’t there yet; charges didn’t last long and these models were pricey for consumers. 


The battery-powered scooter didn’t catch on. And after the initial hype, Razor’s sales came crashing back down to earth over the next decade.  


In 2009, lithium-ion battery technology became powerful and refined enough to be used in smaller personal vehicles. Even then, it took nearly another decade for this technology integration to actually land and for electronic micromobility vehicles to re-emerge into the public sphere. 


But when did electric scooters become popular? 


Not until 2018. What started with GPS-powered dockless bike rental services throughout big cities, was followed by the emergence of rental electric scooter companies also vying for their share of the micromobility market share. As Bloomberg notes,(9) there was a “perfect storm of factors that allowed e-scooters to take over—“the falling price of batteries and GPS trackers, the near-ubiquity of smartphones, and the rising demand for space in central cities.”


It took nearly twenty years for Ouboter’s dream of an electric personal mobility revolution to catch on. 


The Emergence of Apollo

The last decade has helped seed the idea of personally owned micromobility devices in the public consciousness. Now, it’s never been more convenient or affordable to have your own electric scooter. 


Enter Apollo Scooters. 


In 2018, Chris Healthcoate-Rey and Maciek Piskorz founded Apollo Scooters in Montreal, Canada. They viewed scooters as the optimal mix of convenience and sustainability and an ideal vehicle to help push toward an electricity-based society. 


Apollo’s mission was simple—to create the best personal electric scooter on the market. And they wanted to do it differently. Unlike competitors, they sought to design, manufacture, import, and sell their custom-made electric scooters. In doing so, they could cut out the middlemen and markups in order to deliver a premium scooter at affordable prices.  


And they delivered on that promise. 

Apollo is already one of the top-selling and highest-rated scooters in America and Canada. In just under two years of being in business, Apollo scooters sold more than 10,000 units, providing thousands of adventurers with a commute they actually look forward to.   


Apollo Electric Scooter Models

Currently, Apollo offers five different models of scooter that differ by top speed, range, and price. Here’s how each one breaks down:


  • Apollo Air – The Apollo Air is the most portable and affordable high-end electric scooter on the market. It’s designed for first-time riders who want an optimal mixture of stability, simplicity, and speed. Weighing only 35lbs and coming in at a price of $499, the Air packs a serious punch. Specs include: 
    • Single motor & up to 15 MPH speed
    • Up to 12 miles of range
    • 35 LB weight & 220 LB max load
    • Front spring suspension
    • Rear disc brake

  • Apollo City – As the name implies, this version is the ultimate city commuter. It balances power and portability, which are must-haves for personal mobility transport. Retailing at $999, the City boasts the following specs: 
    • Single motor & up to 25 MPH speed
    • Up to 28 miles of range
    • 39 LB weight & 265 LB max load
    • Dual spring suspension system
    • Folding handlebars & stem



  • Apollo Explore – This model is built for the city explorer, the rider that wants to zip wherever the road may take them, up any hill or across any gravel road. Selling at $1,399, this scooter was designed with the following specs: 
    • Single motor & up to 31 MPH speed
    • Up to 34 miles of range
    • 52LB weight & 265LB max load
    • Dual spring suspension system
    • Folding handlebars & stem

  • Apollo Ghost – The Ghost isn’t just an evolution in electric scooter design, it’s a revolution. With a dual-motor drive and aluminum forged frame, this scooter packs a serious punch. As Wired Magazine put it, (10) “This dual-motor electric kick scooter is so powerful you’ll feel your soul lurch out of your body as you hit the throttle…” Its specs include: 
    • Dual motor & up to 34 MPH speed
    • Up to 39 miles of range
    • 64 LB weight & 300 LB max load
    • Adjustable dual spring suspension
    • Folding handlebars & stem


  • Apollo Phantom – The Phantom is the most powerful scooter on the market, bar none. For the price of $1799, you receive a scooter that boasts:
    • Dual motor & up to 38 MPH speed
    • Up to 40 miles of range
    • 77LB weight & 300LB max load
    • Quadruple spring suspension
    • Proprietary HEX display

Apollo Scooters—Uniting the Vision of the Past with the Technology of the Present 

The history of electric scooters is intricate. 


It’s impossible to definitively answer questions like who invented the electric scooter or when was the first electric scooter made. Over the century, there have been multiple inventors and iterations that contributed to the evolution of the modern electric scooter. 


And to them, we at Apollo tip our hat. We’re grateful for the path they have forged. 


Now, our mission is to build upon their legacy—to continue to drive the micromobility revolution onwards. 


We hope you’ll hop on and join us on this journey.  

Sources 

(1) Tonton Velo. L’Industrie Velocipede. https://forum.tontonvelo.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4043

(2) Google Patents. Electrical Bicycle. https://patents.google.com/patent/US552271A/en

(3) Patent Images. A.H.C. Gibson Self Propelled Vehicle. 

https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/60/17/4b/7d0fcfa10b2cd4/US1192514.pdf

(4) BuyVintage1. 1918 Everready Autoped Scooter. https://buyvintage1.wordpress.com/page-29-1935-velocette-gtp-250cc/

(5) BuyVintage1. https://buyvintage1.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/autoped_11.jpg

(6) Smithsonian Magazine. The Motorized Scooter Boom That Hit a Century Before Dockless Scooters. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/motorized-scooter-boom-hit-century-dockless-scooters-180971989/

(7) Wayback Machine. micromobility Systems: Realizing the Scooter Dream. https://web.archive.org/web/20110707004432/http://www.ifpm.unisg.ch/org/ifpm/web.nsf/SysWebRessources/Realizing+the+Scooter+Dream/%24FILE/Micro-Last2-e.pdf

(8) CNN. Scooter Wave Slides Across America. https://www.cnn.com/2000/US/12/05/razor.reut/index.html

(9) Bloomberg. The Man Behind the Scooter Revolution. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-26/how-a-kids-scooter-became-a-micromobility-revolution

(10) Wired Magazine. Review: Apollo Ghost. https://www.wired.com/review/apollo-ghost/

SHARE ON

THIS MAY ALSO INTEREST YOU