From a laptop-sized platform that you can ride, to a voice-activated, self-balancing unicycle that can follow you around when you’re not even on it. These are just two of the weird and wonderful electric devices that are driving the micromobility revolution.
With nearly 270 days a year of sunshine, Perth should be a city of bicycles, but with all that sunshine comes a challenge.
Pedalling a bicycle to work or the shops can leave you hot and sweaty, and even those who would love to ride rather than drive can be put off by the need for showers, bike storage and an outfit change.
It’s one of the reasons smaller eRideables are taking off in WA, letting you zip sweat-free to your location on electric devices, without needing to change at the other end.
Now that WA has clarified the legal status of eRideables, there’s even more reason to see whether an electric option is right for you.
What do the rules say?
The new rules, which came into force in December 2021, cover a range of electric personal transporter devices, from e-scooters to e-skates and just about everything in between.
They apply to any small electric rideable with at least one wheel, weighing less than 25kg, and less than 125cm long, 70cm wide or 135cm high.
To be legal, these devices cannot travel faster than 25km/h.
The rules allow eRideables to be ridden on footpaths at up to 10km/h, and up to 25km/h on bicycle paths, shared paths, and also on local roads with a speed limit of 50km/h or less and where there are no centre line markings.
Other rules like not using a mobile phone while riding and drink and drug driving also apply, and riders need to wear helmets, use lights at night, and have a bell or other warning device fitted.
For all but low-powered devices (200w or less), riders must be 16 or older.
RELATED: eRideables – what are the rules in WA? »
Riding the revolution
Retailers say the new rules have helped clarify what eRideables can be used and where, spurring on a growing market.
Stephen White, manager at E-Riderz based in Brisbane, says there’s been a marked increase in interest from WA customers since the rules changed.
“These sorts of eRideables are great to use on farms and private property but it really does change people’s openness and willingness to be able to ride in public when they meet the legal criteria,” he says.
“We have certainly seen a spike from WA of people getting on board. It might have been they were not as exposed to them, or they hesitated because they wanted to be able to ride them in public as well.”
But while the rise of eRideables shows no sign of slowing, it’s important to do your homework before you buy.
Some devices, particularly those without speed limiters, will still fall outside WA’s laws, and cannot be ridden except on private property.
And while it might be tempting to relive your youth skateboarding home with groceries, eRideable crashes are no joke.
Jamie Edwards, owner of specialty store Twelve Boards, says speed is a key issue.
“The first thing you learn as a kid, when you’re riding a skateboard, is how to run off,” he says.
“One of the things we say to everybody is, you never ever ride faster than you can run off. Never ride at a speed where you’re not comfortable just to step off the board.
“It always comes down to the user riding within their means.”
A final thing to check before purchase is the battery life of the device.
Batteries make up a substantial part of the cost of eRideables, and the farther the device will go on a single charge, the more you are likely to pay. While low-cost options are available, the saving is likely to mean a cheaper battery.
E-scooters are the heroes of the micromobility movement, moving from a recreational novelty a few years ago to a commuter-friendly option used for an estimated 500 million rides globally last year, supplanting e-bikes as the most popular form of electric transport.
Riders stand with one foot in front of the other on the deck and engage the motor through a throttle on the handlebar. For many people e-scooters are the easiest e-option available thanks to the long stable wheelbase and handlebars which aid stability.
Turning still takes a bit of practice; at very low speeds using the handlebars is fine but at higher speed, shifting your weight and leaning is a better way to avoid coming off.
Depending on the model, you can also buy a scooter with a seat, if you don’t want to stand for long rides.
A variation is the three-wheeled e-scooter, which adds even more stability — especially when you lean, as two wheels remain in contact with the ground.
How much does one cost?
E-scooters start at about $1000 up to about $4000 for high-end commuter models with long-distance batteries.
One of the hardest things to master on a traditional skateboard is the need to push. One foot on, one foot off and in contact with the path every few steps, it requires some nimble balancing on one leg.
An e-skateboard removes that challenge, making it more approachable for novices as well as long-time riders looking for something different, according to Twelve Boards’ Jamie Edwards.
“It’s the same premise — four wheels and a deck — and you turn by putting pressure on your toes and pressure on the heels,” he says.
“There’s a really good customer of mine who is a successful businessman who rides his to work in a full suit and briefcase. He doesn’t have to drive his car or get parking; he just jumps on his board.”
Another variation, the e-board, such as the Summerboard, look like long e-skateboards but handle differently, so riders weave and glide down the road as if they were carving up the slopes on a snowboard.
“Like snowboarding, the board is always drifting from left to right,” Edwards says.
“People who have a lot of control can ride it down pathways but for the majority, you are probably better with a with a Onewheel or a regular electric skateboard.”
For a truly compact option, you could also try the Walkcar, a small square panel that looks a lot like a laptop with office chair wheels that fits in an average backpack.
At this stage the Walkcar is mostly used in Japan, but manufacturer Cocoa Motors hope it will take off, as you ride it facing forward, with feet side by side, rather than one front, one back.
How much does one cost?
E-skateboards start at about $500 and climb into the thousands. Electric snowboards start around $2500.
The hoverboard takes its name from the floating skateboard used by Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future, but the nonfiction version rolls on wheels rather than floating in mid air.
The boards use self-balancing gyroscopic technology and are propelled by leaning forward or back.
Although they can be a commuter tool, they are usually bought as a novelty rather than as transport says Nirmal Pandya, whose business Hoverboards Australia began in WA and now sells nationally out of Melbourne.
And while children under 16 are not allowed under WA rules to ride them on a public road or path, they are a popular gizmo for using in carparks or on private property.
“We find a lot of people buy hoverboards as a gift, with parents buying them for kids’ birthdays or Christmas,” he says.
“Most of the questions we get asked are about where they can ride, or questions in terms of weight limits or the best hoverboard for different ages.
“But some people are also interested in performance — or how to connect their hoverboard to Bluetooth to play music.”
With fun rather than function the main driver, some hoverboards can be converted into go-karts, with handles used to help steer.
How much does one cost?
One of the cheapest options on the market, hoverboards start at about $200, but most retail between $500 and $800.
So perhaps you want the fun of a hoverboard, but also need to carry things around — and you don’t want to drag around a scooter, board, or unicycle between rides.
Segway has introduced what it calls a mobile AI sidekick, which is self- balancing and can be ridden a bit like a hoverboard, but with a central knee-high pillar that doubles as a personal assistant.
By wrapping together several kinds of technology like voice and video recognition technology, entry-level versions can respond to instructions, store things in the pillar and follow you autonomously.
The high-end version can also relay messages, carry packages, operate a video, and be programmed from your phone to learn new tasks when you’re not riding.
How much does one cost?
E-transporters range from about $1100 to $2000.
Fans of the e-unicycle are passionate about this device, which combines practicality and pizazz.
With a single wheel, a small platform either side for your feet, they’re steered by leaning, and are a good option for commuting as well as recreation, says E-Riderz’ Stephen White.
“Unlike scooters, which have a much larger frame, electric unicycles are much more portable with convenient trolley handles so that you can walk them beside you or lift them up some stairs,” he says.
“We get people wanting them for convenient commuting but now some wheels will let you do 50 or even 150km on a single charge, you can just stand on, take off and go out exploring.”
Although easier to learn than a manual unicycle, White says there are still some challenges in balancing on a single wheel at low speeds — a little like riding a bike very slowly.
“You need a bit of gyroscopic momentum to get going but once you’re on, and you commit to engaging the motor and giving a gentle lean forward, it’ll start to pick up speed,” he says.
“It really only needs to get to 7km an hour before it starts to have its own upright balance.
“We can ride backwards, do 360s on the spot — there’s nothing as manoeuvrable as the electric unicycle on the market at the moment.”
How much does one cost?
E-unicycles start at $900 up to $5000 for long-range rides.
A kind of e-skateboard, Onewheels have a board with a single all-terrain tyre that can travel as easily on a dirt track or hard beach sand as it can on the road.
But there is a steep learning curve, and they certainly won’t be suitable for everyone. Beginners might need a hand to step on, but once both feet are level, the engine will engage and you can ride by leaning — forward to accelerate, back to slow down and to the side to turn.
Stopping is a bit harder: riders need to lift their heel (or just jump off) but the boards also come with an inbuilt resistance known as push back, which is designed to slow riders down if they are heading too sharply down a hill, riding too fast or running low on battery.
Jamie Edwards from Twelve Boards says Onewheels are hugely popular, as they fit under the desk at work for commuters but allow off-road riding as well.
“You can take it down to the coast and you can go for miles down the beach – it is such a cool feeling,” he says.
“You’re able to explore places that you probably weren’t able to before. When we have people who are snowboarders or surfers, and they’re looking for something else in their in their arsenal of things to do, the Onewheel is just fun.”
How much does one cost?
Onewheels start from $1700 but can grow to more than $3000 with customisation.
Two wheels might feel safer than one, but e-skates, also known as hover skates, are something else.
Unlike traditional roller skates or rollerblades, you don’t strap in but step on, balancing on two platforms, each with a single wide wheel so the skates tilt back and forward on a single axis.
Linnea Kirkeland, from the marketing team at speciality electric store Crooze, says the way the rider moves determines the direction and speed they travel.
“They are very similar to traditional roller skates but with self-balancing technology, so it will take a bit of time to be comfortable riding on them,” she says.
“Like anything, though, once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll enjoy it more.”
How much do they cost?
E-skates cost from $650.
Buy with caution
If you’re considering buying an eRideable device of any kind, ensure it fits the definition of an eRideable devices under WA’s eRideable laws, otherwise you may only be allowed to use the device on private property. Visit the Road Safety Commission website to find out more.
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