Can this make commuting in Singapore less of a hassle?

How useful are electric scooters in the streets of urban Singapore? e27′s Terence Ng takes a spin on the Zoom’s ZoomAir

Like most Singaporeans, I have never been very satisfied with the city’s transport system. With cars priced exorbitantly due to government policy, taxis being equally expensive, and public transport groaning and becoming less reliable under increased ridership, getting from one side of the island to another is an exercise in frustration.

In addition, relying on my own muscle power to get around is an iffy proposition, given Singapore’s tropical mugginess. The lack of shower facilities in most workplaces means that employees who walk or bike to work risk dismissal on the grounds of olfactory offensiveness. Hence, it’s with a great sense of anticipation that I took delivery of the ZoomAir electric scooter.

Designed in Germany, the ZoomAir is distributed in Singapore by the eponymously named company Zoom. Using lithium ion batteries and an aluminium alloy chassis, the scooter weighs in at a relatively svelte 9.8 kgs, as compared with other electric scooters and electric bikes. Together with a 250W motor nestled in the front wheel, the batteries give the ZoomAir a range of over 20 km, as well as a top speed of 24 kph.

Like an excited child, the very first thing I did when I received the scooter from Zoom Founder James Lai was to ride it all around Blk 71, where the offices of both e27 and Zoom are located. I was rather impressed by the suspension system initially, being unobtrusive yet effective in soaking up the small bumps in pavement or tarmac.

Grateful for barrier-free ramp access; textured paving, not so much
Why take a product for review when you’re just going to baby it? I will be putting the ZoomAir through its paces, and what better way is there to start than with a short jaunt of around 6 kms from Singapore’s CBD from Marina Square to Somerset?

It is here that I experienced irony at its purest. You know the facilities that are installed to enable barrier-free access for people with disabilities, like ramps and lifts? It seems that they are perfect for transporting the ZoomAir scooter and its rider across steps and levels…. except for the fact that nearly all of them contained tactile tiles. If you want to test the limits of a suspension system’s performance when coupled to tiny 8-inch solid rubber and plastic wheels, just ride the ZoomAir over those bumps.

Surprisingly unobtrusive aboard public transport
How did the ZoomAir scooter find itself in the heart of Marina Square when it was at Ayer Rajah, in Blk 71 previously? While I would dearly love to ride the nearly 10 km distance, the climate and ride quality make journeys of over a kilometre or two a juddering, sweaty proposition.

I had approached the MRT (Singapore’s subway) station with a little trepidation, wondering whether I would have the stamina to carry the nearly 10 kg scooter up and down stairs, if I’d be chastised by staff, and worst of all getting funny looks from all the other commuters in the train. In fact, I needn’t have worried, as the ZoomAir folds down to a relatively tiny footprint, allowing me stand cheek to jowl with other commuters in the rush hour trains.

How do I carry thee? Let me count the ways
My days with the ZoomAir have given me the opportunity to experiment with different methods of holding the scooter, for instances when riding is inconvenient or plain dangerous such as up and down stairs. Below are the main ways of carrying the ZoomAir; two involve folding, and one does not.

ZoomAir2

Folded and ready to squeeze into a crowded MRT cabin!

The first method involves folding the ZoomAir and holding it upright. Folding is a simple process, involving a lever push followed by pulling on the front post towards the footboard.

As can be seen, the footprint is small, about that of a medium-sized backpack. This makes the method suitable for squeezing inside MRT trains with other commuters. Watch out for the dirty rear wheel though!

ZoomAir3

Carrying by the front post like a boss

After much trial and error, I discovered that carrying the folded scooter by the front post offers the most comfortable position. However, the placement of the heavy motor in the front wheel results in a rather lopsided weight distribution, forcing me to hold the ZoomAir near the bottom of the post.

ZoomAir1

When you can’t be bothered to fold the ZoomAir…

I call the last position the “stair-climbing hold”. The reason is because I found myself holding the scooter like this most often when climbing short flights of stairs, where it’s simply too troublesome to fold and unfold it.

Verdict
Apart from the ZoomAir, many electric urban transport vehicles exist on the Singapore market, ranging from scooters and e-bikes like those from MKP to the outlandish Solowheel. Personally, I think that all these vehicles have their uses, with e-bikes well-suited for long journeys on roads and portable, foldable scooters like ZoomAir taking care of last-mile transport to and from MRT stations.

That said, one needs to be careful of traffic regulations, particularly in strict Singapore. A check at the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) ONE.MOTORING website shows that while there are no rules governing electric scooters, electric bicycles are subject to requirements such as a maximum power output of 200W. I rode past police vehicles and policemen with no issues while on the ZoomAir, but would-be riders need to be careful, both to avoid the attention of the authorities and to stay safe.

Priced at S$949 (US$756), the ZoomAir is currently sold out. No announcement has been made on when the next batch will be available. We hope it is super soon!

Also Read: The Next Leap: 10 technology trends that will shape 2014

Terence Ng

With a few failed and unrealized startups under his belt, Terence is no stranger to the startup landscape. He hopes to start something big. Someday. Meanwhile, he is content with bringing the latest startup and technology news to both professionals and lay readers alike.

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  • Gustaf

    Is this a review or an advertorial? Is this review accurate? As I have read about this product on HWZ and consensus seems that it is designed/made in china and originally called the E-Twow

  • http://e27.co/ e27

    How Gustaf, we specifically label any advertorials and sponsored articles as such. This was a review piece done by Terence. – brian.

  • Terence Ng

    Hi Gustaf, thanks for your interest in the article.
    I have intended this review to be more of a lifestyle kind of thing, about how well-suited electric scooters are to commuting in Singapore, as opposed to a more specific evaluation. As Brian mentioned, we will label all advertorials and sponsored articles on e27.

  • Brian Yee Seng Fu

    hi, zoomair is a cheap variant of e-twow. just change the label. if u notice the design is a complete rip off of manual kick scooter. it’s made in China and the china company just take existing design and stuffs the electronics in. It uses Li-Po 24V 5ah. The battery capacity is rather small and when a adult weight is on it, it won’t be able to achieve the 20km range it claims. And only 24V, the motor is not powerful enough to handle slopes. be careful, a lot of china batteries have a lot of reliability issues. Ig is definitely not designed in Germany.

  • Terence Ng

    Hi Brian, thanks for your feedback. While I can’t say for sure whether the Zoom is a copy of the E-Twow, I can vouch for the power of the motor, which could handle 20 degree slopes just fine. As for the range, it can do 15km easy, though I haven’t had a chance to run the battery flat. Top speed certainly suffered at low battery charge though, dropping to 19kph from 24Kph.

  • Nicolas

    Hi Terence,
    Thanks for this exhaustive review !
    I am actually trying to know for good, if yes or no : it is allowed to carry this electric scooter or similar in the MRT ?
    Apparently, it worked for you, but it was just once…what about on daily basis (week days) and during rush hours (before 9.30am) ?
    Is there a way for MRT staff to check in the station if your scooter exceeds the limit ? by the way, what is the limit ?
    I did send several queries to the MRT customer service and their explanations seem akward. They said that the limits are : 85cmX58cmX30cm.
    Hence, the zoomair or similar are not allowed in the MRT…
    What would you say on this ? Have you seen many other users of such scooters in the MRT in Rushinh hours ?

    Thanks for your thoughts…

  • Terence Ng

    Hi Nicolas,
    Thanks for writing in. I’ve tried taking the scooter on board both trains and buses, and have never received any complaints from the authorities and fellow commuters alike. Just make sure to fold the scoot, and place it in a way so as not to obstruct the passengers.
    As for other passengers, no, I’ve not seen other users of such scooters on public transport. I did see 1 or 2 with folded non-electric scooters though.

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