Electric Kick-Scooters: Are Electric Scooters Legal In The UK?

electric scooter

Electric Kick Scooters Could Become A Common Sight As The UK Government Pushes Ahead To Fast Track The Trials Of Electric Scooter Rentals Schemes To Meet The Needs Of A New Post-Lockdown World! 

Though many of you may have seen electric scooters on the roads and pavements in the UK, these battery-powered vehicles have been illegal till date. But all that is now set to change, as the UK embarks on a new future of active travel.

As we in the UK commence the process of easing the lockdown restrictions, transportation has become a key theme in the narrative to ‘return to work and normality’.  

Given the need to reduce the congestion in public transportation, as the country adapts to a ‘new normal’, electric kick scooters (also referred to as electric scooters) have been propelled to the forefront of the transportation framework, as a potentially important piece of the ‘new mobility framework’.  Electric scooters are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs)

electric scooters
Egret Electric Kick Scooters (credit: Egret)

The government is also encouraging other forms of ‘active mobility’, to include walking, cycling and electric bikes, such that, the dependence on public transportation is reduced.  

In major cities like London, the government, though keen to encourage a ‘back-to-work’ economy, has also the burden of rapidly creating a new transportation framework, that allows returning to work, without increasing the risk of further Covid-19 contagion.  The Department for Transport (DfT) has fast-tracked legislation to commence the trials of electric scooter rental schemes. 

The Department for Transport is to allow rental e-scooters on UK roads as early as Saturday (4th July 2020), with some electric scooter rental schemes becoming available from next week.  However, electric scooters owned privately, remain illegal i.e. these electric kick scooters can only be used on private land (with permission from the landowner).  Any individual using a privately owned  public scooter on a public pavement, road or cycle lane can be prosecuted (£300 fine and six points on the drivers license). 

electric scooter
Power Zero Electric Kick Scooter (credit: Power Zero)

The government will use the next 12 months trials to evaluate the suitability of e-scooters for the longer term.  The government expects most trails to commence by the end of August 2020. 

Electric scooters will be classes as motor vehicles i.e. insurance and a drivers license will be mandatory. According to the DfT “e-scooters offer the potential for fast, clean and inexpensive travel that can also help ease the burden on transport networks and allow for social distancing”. 

The following stipulations will be applied to electric scooters:

  • Maximum continuous power rating of 500 W.
  • Maximum speed: 15.5 mph.
  • Maximum one person.
  • Two wheels: 1 front 1 rear. 
  • Mass not exceeding 55 kg. 
  • Will not be allowed on pavements.
  • Helmets will be recommended but not mandatory.
  • Customers renting will need to have a valid car, motorcycle or moped license.

The government has announced that it has identified four regions ‘Future Mobility Zones’ in England to conduct rental e-scooter trails. The response from councils has been encouraging, with over 50 councils potentially interested in conducting scooter trials. The mobility zones include:

  • The West Midlands 
  • West of England Combined Authority 
  • Portsmouth and Southampton 
  • Derby and Nottingham 
electric scooter
OneMile Electric Kick Scooter (credit: onemile)

Electric kick scooters offer benefits beyond the current Covid-19 crisis.  These include:

  • Reducing congestion: reducing the congestion on already congested and polluted roads, in particular, in densely populated urban environments, like London.  Electric scooters are a very good alternative for shorter commutes within cities and towns. 
  • Reducing air pollution: by reducing the congestion, by encouraging migrating from polluting petrol and diesel cars to zero-emission electric kick scooters, will result in reducing harmful tailpipe emissions.  It has already been well documented that higher levels of pollution are closely correlated to a higher incidence in health problems and increased fatalities. 
  • Reduce noise pollution: though this has not been discussed as much, many of us who live in city centres like London will be quick to point out the significant reduction in noise pollution during the Covid-19 lockdown.  Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles like petrol and diesel vehicles are major contributors to increased noise population in urban environments.  As is the case with electric vehicles, in particular, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), noise levels are very low.  The same is the case for electric kick scooters.  
electric scooter
Power Zero Electric Kick Scooter (credit: Power Zero)

Electric kick scooters are already very popular and legal in a number of European countries. Electric kick scooters are now in use over 100 cities across the globe and in many cases, part of a shared mobility scheme.  Cities that have already witnessed a surge in the use of electric scooters include San Francisco, Paris and Copenhagen. 

Popular electric scooter rental companies include:

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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