The way we move around cities is changing. Ride-hailing and -sharing apps are helping lower our dependency on cars, and we're also seeing more ways to move around that don't involve cars at all. We can mostly thank the rise of "rideables" for that — products like electric skateboards and those two-wheeled "hoverboards" that are going to be underneath every tree this holiday season.
But for people who have longer commutes, or want a safer ride, more sensible electric scooters are beginning to materialize. Green Ride — a company based in Israel, where scooters are nearly a way of life — wants to firmly plant its Inu scooter at the top end of that emerging market, next to other newcomers like Gogoro and gas-powered incumbents like Vespa. I recently got to ride a prototype of the Inu, and the experience left me hungry for this impending electric scooter battle.
Like the Gogoro, the Inu is attractive, futuristic, and full of high-tech features. It has a smartphone dock that's compatible with iOS and Android devices. It has a colorful display that fills the handlebar, lights that trim the wheels, and a built-in alarm. The Inu also folds up, like some other scooters do, but it can do this on its own with internal motors — there's no pulling on straps or handles.
Unlike the Gogoro, the Inu doesn't require you to swap batteries or rely on a network of charging stations. It has a 40-kilometer (25-mile) range, and can be fully charged from a standard wall outlet in three hours. It has hydraulic disc brakes in the front wheel and regenerative braking in the back to help maintain that impressive range. It promises comfort, too, in the form of shock absorbers and a leather seat.
The Inu might not be as fast as something like a Gogoro or a Vespa, but that's on purpose — the scooter is speed-limited to 15 km/h so that riders don't need a motorcycle license. (Green Ride says that speed will change in each country according to local regulations.)
But the most strikingly unique thing about the Inu is its design. It's flashy and bold without being obnoxious. The curved, aluminum frame and spare use of color make it look as much like a fashion statement as it does a means of personal transport.
The Inu is flashy and bold
This is mostly thanks to Ori Yemini, the lead designer of the Inu. At 36, Yemini is relatively young, but has held a number of jobs in industrial and automotive design — the latter including a stint at Pininfarina, the company behind a number of famous Ferrari designs.
"The philosophy was to make it peaceful, because most cities' architecture and scenographies are hard lines," Yemini says. "Everything is hard and pointy. In order to make it unique, I thought to make it round as much as I can."
Yemini went on to describe a rather unique approach taken by the team at Green Ride while developing the Inu. They used Facebook to study, on a larger scale, the habits of people who work in city centers. "We tried to understand their way of life, what they hear, the atmosphere that they live in," he says. The next step was to see where they lived, and better understand what surrounded them. "We did virtual travel around the world with Google Maps," Yemini says almost sheepishly, "and we lived for a few hours in some major cities, trying to understand the lights of the cities, the way people dress."
From there, Yemini set out on designing the Inu. "I had inspiration for almost every part: for the frame, for the wings, for the wheels, for the seat," he says. "After I lived the life of those people, we made a market in front of our eyes and we had almost, although they were virtual, we had them in front of our eyes the whole time we designed the product."
The most difficult part of creating the Inu, Yemini says, was striking that balance between high performance and high design. The process was a tug-of-war with engineers who always wanted parts to be "bigger and thicker," he says.
But whatever balance was struck between the opposing sides during development, it worked. It's nearly impossible to spot any of the electronics on the scooter itself. They're all hidden; in the seat, in the aluminum piping, and especially in the wheels. "There is no space for a hair there," Yemini says. "Even to fill the air for the tire, we almost don’t have space for that." He says the same goes for the motor. "If you give us another month, we’d have no space to keep going in development there. Every little space that we had we’ve already used."
The Inu was first shown off at CES last January, but a finished model won't be available until the middle of next year when the company officially launches it in Europe and in New York City. Green Ride recently offered me a ride on a prototype (which you can see above), and we took it around the block at the north end of Times Square.
There's a heavy emphasis on "prototype" here, though — the scooter was literally disassembled in Israel and reassembled in Green Ride's hotel room. That meant that the model they brought did not fold up, and it had some electrical issues that kept it from going very far or very fast. It was more plasticky than the final version will be, and it kept losing one of its front hubcaps.
Despite these issues, the Inu was still a massive head-turner. A dozen people stopped — in the street, on their bikes, or causing traffic in their cars — to ask what it was, what it does, and when and where they could get it. Sure, they were disappointed when I told them about the near $4,000 price tag and the 2016 availability, but that didn't stop them from taking a picture so they could show it to a friend or post about it online.
The Inu is ambitious; the design (and the price) won't be for everyone. The prototype falls short of the promise, but that's okay. I'm still buying into the future that Green Ride and its competitors are selling, even if I have to squint a little to see it.