If you want to have some fun riding something powered by electric motors, CES is the show for you. Companies show up from around the world with hoverboards, electric skateboards, scooters, and street-legal vehicles of all shapes and colors. This has been the case for a few years now, but something was different at this CES. What were once just fun (and often dangerous) toys for overgrown kids have suddenly started to look a lot more ready for everyday use.
This was no more the case than with the EcoReco M5 Air, a collapsable electric scooter with up to 15 miles of range and a top speed of 20 miles per hour. It wasn't the most attractive rideable at CES, but that was the point. It's the kind of thing I could see myself using on the way to and from work every day, which is essentially how I used it here in Las Vegas.
The EcoReco M5 Air upright versus collapsed.
It's not perfect. At 35 pounds, it's still too heavy to comfortably carry around when it's collapsed. The three-to-four-hour charging time is still a little long, too, especially because the range is so variable — if you ride the throttle hard on the M5 Air, or need to take some hills, you'll likely get closer to 8 miles.
It also doesn't have any smartphone connectivity yet, though EcoReco says it's coming. While at face value that sounds like a gimmicky selling point, Mahindra's electric scooter was proof that a connected rideable can provide you with a ton of value. You can locate the scooter if you lose it, let an app plan your route, and tweak torque and power settings to get more out of the battery and motor.
Mahindra's electric scooter, the GenZe 2.0
Signs of the future of rideables didn't just appear with scooters. Inboard's light and styilsh electric skateboard will come with a low charge time of one hour and, better yet, swappable batteries when it's released later this year. You can also push and coast with the board when you're not using the electric motor. It took a few years for companies like Inboard and ZBoard to figure out how to make this happen, but it's becoming the standard.
All of those things point to a really fun next few years for electric skateboards, and I imagine that over the next one or two these companies will be less obsessed with top speeds. And once a handful of these companies come to market with better battery solutions, the race to the bottom on price will finally begin. (Considering the newly-announced Blink-Board is only $499, maybe it will happen even faster.)
With lower prices and better range, more people will be willing to buy into the idea of electric rideables. But that won't do much good unless regulations catch up. Making a hoverboard so easy to ride that a first-timer can hop on and speed away doesn't mean much if she can't take the thing anwywhere.
The Inboard M1
The legality of electric rideables varies state to state, and it will probably take a change on the order of opening up bike lanes in major cities before rideables reach any significant adoption. And to be fair, some politicians are already trying to make this happen.
That future — one where electric skateboards, unicycles, and scooters become viable modes of transportation — felt a lot further away before this week. But if CES is good for anything, it's that you can use it like a lens. We're no longer squinting at a future full of electric rideables. It's now in focus, and it's staring us in the face.