Electric scooters and skateboards are a big draw at the mini exhibitions that happen within big trade shows like CES. At this year’s CES Unveiled, two of them stood out.
First, the UJet: it’s another take on the idea of a smart, foldable electric scooter, though it’s closer to something like a Vespa than a Razor. The UJet has a (limited) top speed of around 30 miles per hour, thanks to a 4kW motor, and will come in two range variants: 43 or 93 miles. Aimed at the European market (but eventually coming to the US and Asia), the UJet will retail for between $8,000–$10,000.
The UJet has a bunch of really weird and fun ideas packed into it. It folds up for easy storage, and even splits up into multiple pieces. The seat section pulls away into its own travel luggage-style roller, and can be used as a speaker. There are also USB ports for powering your devices.
There’s a front-facing camera on the UJet that can record video, and a touchscreen display in between the handlebars with a full-service onboard UI. It’s loaded with smart features, like the ability to unlock the scooter with your smartphone. The corresponding app is also full of data about how the scooter’s performing and holding up over time. The UJet will even alert your phone if someone is trying to steal it.
Even with all this going on at once, the UJet is a fairly polished product. It’s not the best-looking vehicle in the world, but it’s got some style.
A few rows away from the UJet was a far less flashy electric scooter called the Relync R1 that also caught my eye, but for far different reasons. While the UJet would easily lap the R1, which only has a top speed of eight miles per hour and a modest range of about 18 miles. But these specs take on a totally different meaning, because the R1 is meant more as a “mobility” device.
We hear that word thrown around at trade shows like CES, but here it’s worth considering. Relync, a company started in the UK but based out of Shenzhen, China, is trying to sell a foldable electric scooter to people who just need a little help getting around. The R1 might not have as many bells and whistles as the UJet, but it makes a lot more obvious practical sense.
The R1 folds into a luggage-sized form factor in seconds. A few button pushes and a grab of a handle and you’re ready to roll the scooter away. The handlebars even fold down from there so that you can really tuck the R1 into a closet or the back of a car. It might not come with nearly as many features, but the R1 is far more compact than the UJet.
The R1 is also fun, if not thrilling, to drive. The top speed would probably feel sluggish on a sidewalk, but it felt almost too fast to navigate the crowd that filled the Mandalay Bay convention center ballroom we were in.
Relync is asking around $3,600 for the R1. Compared to the UJet, that might sound fair. But Relync has a ways to go in putting the finishing touches on the scooter we saw. The components in the handlebars were really rough in quality. The buttons were loose, and maybe most disappointingly, the horn — which would have been thoroughly useful — was nothing more than a weak beep coming from a speaker hidden somewhere in the body of the scooter.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s likely a company like Relync gets passed by someone with more money, design chops, and distribution reach. The same could probably be said for UJet. The dramatic drop in price for battery and electric motor tech has allowed hundreds of companies like these two to take a stab at forming new ideas. But good ideas, no matter the flavor, can’t keep a company alive.