What’s this then?
A scooter with the range and speed of an electric car. Kind of. Provided that electric car is a Renault Twizy or a Citroen Ami. This is the Bo M, and it promises “the smoothest and most stable ride of any vehicle in its class”.
So what’s new about it?
The issues with electric scooters are well known. They’re small, flimsy, unstable and easily stolen. Bo, a Bristol-based start-up with a team drawn from Williams Advanced Engineering and Jaguar Land Rover, has not only made something bigger and stronger, but more innovative.
Central to this is 'Safesteer', which uses torsion springs to stabilise the steering and reduce twitchiness and kickback. There are patents pending on that. Other useful features include a soft foot deck to reduce vibration, flip-out metal hooks/eyelets to carry loads or provide a secure locking point, front and rear lights (not only low power ‘be seen’ lights, but an 800 lumen headlight), a built-in phone holder on the handlebars and brake regeneration.
How fast is it? How far can it go?
It’s limited to 21mph (35kmh) and has a range of 31 miles (50km) from its 655Wh battery. A 1200 watt motor (1.6bhp in old money) gives it zesty acceleration. It’ll charge to 80 per cent in under three hours on a home socket. The other figure you need is £2,249 – that’s what it’ll cost when first deliveries start this November.
But you’ve had a go already?
On a prototype, yes. The throttle mapping hadn’t been finalised and the brake regen was too sudden, but otherwise it did feel smoother and more sophisticated than most other electric scooters we’ve sampled. You’d happily cover miles and feel pretty relaxed while doing so.
It’s important to remember that Safesteer doesn’t remotely equate to ‘hands free’, but it definitely works to reduce the twitchiness that often makes scooters feel like they’re about to spit you into the gutter. It basically works like variable power steering – the more twist you put into the handlebars, the more the spring resists. It’s a self-centring system and works well.
Hang about, you also mentioned brake regen, didn’t you?
Yep, the M has both mechanical (right hand lever) and electric (left hand lever) brakes, the latter helping to top the battery up when slowing or going downhill. Bo is also working on different drive modes that would potentially help maximise range or deliver enough power to pop a wheelie.
What are the drawbacks?
There’s one big one which I’ll come on to separately, but the biggest issue for most people will be the fact it doesn’t fold. Obviously this makes the Monocurve chassis more rigid, but it also makes storage and transportation awkward. Especially when combined with the weight (around 22kg). Not easy to grapple with if you’ve got to deal with a flight or two of stairs. Bo is working on a folding version.
Electric scooters still exist in a grey area, don’t they?
Exactly. This is the biggest issue for most people currently. Bikes and electric bikes are recognised and regulated, scooters aren’t currently because the law views them as motor vehicles but they don’t have a registration plate. They’re legal to buy, but technically can only be used on private land.
However, the government is currently doing trials that permit rented electric scooters (but not privately-owned ones) to be used on roads and bike lanes in certain areas of the country. When these ongoing tests have finished there’s likely to be a change in the law that legalises all scooters.
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However they will also be regulated, which is likely to limit top speeds and/or power output. Expect these new laws to come into force during 2024.
Where does that leave Bo?
Potentially – and in common with all scooter firms – on the cusp of roaring sales success amongst urban commuters. The M is considerably more expensive than most rivals, but the smooth ride and comfort does help to justify that.
As does the design. It might not fold at the moment, but by scooter standards the M is a good-looking thing. A sleek and desirable piece of design that will attract attention. And from next year hopefully of the right sort, not just those able to slap you with a fine.