Electric scooters are gaining in popularity across the UK and there is more news coverage following the launch of a government electric scooter trial earlier this month.
We look at what electric scooters are and whether they are currently legal in the UK.
What is an e scooter?
Electric scooters, also referred to as e scooters, are two wheeled scooters which have a small electric motor which powers them.
Electric scooters have grown in popularity in recent months and years across the world.
How do electric scooters work?
Electric scooters are very similar to two wheeled manual scooters, with the exception of being powered by a motor.
All of the propulsion is provided by the motor. If the battery is flat, then they will not work.
This is where they differ from electric bikes. With an electric bike the motor assists the user when they are pedalling. But with an electric scooter, the motor does all of the work.
Electric Scooters are classed as ‘powered transporters’ by the Department for Transport.
How fast can electric scooters go?
Reports vary as to exactly how fast electric scooters can travel. But many are limited to a top speed of 15.5mph.
However, some sources refer to electric scooters which can travel up to 30mph.
Are electric scooters legal in the UK?
If you own your own electric scooter, then it is not currently legal to ride it on UK roads. Privately owned electric scooters can only be used legally on private land, with the landowner’s permission.
If you do ride your own electric scooter on roads, cycle lanes or pavements you are committing an offence and can be stopped by the police and fined/given a penalty.
Electric scooters are currently classified as ‘powered transporters’ so they are subject to the same laws that apply to motor vehicles and must meet the same legal requirements as motor vehicles.
Given the nature of electric scooters, it is very difficult for them to meet these requirements (insurance, payment of vehicle tax, licensing and registration amongst others) and therefore they are illegal to use on UK roads currently.
But the government have recently launched an electric scooter trial with the aim of informing the decision as to whether to fully legalise the use of electric scooters in the UK.
What is the electric scooter hire trial scheme?
From the 4th July it became possible to legally ride an electric scooter on roads (except motorways) and in cycle lanes and tracks, as long as the electric scooter is part of one of the trials hire schemes.
In order to hire an electric scooter through one of the trial schemes, you must have a valid UK driving licence (either a provisional or full licence). It is recommended that you wear a helmet, but this is not mandatory.
Escooters in the trials also need to have a valid motor insurance policy in place given they meet the definition of a motor vehicle. But rental operators will be responsible for ensuring that an insurance policy is in place for the trials.
It remains illegal to ride a privately-owned electric scooter on UK roads or cycle lanes.
The hire scheme trial has been brought forward in response to Covid-19 and the desire to keep people off of public transport as well as find other greener alternative transport types.
Trials are expected to last for 12 months and are happening across the country rather than in just 4 locations as initially suggested.
Following the trials, the government are expected to make a decision on whether to legalise the use of electric scooters in the UK.
What could the insurance implications be if electric scooters are legalised?
As yet it is unknown exactly what the insurance requirements of electric scooters will be. Whilst electric scooters are currently classed as motor vehicles this creates a need to have a valid motor insurance policy in place.
Yet this may not be the case if electric scooters are classified differently in the future.
BIBA have recently suggested that a low-level minimal insurance requirement unique to electric scooters may be a better solution than requiring a full motor insurance policy. Putting focus on third party compensation for victims of an accident.
This is a new area moving quickly due to the active trials and a desire to find alternative greener forms of transport for people. We’ll be keeping an eye on how the trials progress and updating our blog with further information as and when we have it. Particularly when it comes to electric scooter law and the subsequent insurance requirements.