If there’s one thing 2020’s unprecedented global pandemic has been good for, it’s electric scooters like Elka’s Model-T Pro (£595, Ride with Elka). The UK government is now conducting trials of these environmentally-friendly icons of modern mobility with the aim of helping to keep people off public transport.
However, e-scooters are already everywhere, from pavements (illegal) to parks (illegal) to pedestrianised shopping precincts (illegal) … which immediately begs an obvious question. Are electric scooters legal in the UK?
At the time of writing, you cannot legally ride an e-scooter on a UK public road, cycle lane or pavement. The only place a privately-owned e-scooter can be used is on private land, with the permission of the landowner. It’s different for rental e-scooters.
Despite being illegal to use on public land, it is not illegal to buy or own an e-scooter, and wherever you use it, you’ll need a cycle helmet (and a driving licence).
When government policy catches-up with reality is anyone’s guess – it’s all being debated right now – but regardless, the daily commute is on the cusp of massive change around the world; it’s disappearing for some and becoming a solo activity for others against a backdrop of deadly air pollution.
Cue a new version of Elka’s Model-T Pro, a sleek, lightweight and foldable e-scooter that’s on the cusp of becoming widely available.
Elka Model-T Pro e-scooter review: Design
Matte black and crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium, the Model-T Pro’s otherwise chunky but plain look is cleverly accented by a bright white logo on its steering column and model name on the footboard.
However, what really adds some style is the red-coloured throttle on the right-hand handlebar and a red braking cable protruding from the front and reappearing at the rear’s disc brake.
It's IP54-rated, so waterproof unless it gets submerged, and can easily take riders weighing up to 120kg.
Out of the box not much needs doing to the Model-T Pro; it’s simple fixing ring and folding lever makes it a 10-second job to set-up and collapse it for storage under a desk or on a train, though you will need a small hex key/Allen wrench to tighten the brake (there should probably be somewhere to store this on the structure itself).
It can just about be carried up the stairs/through a train station, though at 12kg don’t plan on doing that without any effort at all – the Model-T Pro is heavy!
Given its weight, the folding nature is just as likely to come in handy for storing it in the boot of a car.
When folded the Model-T Pro is 1083x420x460mm, extending to 1083x420x1186mm when upright.
Elka Model-T Pro e-scooter review: Performance
The Model-T Pro is really, really easy to use. You just switch it on using the standby button on the red wraparound on the right-hand handlebar and nudge the accelerator, though you do need to kick-off manually.
All the while an LED display between the handlebars lets you know exactly what’s going on; your speed in either mph or kmh, your battery level in 20% increments (though an idea of the remaining maximum distance possible would be better), your gear, and whether there’s a fault.
The Model-T Pro’s 700W brushless front hub motor, in theory, reaches 15mph/25kmh in eight seconds. Its motor is actually capped at 350W. However, in our test we got it up to 14mph/23kmh on a flat road, while bumpy or gravel roads reduce that top speed to about 12mph/19kmh.
A short press on the function button – just above the throttle – toggles between three gears; beginner, normal and sports, which control what your top speed can reach (‘normal’ is pointless!). However, the indicator on the LED display that lets you know what gear you are in is very small and hard to see in direct sunlight. It’s also represented as a tiny ‘D’ in white or red, which is needlessly unintuitive. A simple, large B, N or S – or 1, 2 and 3 – would be better.
Elka Model-T Pro electric scooter specs
Max Speed: 15 mph
Range: 9-12 miles
Weight: 12 kg
Motor: 350 W
Water resistance: IP54
Tyre: 10-inch, air-filled
Max Load: 120 kg
Removable battery: Yes
Speed settings: 3
Instead of keeping your finger wavering on the throttle the whole time the Model-T Pro has a novel cruise control option. It kicks-in automatically once you’ve been going at top speed for a few seconds, and is disengaged by any kind of touch to the throttle. You can also force it to cruise at a slower speed. Either way, cruise control is useful when gliding in a straight line.
The brake on the Model-T Pro is a disc brake rather than the more common rim brake found on street bikes, though there’s little difference in how it looks or feels to use. Situated on the left-hand handlebar when squeezed it applies force on a rotor towards the middle of the rear wheel. It works well, with plenty of braking power to bring the scooter to a halt over a short distance. It’s actually part of a clever energy recycling system; when used it puts extra kinetic energy back into the battery.
The Model-T Pro feels stable going at speed. Its 10-inch vacuum-sealed tires prove sturdy enough to go over kerbs and other small obstacles without any clunks, though bad or dirt roads significantly reduce its top speed. Only tight corners are tricky, and very slow; complete U-turns are best done by stoping and manually turning the scooter. The overall 12kg weight that gives the Model-T Pro stability and ride-ability also makes it a little hefty to push along.
Elka Model-T Pro e-scooter review: Battery life
The Model-T Pro’s standard battery, located in the column, is a Panasonic Li-ion that’s rated at 6.4Ah and is enough to fuel journeys of around 9-12 miles/15-20 kilometres.
It takes about three hours to recharge the battery – either in-scooter or slid out of its hatch – using a bulky power supply box, which uses a kettle lead to attach to the mains and an old laptop-style attachment to power-up the battery.
We had a few problems removing the replacing the battery; it’s slightly tricky to line it up and click it into place.
Elka Model-T Pro e-scooter review: Other features
A double-tap of the function button switches-on a six-metre ultra-beam LED headlight, which is positioned just below the handlebars. It’s also got always-on taillights for being seen from behind. They flash when the brake is applied.
The Model-T is the world's first electric scooter with a removable battery. In theory, that means that you’re never going to run out of charge again. Obviously it’s not quite that simple because you will always have to carry a spare battery in a backpack while you ride the Model-T Pro.
At 1.5kg, the battery is heavy – about the same as two laptops – and its 47x9x4.5cm dimensions means it’s not easy to fit into a regular backpack.
It’s available separately for £139, but Elka does sell bigger batteries; the 10.4aH Model T Pro Removable Battery (weighing 1.5kg, extending range to 15-21 miles/25-35km, and taking 4.5 hours to recharge) for £179 and a 12.8aH Super Removable Battery (weighing 2kg, extending range to 21-27 miles/35-45km, and taking 4.5 hours to recharge) for £229.
In practice is a removable battery that useful? For convenience it’s definitely handy to have a removable battery for easily recharging it at, say, a workstation in an office – instead of having to bring the Model-T Pro physically into the office (ditto at home). It’s also far more environmentally friendly to replace the battery when it’s spent – or, more likely, to fit a newer, larger-capacity version – rather than junk the entire scooter.
However, don’t figure on carrying an extra battery – they’re heavy and, besides, who is seriously going to use the Model-T Pro for more than 9 miles/15km each day – let alone 27 miles/45km? We’re not convinced that’s all necessary, but it’s nevertheless great to have options.
Elka Model-T Pro e-scooter review: Verdict
Sleek-looking, smooth-riding and with a removable battery – as well as battery options galore – the Model-T Pro is about as versatile and as future-proof as e-scooters get. If you’re looking for a ‘my first electric scooter’ and you don’t want to cut corners, the Model-T Pro is an expensive, but streetwise choice.