You’ve seen them all over your city’s streets, and everyone who rides one looks absolutely thrilled. So, why haven’t you picked up your own folding electric scooter yet? Maybe you’re worried about whether e-scooters require a driver’s license, or a specialized license like motorcycles? Maybe you don’t have a driver’s license. Can you still ride an electric scooter, shared or otherwise?
In some Australian States and Territories, such as SA, QLD, NT & WA, you can ride e-scooters with a normal driver’s license. In other Australian States and Territories like NSW, ACT, TAS & VIC, though, you can only ride an electric scooter after undergoing training and when the motorised scooter passes the appropriate motorcycle test.
First, we need to define what we mean by motorized electric scooter. The term can mean a number of things, from folding scooters like Unagi’s Model One to two-wheeled seated scooters that are more moped-like and have more powerful motors and larger batteries. For the purposes of Australian law, "a motorised scooter means a device that:
- is designed to be used by a single person
- has two or more wheels and a footboard supported by the wheels
- is steered by handlebars
- is propelled by a motor or motors having a combined maximum power output not exceeding 200 watts.
To be assessed as a ‘non-road’ vehicle, a motorised scooter must have a maximum power output of 200 watts or less.
Technical specifications issued by the manufacturer, including evidence of the power output, should be attached to the application form.
Please note that where a motorised scooter exceeds 200 watts, and does not meet the definition of a Personal Mobility Device, it may be considered a LA/LB (Moped) under the national standards or a LC (Motorcycle) and must comply with the requirements of other import options.
These vehicles cannot be imported as ‘non-road’ vehicles unless they meet other ‘non-road’ vehicle requirements.
Generally, when a vehicle is designed for ‘non-road’ or recreational use only it will include design features such as:
- deeply treaded tyres suitable for rough or uneven terrain
- substantial suspension travel
- high ground clearance
- vehicle design suitable for off-road stability
- manufacturer's specifications which outlines the vehicle was made strictly for ‘non-road’ use.
In addition, these vehicles should not have road motor vehicle design features, such as:
- provision for mounting a registration plate
- direction indicator(s)
- brake lights
- rear vision mirror(s)."
Australia has set a good example of adapting to emerging technology, at least when it comes to scooters. Most countries have failed to pass legislation that sets guidelines for scooter specifications and riding, leaving many in a legal grey area. In Australia though, the laws are relatively clear-cut.
The laws around electric scooter riding are constantly evolving. With new scooter-specific laws set to be passed in 2021, the grey area scooters currently sit in should become more clear. The positive news for prospective and existing Unagi riders is that over the first 3 years of the meteoric rise of folding electric scooters in the world, regulatory bodies seem to have been shifting toward regulating small forms of micromobility (like scooters) differently than larger vehicles like mopeds and motorcycles. Governments love how they aid to achieve equitable transportation goals (since many cannot afford a car, gas, parking, and auto insurance), as well as drastically reduce carbon footprints with vehicles that are human-sized and electric. And they’re easier to operate and straight up fun.