Our guide to electric scooter brakes

10/17/2022

Our guide to electric scooter brakes

When you’re looking to purchase an electric scooter, the brakes on your vehicle will no doubt be one of the most important considerations for you to undertake.

Brakes are what keep you safe while riding your electric scooter around town or commuting to work, so it’s essential that they work properly in any situation. It's no good having a state-of-the-art braking system if you don't know how to use it and it fails in your moment of need.

Electric scooters can come with many different types of brakes, though the three most common choices are disc brakes, drum brakes, and foot brakes. Each has its own pros and cons when it comes to braking performance, so it's best to familiarize yourself with all of the different braking systems if you're still yet to make a purchase.

Some of the things you'll want to look out for when electric scooter shopping are the type of brakes each model has, as well as the braking distance (how long it takes to come to a complete halt). This is because the same system might be less effective on different models, for example, a top-quality drum brake might stop a lot faster than one with cheap brake pads.

In this article, we take a look at the different types of electric scooter brakes that are available today, their pros and cons, and any other points of interest worth knowing for each braking system.

The different types of electric scooter brakes

There are five real contenders when it comes to braking systems, which can be split into two distinct categories; mechanical brakes and electronic brakes.

You should read reviews to find out the quality of the braking system that is on the electric scooter you are considering buying, because they aren't all as effective, even if they're similar.

Different brake systems also come with varying levels of maintenance required to keep them working well, which can be a deciding factor between different electric scooter brake types.

Mechanical systems

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The mechanical brake category is larger and hosts the three most common types of brake that you are likely to find on an electric scooter. This category consists of disc brakes, drum brakes and foot brakes, which all require force or mechanical input to utilize.

Disc brakes and drum brakes are usually triggered by the rider pulling on a brake lever on their electric scooter handlebar system, which in turn pulls on the brake cable, which causes the drums (or brake pads) to touch the wheel. As the wheel spins with the brake pads touching it, the friction causes it to spin at a slower speed, bringing the electric scooter to a stop.

Foot brakes are the third type of mechanical brakes, but they are not activated by the rider's fingers. Foot brakes are essentially a cover on the electric scooter's wheel (almost always the rear wheel), which the rider steps down on to cause the scooter wheel to succumb to pressure and slow to a stop.

Typically, foot brakes are the least effective braking system and they can also cause a scooter to skid in wet conditions. Usually, foot brakes are a secondary backup option for electric scooters, usually used in tandem with other brakes or for gentle deceleration rather than stopping rapidly.

The history of brakes for two-wheeled vehicles

Brakes on a two-wheeled vehicle were first invented in 1879, when the first bicycles with brakes were built. The first bicycle brakes were actually made with flat pieces of wood or metal that were pressed against the rims of the wheels to slow down the bicycle.

Today, instead of wood or metal, you'll most likely find a rubber brake caliper on your bike or scooter, because they are much less damaging to the rim of the wheel.

The first bicycles were also quite heavy and hard to control, due to the materials they were made from and how much effort was required by their riders, so they could have probably really used some more efficient braking systems.

In 1894, the first motorcycles were invented and they had brakes. The first motorcycles had brakes similar to bicycles, and they were also made with wood and metal, and their brakes were also made from metal, which quickly wore down the wheels and required maintenance.

The electric scooter really came onto the scene in the last 15-20 years, and by that time modern bicycle brakes were already pretty efficient with good stopping power. The same technology has been applied to electric scooters, and it keeps on improving, which is how we've now come to see a new category of braking systems.

Electronic systems

This category of electronic braking systems for electric scooters includes two different varieties or possibilities that you might come across.

As a general rule of thumb, electronic brakes require zero maintenance in comparison to their mechanical counterparts. This is because they do not rely on components or need to create friction to work, so the rider never needs to worry about the condition of the braking surface, or getting new brake pads.

They also weigh less than more conventional brakes, because they work by taking something away from the motor rather than using force to make it come to a stop.

Drum brakes

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Drum brakes are the most common type of brake on electric scooters. They have a brake shoe, which is usually made from steel, aluminum or stainless steel and the entire brake system is usually encased over the front or rear wheel.

Drum brakes work by having an inner drum that rotates with a wheel mounted outside it. With a drum brake, when you squeeze the brake lever, it pushes a rod that forces the inner drum against the outer drum. The friction created causes heat, which stops your scooter.

Advantages of drum brakes

The main advantages of drum brakes are that they’re simple, reliable, cheap to produce, and produce a great amount of braking power. They also don’t use much energy to operate, so you can get a lot of stopping power from just a small amount of effort. They are very responsive, even in wet conditions, if the drum brake is enclosed from external conditions.

Disadvantages of drum brakes

The disadvantages of drum brakes are that they wear out quickly if used too much or for long periods at high speed. Drum brakes overheat, and so they wear down, which means that they require frequent maintenance to uphold the same amount of braking power. This sensitive nature means that in the long run, they can be more expensive than other braking systems.

Disc brakes

Electric scooter disc brakes work by engaging a small metal disc that’s attached to the wheel, which in turn presses against the brake pads. The pads then push on the rotor (which is rotating to move the wheel) which then slows down your electric scooter.

Many people prefer disc brakes over alternatives like drum brakes or electric brakes, because of their strong stopping power. Essentially, mechanical disc brakes are the most effective at bringing your scooter to a safe stop, and that is reflected in the price.

Hydraulic disc brakes are different to normal disc brakes in that they use fluid instead of air to operate. This makes them significantly more efficient and easier to maintain than their mechanical counterparts. However, they are also a lot more expensive and can be prone to leaking if not properly maintained.

Advantages of disc brakes

The main advantage of disc brakes is that they’re effective in both wet and dry conditions. Disc brakes are more responsive than drum brakes, which means they can be applied more quickly, and are more durable as well.

They also require less effort to slow down due to the fact that they don't have as much friction in the system as drum brakes do. As a result, you'll be able to stop faster and with greater precision when using disc brakes.

Disadvantages of disc brakes

The disadvantages of disc brakes are that they're more expensive, require more maintenance and are heavier than their drum counterparts. If you're looking for a scooter that's easy to store or move around, then it might be worth considering one with drum brakes instead.

The addition of disc brakes will no doubt be reflected in the price of your electric scooter, but that's the price you have to pay for the best stopping power on the market. Don't get too hung up on stopping stats though, because if you stop too quickly you risk skidding.

Foot brakes

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Foot brakes are the simplest type of braking system, and are found on nearly all electric scooters, usually as a secondary option for peace of mind more than their stopping power.

How foot brakes work is by pushing down with your foot on a hinged fender that sits above the rear tire, creating friction on the wheel and bringing you to a slow stop.

Even though it seems like an easy feat to lift one foot off the deck and push it down on the fender, it can cause you to lose balance, so be careful when trying it for the first time. You always push on the rear tire which is why they are sometimes called a rear brake.

The advantages of foot brakes are that they don't add much weight to your electric scooter, they are very simple and don't break easily, and they require no maintenance besides maybe having to change the rear tire from heavy use.

The disadvantages of foot brakes are that they are the poorest-performing brake type, which gets even worse in wet conditions, making them quite unreliable. Also, moving your fingers to operate a brake is much more efficient than moving your whole foot, and doesn't require shifting your body.

Electronic brakes

Electric scooter brakes keep on evolving, and in the past few years they have taken another step up with the introduction of electronic brakes. This is a new technology that is activated by a switch that shorts the terminals within the motor, effectively increasing the resistance to the rotation of the motor.

Electronic brakes for electric scooters are different in how they work because a switch is used rather than a lever, so there is no need to apply pressure. Not many electric scooters have this type of brakes yet as they're a new technology, but they are gaining in popularity.

The advantages of an electronic brake are that it adds no weight to the electric scooter, and doesn't have any brake pads or brake calipers that will need replacing, so require zero maintenance throughout its lifetime.

The disadvantages of this braking system are that it doesn't afford as much stopping power as other options, but a well-implemented system will definitely make your electric scooter brake in more than enough time.

Regenerative brakes

Regenerative braking systems work in much the same way as the electronic braking option above, in that they rely on the kinetic energy of the motor on itself rather than friction from an outside source.

The main difference is that a regenerative brake will transfer the energy created back into the battery, regenerating the battery. However, this generally doesn't add much mileage at all, and until the technology improves it will probably be more of a gimmick to most experienced riders.

They are lighter than mechanical brakes because they don't have a metal disc or mounting bolts or anything like that, but regenerative brakes can be prone to failure, and won't charge the battery if it already holds a full charge.

They are low maintenance brakes, but if you're looking for more stopping power you'll want to opt for a mechanical electric scooter brake instead.

Which brakes does the Unagi Model One have?

The latest Unagi Model One comes equipped with the latest technology in electric scooter brakes, rather than mechanical brakes or regenerative brakes. It also comes equipped with a foot brake on the rear wheel, for added stopping power and extra peace of mind. This means you have brakes on both two wheels, with the front wheel hosting your primary brake.

The independent e-scooter reviewer Electric Scooter Guide said that the Unagi came to a halt in16.9 feet, which is on par with a top-of-the-range mechanical disc brake. The main benefit of electronic brakes though, is that they require no maintenance, even with a lifetime of use.

Electronic brakes work by activating a switch or lever which is usually found on the handlebars of electric scooters, which brings the motor to a stop. This causes a massive increase in physical resistance to the rotation of the motor, rapidly bringing the scooter to a controlled stop.

The addition of a manual foot brake on the rear wheel means that you can increase your stopping power when used in tandem with the electronic brakes on an Unagi, and also have peace of mind for the extremely unlikely event that motor power shuts off during your ride.

So which electric scooter brakes are the best brakes?

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The answer to this question is quite subjective depending on what it is that you're looking for in your electric scooter braking system. Electric scooters work by creating power to move forward, which then needs power to stop quickly, usually by the application of a front brake.

If you go with mechanical, you have to choose between disc or drum. Drum brakes are less effective at bringing your vehicle to a stop than disc brakes because they don't dissipate heat as well or have as much surface area for contact with other surfaces as discs do.

Electric scooter disc brakes are the most effective in terms of having strong braking power, but are more expensive than drum brakes and require as much maintenance.

An electronic brake system adds no weight to the vehicle and does not need maintenance, making it the most reliable braking system for electric scooters on the market.

Unagi All-Access

If you're not sure if electronic brakes are the right choice for you, why not try out the latest Model One Unagi scooter with the All-Access plan. For only $49 a month, you can try out a state-of-the-art electric scooter (and its brakes) with full insurance.


Daniel Foley

Daniel Foley

Unagi Life
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“No” is the standard answer to the question of whether you should ride an electric scooter in the rain. But can you ride an electric scooter in the rain? There are times when it may be safe to do so…

Can You Bring an Electric Scooter on a Plane?

7/21/2020

Can You Bring an Electric Scooter on a Plane?

Wondering whether you can take your electric scooter on an airplane? As with all things air travel-related the answer should be simple, right? As you might expect, it’s not—or not entirely—but the short answer is no, you cannot take most…

Is It Worth Buying an Electric Scooter?

6/17/2020

Is It Worth Buying an Electric Scooter?

As cities become more crowded and traffic worsens by the year, the old ways of commuting have become increasingly unsustainable. So, is it worth buying yourself an electric scooter?

How Fast Can Electric Scooters Go?

2/24/2020

How Fast Can Electric Scooters Go?

How Fast Do Electric Scooters Go Step aside, skateboards, electric bikes, and mopeds.  These days electric scooters are so ubiquitous, you can hardly pass by your neighborhood coffee shop, ATM, or happy hour hotspot without encountering one (or a few).…

Micro Mobility & Local Culture

4/15/2019

Micro Mobility & Local Culture

“Nice neighborhood you’ve got there. Sure would be a shame if someone put a highway through it.” So says the text over the face of Robert Moses in a meme that launched the Facebook group “New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented…

Rider Profiles