Unagi Model 1 E500 Dual Motor: Reviewed!

24-Dec-2021 Like this? Dislike this? Let me know

TL;DR

A superb scooter to handle the "last mile or two" problem in commuting or going a few blocks and back very quickly -- but it won't go far.

Always start with The Good Things

I did extensive research on the electric scooter market, had specific requirements, and knew what I was getting into with the Unagi Model 1 E500. After 8 months and 500 miles of ownership, here are my observations:
  1. Highly portable. This was my #1 requirement. Only 26lbs, compact design, trim (only 2 short external cables, no sharp edges, remarkably few protrusions, etc.), and fast-foldable, the Unagi transitions between road and not-road with aplomb.
  2. More than fast enough for the bike lane in NYC. Top speed is 19-20mph and that is too fast for narrow bike lanes in NYC.
  3. Impressive pickup and hill climbing ability for a small scooter. There is only 500W nominal power output to the dual motors yet I climb the hills of Central Park and the Upper West Side at 16+mph. I can even tackle the steep grade in the car parking facility at 9 mph.
  4. Electric braking is very good but cannot approach the deceleration of physical brakes applied in a controlled emergency stop. As a bicyclist, I know.
  5. Yes ... it is a very nice looking unit. The deck in front of the rear wheel enclosure is less than 1 1/4 inch thick. From the side at a few feet away it looks impossibly thin, an effect further reinforced by the additional thinning of the rear wheel support arms. The handlebar integrated dashboard is slick but also helps reduce external clutter: snag points, cables, etc.

As fond as I am about the unit and would recommend it to others, one must consider another factor: range.

Figure on a maximum usable range of 7 miles under the BEST circumstances

The Unagi website has this to say about range:
The Unagi Model One, for example, lists a range of 15.5 miles (25 km) for both its single-motor E250 and dual-motor E500. Some scooters will list a slightly lower range, some higher. But it's important to understand that this is only an estimate and may not represent real world conditions. Achieving optimal range depends on a number of variables, including scooter weight, rider weight, terrain, average speed, battery size, motor size, and motor efficiency. Electric scooter manufacturers calculate range using a few basic assumptions that may not apply to many riders, including a weight of around 165 lbs (75kg), an average cruising speed of around 12 miles per hour, little to no wind, and dry, flat terrain.
Most of my scooting is relatively short, using both motors and top speed, and then recharging the unit in the evening. That works fine, but it began to irk me that I was routinely using 75% of the battery charge after only a few miles of scooting. I decided to perform a controlled experiment:
  1. The unit was fully charged.
  2. The speed control was set to level 2 to max it out at 12mph -- just like the range conditions standard suggests.
  3. Single motor mode was used.
  4. Outside temp 55F.
  5. A 0.5 mile downhill ride on asphalt was made to Riverside Park. There is a wonderful flat 0.4 mile asphalt paved track that was perfect for just scooting back and forth, back and forth, to drain the battery. Very little braking needed, just constant throttle (but top speed limited) 12mph on flat asphalt. I weigh a bit more than 165 lbs but I assert not so much more that it would materially affect a steady speed test, i.e. no extra energy to stop or accelerate. And certainly no hills.
My expection was not to get 15.5 miles but perhaps 12? Remember: these are ideal conditions.

I got only 7.5 miles before the battery completely gave out.

And the battery indicator went from white bar to red bar very quickly in the last .5 mile and performance suffered significantly, leading to my assertion that the maximum usable range is 7 miles. I walked / coaxed the unit home and did a full recharge and tried again. Again, only 7.5 miles. If this is the result under the best circumstances, then what happens in other scenarios? Read on!

Scenario Codes:

# motorsTop SpeedScenarioUsable RangeNotes
112A7The Best Case
219A6 Something of a surprise here: only a 14% reduction in observed maximum range for dual motor and top speed! The battery drain at the end is significant; at 1 white bar on the meter, you had better be close to a charger because it will go red in about 0.7 miles.
219C5 Not surprising that rolling hills would reduce the 6 mile range on flats even further. The meter went from 1/4 to zero (not even red) and the 3-beep warning started at 4.5 miles. Switched to single motor mode and interestingly enough, managed to go another 1.3 miles to get home, and the unit did not give out. Unagi has to rework the battery meter algorithm.

Other Important Observations and Experiences

  1. The lack of suspension and (almost) solid wheels demands a bent-knee, body-assist active ride profile. That's fine and after only a short amount of time you get used to this but make no mistake: this is not a luxurious cruising vessel. At speeds below 10mph (which is still over 3X faster than walking), it is far easier to spot and avoid "problems." Faster than that, you have to really be on your game.
  2. The (almost) solid wheels do not behave like inflatable tires. In particular:

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