Review: Unagi Electric Scooter

Disclaimer

This is just a personal review of a Kickstarter project I backed. I am not receiving any compensation or consideration of any kind from Unagi. They did not ask that I endorse their product. These are just my personal thoughts, opinions, and reactions.

First Impressions

I arrived back in SFO for a week yesterday, and the first thing I did when I got to the apartment was get my Unagi box from the concierge. It arrived while I was away. When you “bet on” a Kickstarter project, you always wonder what your going to get versus what is promised or hoped for; so, I wanted to let you know my first impressions.

The box has a small plastic handle on the side. And you really can pick it up by that handle.

The very first impression, upon picking up the box at the concierge: Wow! This box is much lighter than I thought it would be. That’s great news. Can’t wait to buy the carrying bag. This scooter is light enough you actually can carry it on your shoulder.1

Unboxing

“Unboxing,” I guess, is now “a thing,” and unboxing was straightforward and without any issues–no hideous hard plastics to have to cut away while worrying about cutting yourself or scratching the scooter. The box itself is even beautifully done, much like the box of an Apple product. Assembly was simple: 4 screws. I was thankful they included the tool as we just have a screwdriver and a hammer here at the apartment.

The paint job is gorgeous. Their advertising is on point: it has the look and feel of a paint job found on a luxury car. It’s really nice! Damn!

And while the scooter is astonishingly light and easy to pick up, it feels as solid as a luxury car. It’s easy to balance and carry. It’s easy to snap the handlebar in place to ride and collapse to carry. The rubbery handlebar grips feel really good with that bit of “grab.” My hands aren’t going to slip off of them.

The base for the feet is also a really nice non-slip rubbery material. (I usually HATE branding labels, but the Unagi brand embossed into the rubbery material actually looks subtle, sophisticated and cool. Kudos.) The display is easy to read, even through my polarized sunglasses in bright sunlight, and it completely disappears when it’s turned off. Nice.

God, I love this thing. I keep coming back to the fact that it feels like a luxury car: quality materials, great design, well made–no, well crafted, just solid and delightfully tactile. Unagi’s attention to styling and production detail shows. This scooter is absolutely everything David, company founder, said it would be.

First Ride

This morning I tossed it in the car and headed off to Crissy Field for my first ride ever on an electric scooter. That’s right: the last time I rode a scooter was well over 55 years ago, and it certainly wasn’t electric!

My entire experience on the scooter today was in dual motor mode, and I started in Riding Mode One: the slowest. It was easy. I didn’t stay in that mode very long before I was cruising down to the Golden Gate Bridge at 12mph in Mode Two. That seemed fast enough to me as a beginner. Taking in the cool, fresh morning air was delightful. Down by the bridge I actually had some serious wind resistance.

Solid ride. Comfortable ride. Responsive acceleration and variable braking that is easy to predict and understand. In other words, it very quickly “feels right” even to this first-time rider. The Unagi has a piercing- loud horn sound, which, I guess, is a good thing.

Since only one car was at Fort Point, I spent a good bit of time riding around this area, getting a good feel for the electric scooter. After cruising around Fort Point, I went back via the Warming Hut. This route took me “off road” for a bit. In other words, I got off of the pavement and onto a dirt path (both hard/packed dirt and soft, loose dirt in places) and a bit of gravel.

My Unagi scooter handled much like a bike does. The hard and packed dirt was a lot like rough pavement: considerably bumpier but easy riding. The small sections of soft, loose dirt were more work and required more electricity for the motors. And the gravel areas were a touch of slip and slide, which also required a bit more juice for the motors. Again, I found the ride was very consistent with the way a bicycle handles in the same conditions.

Oh, I also went through a very wet area with a significant amount of water actually moving from one side of the road to the other down by the Golden Gate Bridge. I slowed way down. I didn’t want to get my new scooter all messy and wasn’t too sure how it would respond to moving water-flow on the pavement. Frankly, I didn’t notice any difference at all, but I was only going around 5 – 7mph.

After riding around the Warming Hut on non-paved paths, I went back to the paved paths along Marina Boulevard and travelled all the way east to Laguna Street and up that steep hill entering the Great Meadow Park at Fort Mason. Riding Mode Two got me about half way up that hill, but the hill was just too steep. I put my Unagi in Riding Mode Three and went right up the hill from a complete stop, mid-hill.2

I had used half of my battery at this point, having traveled about 4 – 5 miles I think. Since I don’t “know” the scooter’s range yet through my own experience with it, I decided to head back to the car which was a good distance away. I left my Unagi in Riding Mode Three and went back to the car at around 15 – 16mph. I didn’t want to get too crazy, but this speed was just too fun not to enjoy.

When I got back to the car, I had traveled 7 miles in total, mostly on paved bike paths, and I still had just over half (3 out of 5 segments) a battery charge remaining.

The Unexpected

One of the things I noticed and hand’t expected: when traveling at speed, the scooter makes an electric “whirring” sound sort of like our Nissan Leaf (car). It’s not annoying or terribly loud, but the sound is noticeable. I suspect all electric scooters do that, but this is my first electric scooter experience. So, I don’t know for sure.

Oh, and I didn’t expect it, but when using the brake, the brake light actually comes on. Nice touch. (At first I thought I had accidentally turned on the lights, but the headlight wasn’t on. Then I realized the brake activates the brake light. Cool.)

Why I Bought the Unagi

Our apartment is near the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I’m retired and enjoy walking along the water there. I bought the Unagi with the hopes that I would be able to get outside in the fresh air and enjoy/explore more of the area from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge than I can on foot in a single walk. I can now get to restaurants and shops/markets that are further away than a reasonably short walk. Getting the car out to do the same is just a bit inconvenient (traffic and parking!) and feels more removed from enjoying “being outside.”

After doing a lot of online research, I chose the Unagi Kickstarter project because Unagi seemed to have done their homework on electric scooters and appeared to be passionate about problem-solving to produce a quality electric scooter user experience. Their plan appeared to have been the product of numerous iterations, and the device looked well-designed. 

I’ve had more good luck than bad, but with a Kickstarter project, you just never know, right? I didn’t get to see and touch the scooter first; I didn’t get to try one out before buying. This Kickstarter was the chance to invest in something innovative that just might turn out to be “best in class.” I’m hard to please, but I wasn’t disappointed at all! The Unagi is everything David said it would be, and I’m a delighted customer.

Suggestions for Improvement

I’ve been trying really hard to think of suggestions for improving the Unagi. No matter what an electric vehicle’s range is, someone will want more. When we got our first generation Nissan Leaf, I worried the 100 mile range would be insufficient. Over the past 10 years I’ve literally use it for all of our local, around town driving, and the range has never been problematic. (Well, I did shave it crazy close once, okay, twice!) Unagi’s range choice is also research-based. I suspect I will never need to exceed it.

The only suggestion I can really think of is the sound of the horn. Today I heard the gentle bell trill of a traditional bicycle behind me signaling the rider was going to pass me. I really like that sound. It’s pleasant, even friendly.

When nobody was around, I tried the horn on the Unagi and almost jumped out of my own skin. It will certainly get your attention! Sure, there are times for a “You JERK!” horn sound. But frequently you just want to say, in a friendly manner, “Hi. I’m here.”

Maybe having two or three horn sounds to choose from, including that delightful bell trill, would be nice. A single hard press and hold could be the loud, piercing horn, and a double click could be the bicycle bell trill?

Oh, and here’s another thought. Distance on a scooter feels different than distance in a car. I traveled what felt like a long way before the odometer registered “1.” I thought I must have reset it without noticing. Having a single decimal point would be great. You could then see how far you travel in tenths of a mile. With a total range of 14 – 15 miles, that might be helpful.

Conclusion

I think the Unagi is as perfect an electric scooter as I could ever hope to find. Yes. I suspect it really is best in class. It’s gorgeous, even elegant. It’s quality from top to bottom. Solid. It’s a good value. Riding it is great fun. I couldn’t be more pleased. I highly recommend it even if you are purchasing it like I did: sight unseen. If you’ve already seen one, then you know.

All of our vehicles are electric. I guess I’m addicted to torque. Oh, I need a t-shirt: Addicted to Torque! I’ve always said, once you ride electric, you never want to ride fossils again.


  1. Don’t get me wrong: it still has some weight to it, but I didn’t find it crazy heavy. 

  2. That hill has to be more than a 15º incline, probably approaching a 20º incline (?), and, again, I was starting from a complete stop on a serious incline.