Popular e-step is not always safe
Many e-steps sold in Belgium are unsafe and unreliable. This is shown by research from Test-Aankoop. The consumer organization subjected eleven e-steps to a quality test. For a lot of models, the results were downright bad. “A lot of models are best described as rubbish,” says Simon November from Test-Aankoop.
The problems are manifold: the construction quality is poor, they can hardly be used when it rains, and the tires are difficult to inflate. This in turn leads to dangerous traffic situations, for example, when braking on a wet road surface.
European directives should bring relief, but they are not yet in place. Until then, road safety institute Vias’ advice is: “Don’t buy the cheapest, but not the most expensive either”.
Buying a pig in a poke
“E-steps are not homologated vehicles,” says Stef Willems of Vias in The Standaard. “There are no objective quality standards for them.” That will change now. A working group has now been set up within the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to lay down the standards for e-steps at the European level. Vias is participating in this.
“A bicycle is not homologated either,” says Willems, “but you know that when you buy a bicycle of a certain brand, you get quality. With e-steps you don’t know that.”
That a lot of e-steps are of substandard quality, confirms also Maxime Danielli, who sells e-steps in two My Mobility shops, in Antwerp and Leuven. “They are imported from China, but there is no service,” he says. “If they break down, all you can do is throw them away. You can’t get spare parts and you can’t repair them.”
Test-Aankoop subjected eleven frequently sold models to a quality test. Both in laboratory conditions and on the street, the steps were checked for, among other things, capacity, reliability, and safety.
Overall, Test-Aankoop was able to establish that there are large differences between the e-steps available on the market. A certain model scored only 24 points out of 100 while the best device in the test scored a considerable 70/100.
In addition to the problems already mentioned, Test-Aankoop saw battery holders that were broken, displays that were missing or illegible, control systems that were totally unstable, and folding mechanisms that were not manageable in practice.
Accident rates are not so bad
To sum up: there’s a good chance you’re going home with a bad bargain, even though most steps cost between 300 and 400 euros. But despite the fact that many e-steps are unsafe and unreliable, it is still not so bad when it comes to reporting accidents involving e-steps.
Earlier this year, Vias requested emergency services from hospitals. These showed that on average one e-step user a weekend ends up in a hospital. What’s more, this was about inexperienced users who often took to the streets for the first time and didn’t wear a helmet.
High sales figures
Meanwhile, more and more Belgians are moving around on an e-step. Not only on shared e-steps but increasingly on their own devices. Hard figures are lacking, but the street scene makes it clear that this means of transport is on the rise.
“Our sales this year are twice as high as last year,” says Danielli. “It has really exploded since the lockdown. We have achieved top results, as have the bicycle salesmen. They are especially popular with young people, especially since the e-steps were picked up by influencers on Youtube and Instagram.”
Soon Mercedez-Benz star on e-steps
Another illustration of the rise of the e-steps: the car manufacturers are also coming on board. Seat and BMW, for example, have had their own e-scooter in their catalog for some time now.
This week, Daimler also stated that an e-step will be launched on the market, with the Mercedez-Benz star on it. The means of transport must become “an emission-free solution for the last kilometers of the journey”.
A great advantage for mobility”
“E-steps have great advantages for mobility,” says Stef Willems. “Anyone who combines public transport and an e-step reduces the number of cars driving into the city. So, we should not be too negative about it, we should only warn for the potential dangers.”
The same rules as for cyclists apply to e-steps, which are allowed to travel at maximum speed for 25 km/hour. Strictly speaking, up to 6 km/hour they can also ride on the footpath, but Vias advises against that.