It’s nearly 2018, and we were lead to believe by this time flying cars, hovercrafts, and fully autonomous homes would be run-of-the-mill. While that clearly was a case of overly-imaginative minds, there has been some impressive advancement in other areas like personal electric transportation. While these strides towards convenient and green local travel have pushed the envelope, the big question is whether electric personal transportation will ever be a viable option for mass market appeal. Ninebot by Segway seems to believe it will with their miniPRO.
Ninebot has been innovating in the personal electric transportation vehicle space since they came out with their electric unicycle a couple years ago, the Ninebot One. They drummed up a ton of noise when demos showed riders jumping it off stairs and trick maneuvering, looking like Gizmoduck from the Darkwing Duck cartoons. While that was certainly cool, their goal was always to target the larger market, and their revamped model the Segway Ninebot miniPRO blends fun with practicality, in a cost effective model that aims to be a hit across the board.
Who is Ninebot by Segway?
Everyone remembers Segway as the first company in America to come out with a two-wheeled, standup electric personal transportation device way back in 2001. These are what you see security guards and police rolling around on, or tourists cruising on in flocks. They never really caught on much with the average consumer.
Ninebot had far more appeal with their products, as they were sleeker, lightweight, with more advanced technological features. The Ninebot models blew up in China, and in 2015 Ninebot bought Segway and took lead on all the consumer model products under the name Ninebot by Segway. We first got our hands on their early model self-balancing two-wheeled personal electric transportation gadget (the E+) and did some pretty extensive coverage of that a couple years ago, but their second gen model looks even better.
Electric transportation performance
The miniPRO has a max speed of 11.2mph, with about an 18.6 mile range. That is pretty solid for a device this small, which uses a 5,700mAh Li-Ion battery and 800W dual motors to power the transporter up 15° inclines.
The unit itself has a water resistance rating of IP54, so it could be ridden in some light rain and withstand puddles but shouldn’t be soaked. Brains of the operation monitor and make 200 adjustments per second from numerous precision sensors, to help maintain stability and self-balance, along with safety precautions.
The handling on this thing is impressive, and getting up to the max speed is quicker than I expected. Stopping on a dime and turning is all very intuitive, and feels like a natural extension of body movement.
Riding on the asphalt or cement is super smooth, and while it had no trouble on hard dirt or short grass, it did slow things down a bit, as you would expect. Taking speed bumps requires some practice and a bit of trust in the unit’s self-balancing, but it was not a major hindrance. I will say that turning sharply from a high rate of speed is ill-advised, since the body’s forward momentum might cause a spill, but the unit itself seems to remain planted in these scenarios.
Practical by design
Having tested out the first models of the Model C, One, and E+ back in 2015, Ninebot definitely had the quality aspect down pat, but one thing I noticed was the models were all a bit cumbersome (not to mention pricey). This new iteration is much more lightweight, with a smaller form factor than the other two-wheeled models and can be tucked away without too much bother.
The miniPRO has forward-facing white LED headlights, with a dual set of RGB LEDs on the rear for brake lights. Beyond the traditional red lighting though, different colors can be programmed to display depending on the action, like slowing down, turning, acceleration, and so forth.
The frame is made from aircraft-grade magnesium alloy to maintain strength and rigidity, which gives the miniPRO a 220lb max payload capacity. On the softer side, the footpads are airy and have a comfortable rubber that I wouldn’t mind standing on for several miles, while the thigh supports are ergonomic and pleasant. After riding for a little while the arches of the feet are a touch sore, mainly from leaning forward and applying pressure, something like turning backside on a snowboard.
The miniPRO connects to the accompanying app via Bluetooth, which enables access to an anti-theft alarm, remaining battery range, error diagnostics, LED customization, and other input parameters.
One nice thing about the technology in the miniPRO is the overall stability, and how it notices a rider’s dismount. This was something the previous Ninebot models featured as well, however the responsiveness seems to have been improved even more. Even for the normally unsteady, it only takes a couple of seconds to mount up and feel at ease with the balance.
I’m sure everyone remembers the exploding hoverboards a couple years back, which was a prime example of low-quality products flooding the market to capitalize on a trend, without any concern for safety and security. In the wake of this the UL (an international electronic safety company) turned to Ninebot before their acquisition of Segway, and consulted them on what the standards should be to certify this type of product moving forward. If someone is looking for a quality stamp of approval, a global certification organization asking for a company’s help to create quality standards is it.
Where the rubber meets the road
This is not going to be a viable option for everyone to use as a electric transportation vehicle, but there are situations that make it very well-suited for some. I can see this being a great option for students headed to college who are not going to have a car to get around. Those students will likely be living on/close to campus, and this is a solid option for those individuals.
At $595 it certainly isn’t cheap like a skateboard or bike, but it does provide some good range that makes for a legitimate local travel solution. With only about four hours from a dead battery to full charge, the miniPRO is definitely a personal transportation gadget that can fit into daily life, without range anxiety. For commuters in metropolitan areas looking for a little more freedom, the miniPRO provides a good way to get around that cuts out taking public transit, paying for parking, horrible traffic, or getting sweaty riding a bike to work.
Personally, my work commute lies on the outer limits of this device’s range, and I would really hate to push it, only to end up walking the last few miles with 28lbs of machine in tow. But for those who are in a metropolitan area, or college students looking for a good alternative to driving and paying for overpriced parking passes, this could be a solid alternative.
Electric personal transportation has really come a long way in the last several years, and it won’t be slowing down any time soon.
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