NIU launches new lighter, stronger carbon fiber electric scooters

NIU, the Beijing-based power player in the electric scooter market, has just released a pair of new electric scooters. Unlike the moped-style rides that the company is most famous for, these are standing scooters. Meet the NIU KQi Air and KQi Air X.

Crafted of a carbon fiber frame, the KQi Air X tips the scales at just 25.8 lb (11.7 kg). For a ride that can hit 20 mph (32 km/h), that’s pretty impressive.

Or at least, it’s impressive for Americans. If you’re in Europe then you’ll have a lower 25 km/h speed limit. And if you’re in Germany, you’ve got a double foul with an even lower 20 km/h limit (that’s 12 mph in screamin’ eagle freedom units). Well, at least you can enjoy your extra long range!

The scooters have a maximum range of between 28-31 miles (45-50 km), depending which spec sheet or website page you believe. That’s thanks to the relatively large 451 Wh LG battery; but of course you’re only going to get that awesome range if you’re sticking to slower speeds. So ride like a German if you want to go far, apparently.

Both the KQi Air and KQi Air X have a 350W motor rated for 700W of peak power and can climb a maximum grade of 20%. They ride on 9.5×2.3″ tires, feature front disc brakes and rear regenerative braking, a half-twist throttle, and both front and rear LED lighting. The front headlight is NIU’s signature halo light, and there are also turn signals built into the handlebar ends.

The scooters feature “5 hour fast charging,” which sounds like an oxymoron to me.

“Hey Jimmy, can you come out and ride?”

“Sorry fellas, I’ll have to meet you in five hours when my fast charger is done.”

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a 5-hour recharge time. That’s pretty standard and most people simply charge overnight anyway. But let’s not play fast and loose with the word “fast.” Or “loose,” while we’re at it.

The NIU app, which works across NIU’s various models of standing scooters, seated scooters, bikes and motorcycles, allows riders to access features like NFC smart unlocking, ride stats, Bluetooth connectivity, over-the-air updates, and more. I use the NIU app for my own electric scooter (the seated variety) and it’s both slick and effective – not gimmicky.

As far as I can tell, the main difference between the two scooters unveiled today is that the non-X version is 0.4 pounds (180 grams) heavier, and also comes with a red or white on black colorway. The ever-so-slightly lighter KQi Air X benefits from an entirely carbon fiber frame (as opposed to a carbon and magnesium/aluminum frame), and comes in a gold on black colorway.

Oh, and there’s a price difference, too. The KQi Air has an MSRP of US $1,399 while the KQi Air X comes in at US $1,799. It looks like there will be an early-bird promotion when pre-orders open on September 19, dropping the price to just US $949.

Electrek’s Take

Oh. My. God. A half-twist throttle! There’s a lot to like here but I’m nerding out over perhaps the simplest feature of the entire scooter. There are four main types of throttles out there in the scooter world (full-twist, half-twist, thumb, index finger), but there’s only one correct throttle – half-twist.

Half twist throttles are simply superior. They allow you to keep all five fingers securely wrapped around the handle bar, aren’t effected by rough terrain that would have your thumb bouncing up and down on a thumb throttle, and offer the most control (twisting the hand is a much finer motor skill than wagging a thumb). And unlike full-twist throttles, they don’t have the danger of accidentally catching the bar end on an obstacle and activating the throttle. This is a hill I’m prepared to die on, and so I’m glad to see a half-twist throttle here.

Much of the rest of the scooter is also impressive to me. I love the lightweight design, and anyone who regularly carries their scooter up more than two or three steps will appreciate.

The only downside is the price. You get a lot here (NIU’s app connectivity is second to none, in my opinion), but damn those are some expensive prices. Especially when you’re not getting any suspension either, you better really love the NIU ecosystem.

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