Scott Ball / Rivard Report
It has a top speed of 14 miles per hour. It has a range of 15 miles. It’s foldable, lightweight, and its price starts at $899.
No, it’s not another hoverboard or the next-generation Segway. It’s not an electric skateboard or one of those standing scooters that are popping up in cities across the United States.
It’s an Urb-E, a two-wheeled electric vehicle that has completely transformed my commute to work and beyond.
For most commuters in San Antonio, the automobile is the most commonly used mode. However, given the relatively short distance of my commute to work I felt an alternative was within reach.
In 2015, I joined the bicycle commuters of the world. Six months of pedal-powering two wheels in the Texas summer heat made for commutes that were sweaty, logistically challenging, and overall draining experiences. The two-wheel road warrior in me knew there had to be another way.
In 2016, I purchased an electric skateboard. The board was new territory and quickly became very thrilling. The cutting-edge visual appearance instantly made me a trendsetter among my friends. However, even with the thrill of a new way to move around town, most potential commuters found the learning curve too daunting to join.
Safety at higher speeds was also an issue. Over time I realized that my search for the ideal electric-powered commuter device was not only for me but also a way to share with others various options for getting around our city. I soon realized the board wasn’t going to gain much adoption, but I remained vigilant and continued my search for more solutions to try.
In late 2017, I purchased the Urb-E Sport, one of four models that comes in at the lowest price point. I had modest expectations and even kept my skateboard just in case it didn’t work out long-term. I made my inaugural commute to work sometime before Thanksgiving break.
The vehicle had all the familiar benefits of the board. It was portable, quick, and provided the same cutting-edge look of not being a bike. But that is where the similarities ended and the differences began – for the better.
The Urb-E has a seat with handlebars so the ride feels more like a scooter. The turn radius is hairpin sharp and overall incredibly nimble to maneuver. Riding around traffic, intersections, and construction zones became easier. Self-stabilization is also effortless because you can rest both feet flat on the ground when stopped. Coupled with a lower overall top-speed, the Urb-E is a safer ride than the board and easier to master.
More potential users could try it, so I knew I was onto something with this vehicle.
The experiences I have gained with my Urb-E in 2018 alone have surpassed all my expectations. Friends love trying it out. The feedback I get when people test ride it is “Fun!” and “Amazing!” – sometimes both. This differs significantly from when people tried the skateboard.
On almost every commute, people stop me or ask me about the Urb-E. In a car or on a bike you are part of the normal commute furniture but on an Urb-E I gained a new celebrity.
Kids yell out it’s the coolest thing they have witnessed; Segway tour riders stare as they watch me go from A to B; I car drivers rubberneck me on the road and ask what my scooter is called; pedestrians have even stopped mid-stride just to watch me whiz by. All to say, the Urb-E turns heads.
I enjoy the convenience of riding straight into the elevator and into my office in the Rand building instead of hunting for a spot in downtown parking garages. I have even converted the Urb-E into a grocery cart by using an attachable basket accessory.
But can the Urb-E usher in a new era of commuting in San Antonio? To answer that question we have to consider the last mile, or the distance commuters must travel on foot that a bus or car can’t fulfill to get to their destination.
The Urb-E was built to be the lightweight, portable electric vehicle that complements other transportation modes, meaning you can store it in the trunk of a car, drive close to where you need to go, and ride the last mile on the Urb-E.
If you use public transit, the Urb-E can also fill commute gaps. If San Antonio's public transit service continues to improve, the Urb-E’s reach expands its potential use to more commuters and more areas within the city.
As cities urbanize, transportation vocabulary will need to grow along all public transportation infrastructure. Bikes have been around longer than automobiles; however, with an influx of rechargeable batteries reducing costs, people are exploring new applications for electric mobility. That means new modes of electrically powered, lightweight transportation will pop up in our public spaces to challenge the way people move through the city.
To me, using 4,000 pounds to move less than 200 pounds is inefficient.
The Urb-E is now part of my commutes and my future. I hope this last-mile solution can be a part of your future as well.
Watch Andrew commute from lower Broadway to the Rand building downtown: