Electric scooters thrived during lockdowns; here’s why they’ll be a bigger hit in the ‘new normal’

Among the sectors hardest hit in the Philippines during the height of the strict community quarantines brought about by the global Covid-19 pandemic was the transportation industry. Mass transport systems shut down, and entire fleets of public utility vehicles were prohibited from plying their routes in order to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

With the dearth of transport options available for the vast majority of Filipinos who didn’t own cars, alternative forms of personal transport—motorbikes, bicycles, electric bikes and e-trikes—gained the necessary foothold. Among these, the electric kickscooter, sometimes called electric scooter or EKS, proved to be popular among the younger set of commuters.

EKS isn’t new. It has been usually seen in upscale residential and commercial areas in Metro Manila and other urban centers long before the pandemic struck. The mobility it offered during the pandemic, however, highlighted EKS’ functionality and practicality. It wasn’t long before the local market for EKS expanded even more as supplies met the increased demands, and prices became more inclusive.

Afterwards, local governments (LGUs) recognized these electric scooters, as well as bicycles and other forms of alternative personal transport, as crucial in maintaining health and safety protocols for their citizens while allowing them to travel to and from where they were needed. Thus, we have seen more LGUs starting to implement bike lanes in their city streets, allowing electric scooters to be used on their roads alongside bicycles.

Among the more prominent trade names arising from the growing popularity of electric scooters has been Kaabo Electric Scooters, which designs and manufactures eco-friendly and innovative electric scooters. Kaabo has partnered with local governments, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and frontliners to help ease the burden of transportation and ensure community safety under quarantine.

Now, the brand plans to enter into partnerships with condominium and village associations to offer more electric scooters and promote safe riding practices, as well as provide free rides for the general public.

Eugene Martinez of Ekstreme Scooters, the country’s leading electric scooter service repair shop which exclusively distributes Kaabo scooters, explains how endearing electric scooters could be to anyone who hasn’t tried riding one. “As soon as I got my first electric scooter, I fell in love with it and it became a hobby that turned into a passion. I have used one almost every day since then.”  

Once the community quarantines took effect in early 2020, Kaabo electric scooters were lent to local government agencies. Ekstreme Scooters offered discounts to frontliner-buyers.

Ekstreme Scooters, which started in 2018 when Martinez began fixing and modifying scooters in his garage, acquired exclusivity of Kaabo electric scooters the following year. Last year, it took in three more brands under its fold, namely, Aerlang, Hiley, and Zukboard scooters.

Currently, Kaabo scooters are carried by two stores and four dealerships located in Baguio, Quezon City, Makati, Cebu, Davao, and ROX retail stores.

After seven years of development, Kaabo, which has its own production and design team departments, has accumulated more than 25 patents, especially in terms of stability and safety under high speed and long battery life.

Kaabo upholds the goal of providing products globally, with environmental protection, safety and portability being the essence of its vision.

Martinez noted, “To be successful in this industry, you have to be passionate and hands-on in what you’re doing. Branding, product quality, and customer service will always be top priority. Social media marketing also plays a big role in showing the performance of your products.”

In order to grow the market and the trust in the brand, Martinez said, “We offer discounts and installment payments to make the product more affordable. Having multiple branches also increases brand presence and accessibility to service centers.”

With the pandemic somewhat serving as the electric scooter’s springboard to mainstream use, more users now appreciate the time and cost saved. It has become the ideal ride for those who go on short trips to establishments that have limited or no parking space.

“As traveling alone on an electric scooter is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading among commuters, it is also the most cost-effective among motorized transport, as electric scooters only cost 33 centavos per km on average,” Martinez explained.

The future of Philippine mobility is, indeed, electric, as more cars powered by electric motors and rechargeable batteries roll onto local roads.

At the grassroots level, this paradigm shift is best represented by the proliferation of electric-powered bikes, trikes, and scooters.