Because of the relative newness of these cool vehicles, called electric unicycles, most people have lots and lots of questions. We will soon answer here every single one of them. Below is a list of questions and some answers. The rest of the answers will be added in the coming days, so come back often!
[Last Update: 08 June 2015]
What is a Self-balancing Electric Unicycle?
A self-balancing Electric Unicycle is a gyroscope-controlled single-wheel electric transport vehicle that consists of a wheel with one platform on either side, an electric engine, a battery pack and some housing.
You drive it standing up and while the front/back balance and stability is looked after by some gyroscopes, the left/right balance has to be maintained by the user.
Is there no better name for them?
There are a number of names emerging and none of them is really simple and short. “Self-balancing Electric Unicycle” is the full name and this could be seen as the formally correct title. But an abbreviation based on the Chinese name for these single-wheel vehicles, which is 电动 独轮车 is becoming the norm. It translates directly to Electric Unicycle (电动=electric 独轮车=unicycle).
Abbreviations are sometimes EU or EUC
Other names we have seen are “Electric single-wheel scooter”, enthusiasts call it simply the “wheel”, British resellers seem to love the completely non-descript term “Unit”, and then there’s the umbrella term PEV (Personal Electric Vehicle) that also includes Electric Unicycles and many more vehicles.
What is NOT a Self-Balancing Electric Unicycle?
For the purpose of this site, there has to be a line drawn somewhere, so we will only discuss devices with single-wheels (and in some cases tandem wheels), where the driver stands on platforms that are left and right of the wheel.
If a vehicle is pedal driven (i.e. mechanical unicycle), or if the feet are between the wheels (similar to Segway) or if the user stands sideways to the movement, more like on a skateboard (e.g. Onewheel) then they are not what this site has as its focus.
How does it work?
The principle of forward movement and braking is the same as for the Segway. By leaning slightly forward you speed up by leaning back you slow down and come to a halt.
The Segway however has two wheels so that you only have to do the steering with your hands.
The Electric Unicycle required you to look after the left /right balance like on a bicycle.
Why have I never before heard of them?
Why are they not seen in our streets?
What are the technical facts? Speed, reach, weight, etc?
How much do Electric Unicycles cost?
Currently electric unicycles cost typically between EUR 500 and EUR 1500 (including transport and taxes and duties) depending on the manufacturer and on the technical spec. However it is expected that these prices might come down a bit when more people buy them, and on the other hand that there will be some more expensive models as well for the lovers of “Ferraris”.
To understand the cost, consider this example of a cost calculation for a self-import to Europe. To simplify it, we left all cost in US$:
$ 250.00 Cost of Electric Unicycle in China
$ 150.00 Transport
$ 24.00 Duty at 6% of Cost+Transport
$ 84.80 approx. VAT in Europe (20% of Cost+Transport+Duty)
So for a relatively inexpensive Electric Unicycle, the landed cost can be more than 100% of the EUC price. Keep this in mind if you consider a self-import. For a more expensive EUC, the proportions shift a little, but be aware that the Transport, Duty and VAT are still a big chunk!
What’s the best Electric Unicycle for me?
This depends on many factors and we would start with the most important one
once your budget is decided, then we would look at your preferences for
4) Application (Commuting/Leisure/Work/Acrobatics etc)
5) Your body weight
6) Availability of local reseller
7) Nice-to-Have Features
In the near future, we will add some additional guidelines and hints and tips here. Until then, feel free to contact us via the CONTACT US page and we will then help you as much as possible to identify a suitable electric unicycle for you.
Where should I buy an Electric Unicycle?
Most electric unicycles are made in China and that’s where you have the widest choice. Between 50 and 150 companies are currently manufacturing Electric Unicycles and they are all trying to sell there products.
Unfortunately many of these companies are not very good a Quality Control and at Customer Service and these two are crucial components when it comes to purchasing a relatively pricey device that could be dangerous to you if it malfunctions.
You can buy based on price and looks from eBay or Amazon or – if you are prepared to import the Electric Unicycle yourself, you can also buy on some of the Chinese websites. But it can be a lot of hassle and unless you do your figures meticulously, you could even pay more than if you buy from a local reseller.
Doing the import yourself means you will have to pay import tax/customs duty and VAT/Sales tax on top of the cost for the Electric Unicycle AND the relatively high transport charges and you have to deal with customs. In some countries that means you will have to collect the parcel at the nearest customs depot. Importing yourself also means that you might not get any warranty from the manufacturer at all.
If you buy from a reseller in your country, then he/she will look after the import and all local laws (including warranty etc) will apply.
We recommend the self-import route only to smart enthusiasts. We also would advise you to be very very careful when buying from Amazon and eBay. While these platforms give you more rights than when you self-import, you could still deal with a bad seller and have a lot of hassle in the process. If you do decide from eBay, please use PayPal to pay as this increases your rights.
Most end users who would prefer a low risk and low hassle purchase of an electric unicycle should buy from a local reseller that quotes an all-inclusive end price and that also provides the important warranty and hopefully some advise. However, don’t rely on the reseller’s advise only. He/she typically only represents a limited number of brands and therefore might not give completely neutral advise.
The downside of a local reseller is that the service he/she provides come at a price. So when you compare prices for unicycles in China with prices in your country of residence, you might be surprised about the difference at first, but when you consider all the cost your retailer has to look after you might understand better.
We have bought unicycles from Amazon.co.uk, have self-imported from China and considered buying from a European reseller and we are happy to advise you further if you need help.
If you do buy from a shopping website, we recommend that you stick with the bigger and better known brands. Don’t just buy any Electric Unicycle, it often is of dubious quality with endlessly exaggerated specifications.
We will add some more information here in the near future, but in the meantime you can contact us via the Contact Us page if you need further help!
What electric unicycle brands are there?
You wonder if there are maybe two or three or even four manufacturers out there?
What if we tell you that there are well over 50 brands already in the market, all competing for a piece of the market that is expected to be massive? Are you surprised?
Here are are some of the electric unicycle brands (in no particular order):
Rockwheel, Ninebot, Solowheel, Firewheel, Airwheel, Gotway, Bings, IPS, Legway, MonoRover, UERA, EYU, Walker, Leadway, Sologear, Mobbo, Mocyl, TG, Wangquan, Esway, King Song, Crosswheel, Betterwheels, GTS, Monowheel, Suokuwheel, Wind Rider, Pinwheel, Wingoo, Freego, F-Wheel, Superwheel, Tomoloo, Speedway, Freeman, MyWay, Toptrip, Crosswheel, Robstep, Milbay, etc.
Some brands are only known and available in China at the moment, but most of the above appear on Ebay, Amazon or at least on the Chinese e-commerce sites (e.g. Banggood, AliExpress, etc). It is not always easy, though, to identify if a different name means that Electric Unicycle is manufactured by a different manufacturer or if it is just the label from a different reseller: There are a number of white-label brands, where manufacturers sell the unicycles directly to independent resellers/importers and they then put their stickers on….just to confuse us. ;-)
The ElectricUnicycleGuide will focus on manufacturers, not just on “labels”. That means that the different electric unicycles that we discuss and explain are not just white-labelled, but are from genuine manufacturers.
Is it difficult to learn to drive/ride an Electric Unicycle?
We would compare riding an electric unicycle with the challenge of riding a bicycle. It is not at all difficult once you know it, but it would be foolish to expect that you can just step on an electric unicycle and you will be perfect.
There is some learning required and it does take most people a little bit of time, but it is definitely worth it!
We talked to one of the best pedal unicyclists recently who uses a 3m high unicycles in his shows. And he told us that it took him about 10 minutes to learn how to use an Electric Unicycle. And our own experience is that for average people that are a lot less “acrobatic”, it can take up to 5 learning days. If you are determined and have normal balance, you should be able to ride an Electric Unicycle very very soon.
Where can I learn it?
You can practise on an empty parking lot, a public square, on a playing pitch, in your backyard, in a side street etc. Wherever there is a flat area you can practise yourself. Initially it is helpful if there is a wall or railing nearby, but soon you won’t need that anymore. Just make sure that wherever you go, you don’t interfere with other traffic or users of the space AND that using your electric unicycle is legal in your chosen spot.
If you want to learn using an electric unicycle with the assistance of a teacher, check with your local electric unicycle shop or see if there are other users nearby that could point you in the right direction.
If you are based in Dublin (Ireland) – or want us to travel to you – , you can contact us via the CONTACT US form and we will be able to discuss your requirements. Over time, we will add more training facilities and teachers in other countries and cities as well.
Can Electric Unicycles be legally used on the streets?
Because Electric Unicycles are still so new, the legal framework hasn’t caught up in most countries. As a consequence they are often in a grey and yet to be defined area.
In some countries they are accepted as a personal transport vehicle similar to an E-Bike, in other countries they are seen as Mechanically Propelled Vehicle and therefore are closer to Mopeds/small Motorbikes.
If you are not sure, only use them on private ground. If you are allowed to use them on public streets or on footpaths or in bicycle lanes make sure that you respect the other users of the public area.
Because of their small footprint, moderate speed and low energy usage, we think that they should be treated like bicycles, or maybe E-Bikes.
Do I need a license to use an Electric Unicycle?
Electric Unicycles haven’t appeared on the radar of law makers in most countries so we only know of one country (Switzerland) where laws were specifically written with them in mind.
In most other countries they would fall in the category of engine driven means of transport (sometimes called “mechanically propelled vehicle”) and then it is possible that registration, insurance, tax and also a license for using an electric unicycle are required.
Please check your local laws for further details.
We are of the opinion that they should be treated like bicycles, possibly electric bicycles. The speed is very comparable to bicycles, the footprint is even smaller than for a bike and they use the same amount and type of energy as E-Bikes. If you have an opportunity to lobby law makers, please do so and if you need support, we are more than happy to provide you with further information.
Is it just for nice weather?
Nearly all Electric Unicycles are water-proof in the context of normal use, so you can use them in any weather. And because you don’t need your hands, you could even hold your umbrella if you wish.
However, we don’t recommend using them in snow and ice or in otherwise slippery conditions and please also don’t immerse your Electric Unicycle in water unless it is water proof according to international standards (e.g. IP65).
Are you not just lazy if you use one?
Without a doubt, walking, running or cycling will use more energy and will keep you fitter, but – to some – they are less fun. So don’t look at electric unicycles as fitness machines.
But there are people who use a bus or train or even a car to go to work or to meet friends even if the distance is not too far. That’s where electric unicycles come in. They are a means of transport and they are also a lot of fun to use.
There even are some moderate health benefits of electric unicycles. Using one helps with your balance and you also train the lower leg muscles. In addition, the fun and challenge are “feel-good-benefits” which are also good for your health.
If your questions are not answered here, just send it to us using the Contact Us page and we will reply to you promptly.