This guide explains everything you need to know about electric scooter brakes — the most important part of your electric scooter. You’ll learn the differences between the most common types: disc, drum, regenerative and electronic brakes.
Electric scooter brakes
The most important component on your scooter
Brakes are the most important safety feature of an electric scooter. Modern electric scooters pack powerful motors and can go in excess of 20 mph! A good set of brakes may be the only difference between a close call and trip to the hospital. Your brakes will determine stopping distance, physical effort to activate, durability, and performance in wet conditions.
What are the different types of electric scooter brakes?
Electric scooters will have at least one of the following braking systems:
How do different types of brakes compare?
Disc brakes are the best performing, followed behind by drum brakes then caliper brakes (though these aren’t that common). Foot, regenerative, and electronic brakes are all poor-performing braking systems for various reasons detailed below.
What are the best type of electric scooter brakes?
Disc brakes are the best and safest type of electric scooter brake. They provide strong braking power in both wet and dry conditions. Additionally, they are lightweight, reliable, and easy to adjust. You will find disc brakes on quality electric scooters in nearly every price range and exclusively on high-performance electric scooters.
Advantages of disc brakes
- Excellent braking power
- Perform well in both wet and dry conditions
- Easy to adjust and maintain
- Excellent control over braking, especially with hydraulically-controlled disc brakes
Disadvantages of disc brakes
- May require occasional adjustments and maintenance
- Poorer-quality disc brakes are susceptible to rotor (the disc part) damage or bending. This is a common problem seen on shared (abused) electric scooters.
- Disc brakes may increase the overall cost of the electric scooter
- Though very tolerant of wet and dirty conditions, excessive mud and dirt can diminish performance and will need to be cleaned
How do disc brakes work?
A metal disc called a rotor is attached to and spins with the electric scooter’s wheel. When you pull on the brake lever, it activates a component called a caliper which surrounds part of the rotor. The caliper pinches the spinning rotor with brake pads, causing friction which slows the wheel.
Disc brakes come in three flavors:
- Fully hydraulic
Fully hydraulic disc brakes
Fully hydraulic disc brakes use hydraulic (fluid-filled) lines to control activation of the brake calipers. When you squeeze down on the brake lever, it increases the pressure in the hydraulic lines which are connected to brake calipers. The increased pressure in the brake calipers causes a piston to move, pinching the rotor.
Fully hydraulic disc brakes are the best type of disc brake. The hydraulic activation gives you the best control over your braking. As you squeeze down the brake lever, braking is strong and consistent. This contrasts with cable-activated mechanical disk brakes which may not feel as linear and consistent due to friction in the cables.
Semi hydraulic disc brakes
Semi hydraulic disc brakes use a brake cable (like that on your bicycle) to mechanically activate a hydraulic lever on a hydraulic caliper.
Mechanical disc brakes
Mechanical disc brakes, the most common type of disk brake, use a brake cable to activate the caliper. Pulling on the brake lever shortens the brake cable which is connected to the brake caliper. The brake caliper mechanically transmits this force to cause the brake pads to pinch the rotor.
Advantages of drum brakes
- Low maintenance
- Consistent performance in wet conditions
- Moderate braking performance
Disadvantages of drum brakes
- Complicated to disassemble or maintain
- Not as high performing as disc brakes
How do drum brakes work?
Drum brakes are enclosed inside the wheel hub and have pads that push outward against the braking surface, causing friction that slows the wheel. The brake is fully enclosed, protecting it from the environment.
- No maintenance
- Poor performance
- Even worse performing in wet conditions
- Foot activated and therefore cannot be activated as quickly as hand-activated brakes
- Require specific riding position
How do foot brakes work?
Foot brakes are a hinged fender that is pushed into the tire, generating friction that slows the wheel. You activate them by pushing down on the fender with your heel.
- No added weight or maintenance
- Minor energy recovery
- Poor braking performance
- May not work when the battery is fully charged
- Some regenerative braking systems are poorly implemented and prone to total failure
How do regenerative brakes work?
Regenerative brakes are activated by a switch which electrically couples the motor into the charging system, creating resistance to motor rotation. Many electric scooter companies overstate how much extra range you’ll get from electric scooter brakes. According to our own analysis, electric scooter brakes aren’t very helpful for extending range.
- No added weight or maintenance.
- Poor braking performance
- Some electronic braking systems are poorly implemented and prone to failure
How do electronic brakes work?
Electronic brakes are activated by a switch that shorts the terminals of the motor, creating resistance to motor rotation.