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Earth Sense: Scooters provide an exciting ride through busy traffic
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Strolling through the streets in Wuhu, China, is an exciting experience. Most people haven’t ever heard of this city, but that makes it a “small town” only in Chinese conversation. With 1.5 million residents, it’s a good deal bigger than Atlanta.

Car traffic is very heavy and may seem chaotic to American visitors. But the most eye-catching element is probably the volume of electric scooters mingling with the cars and buses. Everywhere you go, there are scooters parked by the dozens in neat rows.

Crossing a street first requires a look to the left, as the Chinese drive on the right side just like we do. But the scooter owners, ranging from teenage girls to senior citizens, don’t feel bound by that rule. No driver’s license is required for that type of vehicle, and so the traffic rule followed the most is “go straight toward where you want to be.”

Enforcement is stricter in the U.S., but electric scooters will be a useful addition to short-distance transportation. Their popularity is still in the beginning stage over here, and choices are more limited. The smallest models are light enough to be carried into an apartment for an overnight recharge.

In Wuhu, I saw the prices for “sit-down models” start at about $250, U.S. equivalent.

Electric scooters don’t produce any emissions. Their four-wheeled cousins aren’t very effective yet in Georgia, because producing the electricity for a car generates as much air pollution as does a gas-powered car.

When power production in our state includes more alternative energy, such as solar and wind, that situation will change. Until then, the little scooters are a nice means of city transportation. You can expect to go about 20 mph on an electric moped or scooter.

That’s good for Gainesville streets, but not necessarily for Ga. 365 and definitely not the interstate. The range for most of the compact models is 25 to 35 miles per charge, with a 48V 14 amp battery.

A type of scooter standing apart from the rest is the “fat tire electric scooter,” available under different brand names. These scooters are powered by 1500 W motors instead of about 750W, have stronger batteries in the 20 amp range, and claim top speeds near 30 mph. Prices are in the $1,000 to $1,500 bracket, and the fat tires promise a lot of fun riding.