Pros: looks cool, quiet, folds-up nicely, durable
Cons: short battery life, doesn't freewheel well, slow uphill, could be lighter
The Bottom Line: The Zappy is as fast as a 40-year old jogger, wimpy on uphills, takes 13 hours to recharge, and has the range of Homer Simpson but, it's still incredibly fun.
Full Review: It's springtime in Manhattan, and we've already been blessed with a couple days of 70 degree weather. The sun stays out past 7pm, and the weekends are much more pleasant now that I own a Zappy electric scooter! Sure, it's not as practical as a mountain bike, but its much more portable, less tiring and a lot more fun to ride.
Zappy was the first electric scooter to break into the mainstream market. The first time I saw one was summer 1999 when my friend ordered a yellow one from the zappy website (www.zapworld.com). Since then, many competing/copycat e-scooters like the Goped Hoverboard, Huffy's Buzz and Currie's Phat Phantom and Phat Flyer, have entered the market, but from my experience, none of them have been able to successfully deliver the combination of cool factor, portability and durability of the Zappy. This is not to say that the Zappy is perfect, it's got it's own share of shortcomings, which I will go into in-depth later on in this review, but in comparison to the current technology out there, the Zappy is still head and shoulders above the rest.
If you're in the market for an electric scooter, the first thing you should do is gauge your needs. Out of the scooters that are on the market right now, the Zappy is on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of battery life and speed, but at the top of the food chain when it comes to portability and durability.
Don't get a Zappy if...
...you are over 200 pounds. I weigh 170 and if I was significantly heavier, I'm pretty sure that the Zappy would be pretty much useless, especially when you approach uphill areas.
...you live in an excessively hilly area. The Zappy does very well on downhills, but uphill grades can be a mammoth struggle. The Currie Phat Flyer is a much better on the uphills.
...you want an electric scooter that can replace your car for your daily commuting needs. It is a bit underpowered, especially on uphill roads, and if your commute is more than 4 miles, you won't be able to make it back home on a single charge.
...you live in a suburban or rural area, and want an electric scooter that can replace your bike or car for local trips to the mall or shopping center. A bike would be much more well-suited for your needs, as the Zappy scooter does not have the range necessary for most non-urban areas.
Get a Zappy if...
...you live in a crowded urban setting like Manhattan, and want an electric scooter for short daily commutes (within 25 city blocks). What's great about the Zappy is that it folds down to the size of a small golf bag, and fits nicely into the corner of my cubicle at work.
...you want to make your daily errands much more bearable. Pain-in-the butt errands like late-night deli visits, Blockbuster runs, trips to the cleaners and post office are all a breeze on the Zappy.
...you want an electric scooter for weekend fun. The Zappy is a beast. I purchased mine 3rd hand and the thing has been beat up pretty badly by its previous owners, but it still runs like a charm. I've taken it up and down cobblestone streets in Soho, off curbs and occasionally crashed it into a few potholes, but the Zappy always bounces back. The other electric scooters on the market don't even come close to the Zappy in terms of durability and quality of construction. It's sort of your Honda Civic of electric scooters.
Extras: Probably the single most important reason that I chose to purchase a Zappy over the other brands is that it is the most widely available electric scooter on the market. Replacement parts are easily available my local sporting goods stores and bike shops, as well as over the internet.
Remember my statement that the Zappy is the Honda Civic of electric scooters? Well, like the Civic, the Zappy also has a wide variety of aftermarket goods available to soup up your utilitarian scooter into a speed-hungry powerhouse if you and your wallet feel inclined to do so. www.turboscooter.com is the place to get quick chargers that will cut your charge time from 13 hours to 3 hours, replacement long-range batteries to increase range by 40%, expensive turbo kits that will double range, speed and hill-climbing power and/or long-range kits that will double your range and slightly improve hill-climbing. The totally souped up Zappy will be able to go 20mph on flat streets, 13mph on medium-grade hills, recharge in 3 hours and take you a full 13 miles on a single charge.
There are other e-scooters on the market that are faster and offer more range than the stock Zappy, but none of them have the combination of durability, support, form factor and price that the Zappy offers. Also, if you think you may end up wanting more power, speed or range later on, upgrade kits are readily available for purchase when that time comes.
Misc. things I've noticed:
Running out of power...With the short-battery life of the Zappy, it's inevitable that you will find yourself out of juice at some point. The Zappy doesn't conk out like a Sony discman, rather, it sort of sputters. At first, you start to notice a drop in power, but it takes a good 15 minutes for the power to become totally depleted.
From its appearance, the Zappy looks like it could double as a kick scooter, but that's not exactly the case. The Zappy doesn't freewheel very well. It runs on a belt drive, so when the belt isn't powering the rear wheel, it causes a bit of friction and doesn't allow the scooter to roll freely. As a result, the Zappy CAN freewheel, but it takes a bit more effort than you might think. The Goped Hoverboard, Phat Flyer and Phat Phantom all freewheel much better than the Zappy.
Lugging around your Zappy...
The Zappy has one of the smallest form factors of the current batch e-scooters on the market. The key to this is the way it folds up. The pivot point is at the joint where the stem meets the board. Unlike the Phat Flyer/Phantom or Goped Hoverboard, the Zappy folds up into a tight, flat ironing board shape, which allows you to roll it around like a wheelbarrow or carry it for short distances, like up the stairs or into a subway/train.
It weighs about 40 pounds, which is significantly more than a mountain bike, but it's a lot more compact. It's not nearly as light or portable as a Razor scooter, and you definitely won't want to carry it for more than 2-3 flights of stairs, but the Zappy is small enough that you can take it with you to work or in the subway without being too much of a pain in the butt.
How do you lock it up?
This is sort of a drawback of portable scooters. Unlike a bike, there's really no good way that I've found so far to lock it up. It doesn't have a frame like a bike, and there are no large triangular sections for a heavy-duty chain lock. I don't know about other cities, but in New York, if you leave something of value sitting around unattended for 3 seconds, it's gone. I've had everything from chain-locked mountain bikes to a pack of tic-tacs stolen from under my nose.
The Zappy electric scooter is sort of portable, but not so much that you can take it into a grocery store or a restaurant without being noticed. This sort of limits the practical uses for the Zappy. At work I just store it in the corner of my cubicle, so it's not a problem, but I've found it to be a bit of a pain when I want to get some groceries or stop for a bite to eat.