A few months ago, my wife mangled her big toe on a beach in Florida. I won’t get into the grisly details—fine, she jammed a nail in a freak sand fall—but the surprisingly nasty injury left her hobbling. That wouldn’t fly for our trip the following weekend to Washington, D.C., a city built for walking.
Fortunately, our nation’s capital, like many other major metropolises, is abundant with light electric vehicles for rent. Six companies, in fact, operate dockless scooters in the District: Bird, Jump, Lime, Lyft, Skip, and Spin. They were interchangeable to my wife, who simply needed something to help her navigate the Mall with ease. So she hopped on a Lime out of necessity, while I snagged one in solidarity because a.) I’m a supportive husband and b.) those things looked really freaking fun.
Even with massive crowds swarming the monuments and memorials during peak cherry blossom season, the device made for a smooth, seamless, and inexpensive ride through the city. It only took a few brisk blocks for me to become a believer, despite knowing electric scooters come with a bit of baggage.
San Francisco, for example, temporarily booted Birds from its streets, while residents of big cities have blasted the e-scooter startups with myriad safety, parking, and littering complaints. (Check out the Bird Graveyard Instagram account to see what happens when angry riders abandon—or beat the crap out of—the scooters, or watch this recent South Park clip.)
Still, the appeal of the humble electric scooter is obvious: Traffic sucks. Sustainability doesn’t. And it’s generally cheaper, quicker, and cleaner to rent one of these things for a mile or two—to run to a meeting, pick up a snack, meet with a friend—than to order an Uber or Lyft.
While ride sharing is a solid start to curbing congestion, Jeff Russakow says it’s hardly a panacea. “Taking a 3,500-pound, 15-foot long car on a three-mile trip doesn’t really solve the problem,” he says. “You’re still causing the traffic.”
Russakow is the CEO of Boosted, which made its bones developing Boosted Boards: high-performance, vehicle-grade electric skateboards for last-mile transportation. We’re big fans of the boards at VentrePlat—so much so that Field Editor James Lynch once rode a Boosted Stealth 90 miles (and 15 hours) from New York to Philly just to get a cheesesteak.
Russakow and John Ulmen, Boosted’s cofounder and CTO, have long been on a mission to reinvent transportation, which is why they’re taking their popular, powerful tech to another form factor and new frontier: the scooter.
The Boosted Rev, available now for $1,599, isn’t the first electric scooter on the market by any means. But it is the first vehicle-grade version.
“The stuff you can buy today is toy- or leisure-grade,” Russakow says. “Those other scooters can’t mechanically, electrically, or environmentally go for thousands of miles a year, take a real pounding over potholes, or have the acceleration and deceleration to keep you safe. But ours can.”
After my fleeting love affair with the Lime in D.C., I didn’t need much convincing when Boosted offered to send a Rev to our office. But Russakow’s impassioned sales pitch helped seal the deal.
“The first mobile revolution was the cellphone revolution—the thing that drove all the technologies we have today,” he says. “We think this is the start of a second mobile revolution.”
The Boosted Rev is, at its core, essentially one of the company’s boards in scooter’s clothing.
“It was always our plan to do all of these different kinds of vehicles,” Russakow says of Boosted’s grand intentions. “About 85 percent of an electric vehicle is the powertrain, and the frame you put over it—whether a skateboard or scooter—is the last 15 percent.”
Rip the Rev right out of the box and you’ll see the frame is sleek, but simple, with a wide neck, a wide handlebar, and fat tires. Think: more function than flash.
“We wanted to design something that would make for a comfortable ride,” Ulmen says. “This isn’t a scooter you grew up with as a kid that’s going to be squirrely and wobbly. It feels really clean and stable.”
One thing you notice right away is the angle of the handlebar: Instead of being vertical, it’s tilted slightly back. This is called a rake angle, and it’s positioned to control where the patch on the tire is relative to the steering axis. If that patch is a bit behind the steering axis, as it is on the Rev, it enhances the scooter’s stability considerably, says Ulmen. “This is a major factor in why bikes feel so stable when you ride them,” he says.
The handlebar’s width also helps with stability. “When you have a handlebar that is really narrow,” Ulmen says, “moving your hands will cause a really big change in the angle of the tire. But when you spread it far out, a little bit of motion translates to a much smaller angle.” If you go over a bump, for example, now you won’t have that little jiggle when you make a big turn.
The tires, meanwhile, are also wider than comparable scooters. If you turn the Rev while leaning, the tires’ wider radius acts as a natural restoring force that helps keep the scooter more stable, just like the handlebar’s rake angle. Plus, the tires have a motorcycle-inspired tread—good for extra traction in wet conditions—and are filled with enough air to take much more abuse than any other pneumatic tire found on a scooter or bike, Ulmen says.
And at 46 pounds, the Rev isn’t a light electric vehicle, necessarily, but it’s slim enough that you can pick it up in a pinch, put it in the trunk of a car, carry it onto a train, or stow it under your desk. To fold it up, all you have to do is unlock the latch on the steering tube and step on the rear fender brake, which doubles as spring mechanism for the steering tube to collapse back.
“The reason we called our company Boosted,” Russakow says, “is because we boost stuff.” No kidding.
The Rev achieves a top speed of 24 mph—downright blazing compared to the approximate max 15 mph that Bird, Lime, and similar scooters reach on roads. Credit Boosted’s best-in-class electric powertrain and 1500-watt dual-wheel drive, which also help the Rev handle 25% grade hills without sweating.
The powertrain packs precision-tuned acceleration curves, which let you instantly turn on the jets (0 to 20 mph in 4.1 seconds) to match traffic flow. To control your speed, just roll your thumb on the built-in, single-input throttle wheel on the handlebar. Scroll to the left to speed up and the right to slow down.
In addition to the electric braking system, the Boosted team also tacked on two redundant mechanical brakes for additional safety. Squeeze the bike-like brake on the handlebar for backup, or step on the rear fender to push the back wheel and slow down.
“We knew we wanted to have a fender because we wanted the Rev to be an all-weather product that you can ride in the rain,” says Ulmen. “So since we were putting on a fender anyway, we thought, why not also make it a brake?”
Then there’s the scooter’s mighty battery, which provides 22 miles of juice on a single three-hour charge. Ulmen knew he needed to design the battery to absorb current quickly. “When you hit the breaks, they’re regenerative, so you have a lot of energy and power that you have to put somewhere,” he says. “The battery itself had to be designed to work fast.”
In other words, your typical cell phone or laptop battery wouldn’t cut it. So the Rev uses premium lithium cells in an IP57 waterproof, automotive-grade casing and employs anti-propagation technology. That means if one of the 36 cells in the scooter’s battery pack should for some reason fail and go into thermal runaway, the failure would be contained to just that one cell instead of propagating to the rest of the pack.
It’s a safety measure similar to what you would see in a Tesla, “but not a required standard,” Ulmen says—“just something we believe is important to do.”
After getting the lowdown from Ulmen and Russakow, it was finally time to test the Rev. I primarily rode it in three places over the course of a week: my suburban neighborhood, the gravel roads and trails around my family’s mountain house, and the business park surrounding VentrePlat HQ in rural Pennsylvania, as shown in the video above.
To start the scooter, you simply press the home button to power up and pick your speed range, depicted on the LED display. You can lock in one of three modes before you take off: slow-ish (top speed: 12 mph), fast-ish (18 mph), and oh shit! (24 mph). I typically stayed in the third mode for most of my rides, because hey, if you have a long, clear stretch of street for prime scootering, how are you not going to top out at all times?
Even when you’re going at full speed, the Rev feels remarkably smooth, and strangely sort of calm. This thing is as sturdy as it comes, as Ulmen and his engineers put the scooter through a slew of mechanical, electrical, and environmental tests, including slamming it thousands of times:
Not once did the scooter register to me as rickety, nor did its performance suffer when subjected to different terrains. The Rev is clearly meant for roads, but it handled just fine—albeit a tad slower—when I rode it on grass and dirt. And while I didn’t have a 25% grade hill in my testing areas like those found on Boosted’s San Francisco turf, the scooter easily maintained its peak speed when I drove it up and down modest hills.
Where the Rev really shines is in its instant acceleration and braking. The ingeniously designed throttle wheel, which feels like a rolling mouse and rests naturally under your thumb, makes the gadget stop and go on a dime without causing so much as a jolt. The wheel quickly became so intuitive for me that I only relied on the hand brake during especially sharp turns, simply out of habit. The electric brake is so powerful and responsive that it could serve as the scooter’s only brake.
Of course, I can’t speak for how the Rev runs in the big cities for which it’s perhaps better suited. I’d imagine, for instance, that my rides probably would’ve been considerably slower in, say, midtown Manhattan, where the cars and crowds don’t always afford you the opportunity to zoom down busy streets. Things move much slower out here in eastern Pennsylvania—so naturally, it’s easier to go fast.
Aside from its substantial safety features, exceptional usability, and sterling tech specs, the Boosted Rev is, above all else, an out-and-out joy. Even the company’s CEO admits the pleasure factor is the scooter’s chief calling card.
“It’s a hell of a lot of fun to rip around on these things,” Russakow says. “It just puts a smile on your face.”