One of our reader is giving us his first impressions of the Niu N1, the new Chinese smart scooter.
The Niu N1 was introduced last year as the first Chinese smart scooter, and claimed to be of a higher quality than other scooters from that country. We presented it here:
For now the Niu is only available in China, but one of our readers, who wants to be known as the “Irish Clean Rider”, managed to get his hands on a N1 and tells us about his impressions:
“Although uncommon in Europe, electric scooters are somewhat ubiquitous in China. I worked there for the last 2 ½ years and it was shortly after my arrival that the benefits of the mode of transport became obvious. The electric scooters provided a mode of transport that allowed me to avoid the traffic congestion and were ideally suited to the dry climate and the level terrain.
My first purchase, just 2 months after arrival, was a ‘Shangpin 48V’ model. The bike was purchased from a local roadside seller as was our second bike, this time a 60V Turtle model. Both bikes served us well, the 48V had a lower speed (25KM) and less solid handling. The turtle was a zippy machine and a very comfortable ride.”
“When the NIU N1 became available, mid 2015, I decided I would upgrade the older 48V unit. Not so much that there was anything wrong with it, more to do with the perceived quality and uniqueness of what NIU were offering. For me NIU had the image of being the electric scooter version of Tesla.
At the time the N1 was not available through any of the local retailers and had to be pre-ordered through the website. With the help of a good Chinese friend, I placed an order. Weeks passed and nothing happened. After numerous calls again no progress, I placed an order with a reputable seller on the popular ‘Taobao’ site. There was additional cost but they delivered exactly what I requested within 24 hours.
The last 10 months in China had been an extremely busy time for me so my biking excursions were limited. I moved back to Europe at the start of this April 2016 and the bike has just recently followed. Its early days yet, but I do hope to provide a ‘first impressions’ opinion of the NIU N1. A word of caution for anyone considering importing the bikes directly from China. It is a very difficult, bureaucratic and expensive process. Regulations in Europe don’t really know how to characterise these units, hence expect difficulties each step along the way. Unfortunately support from NIU was also very disappointing; there are signs this is changing though and I do hope they will start to make documentation available to their customers. My strong advice is that you do not import direct from China but buy from the European distributor when they are put in place.
The bike does cost pretty much double that of other Chinese makes, so you do expect to see and feel a difference and I must say you do. The battery is a dream; light, portable and something that should, in theory at least, give a long life. The battery on my first bike was also ‘portable’ in so far as they could be removed within a single housing. However the 4 x 12v lead acid batteries weighed so much that I had to use a trolley when transporting them. The second bike had the batteries integrated; great for safety but a challenge to always be on the lookout for street charging stations as no charge point was available in my apartment.
Perhaps the next thing you notice about the NIU is the build quality. The batteries are held in a secure compartment that is opened via a key lock in the under saddle area. There is a certain solidness about the door and hinges and that seems to have been continued right throughout the rest of the build. The seating position on the bike is very comfortable, as is the seat itself. The previous 2 bikes are somewhat small for my frame. The NUI seats two comfortably. The under seat storage area is reasonable but the only storage location that the bike has.”
“Acceleration, even with two individuals is very rapid. The bike handles well and is very responsive. The city version that I have, is speed restricted to 20Km/Hr so it’s difficult to measure true performance. The bike can be purchased without the restriction and I believe, can comfortably run at 40Km/Hr. It’s not so much a speed restriction as a speed limiter, irrespective of the conditions the bike will not run in excess of 20Km/Hr (hopefully this will make it easier for registration in Europe). There are 3 electronic speed modes, with a top speed of 20Km/Hr, two of the settings are of little use.
The bike would seem to have front and rear disc brakes. Operation is smooth and firm. The LCD display shows charge, speed and distance travelled along with the speed range (gear setting). There have been some complaints about difficulties viewing it in bright conditions. It’s not something that has presented me with any issues.”
“I plan to register the bike shortly and do more investigation into the SMART features. NIU recently released an English version of their app so hopefully they are beginning to see the huge potential the bike could have outside China. To date though, you still require a Chinese cell phone number to complete the registration.”