Unagi Model One E500: One-minute review
If asked to describe our dream commuter electric scooter, the Unagi Model One E500 is as close as it gets. Aside from being attractive, it boasts an incredibly streamlined design that’s also functional and sensible, including touches such as its delicate yet robust stem, sleek yet visible dash, and a folding mechanism that’s simple yet effective.
Best of all, it doesn’t take up too much space, and it’s probably the most lightweight e-scooter we’ve tested. It's just the scooter you’d be happy to take on the train, a bus, or into the office. It might not be one of the cheapest electric scooters out there, but portability always comes at a premium.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, however. Being that lightweight and sleek comes at a price, and in the case of the Unagi Model One E500 that price is smaller tires – 7.5-inch tires, to be exact. It also doesn’t help that Unagi has opted for solid tires as opposed to pneumatic ones, further reducing the scooter’s ability to absorb shock.
What does that mean exactly? If you were living in a utopian city with perfect roads, free of cracks and potholes and even the smallest of bumps, then the Unagi Model One E500 would deliver one heck of a smooth ride. Unfortunately, for most of us city dwellers, our roads have seen better days.
Unagi Model One E500: Price and availability
- How much does it cost? $990 (£899, AU$1,299)
- When is it available? Available now
- Where can you get it? Available in the US, the UK and Australia
Motor: 250W motor in each wheel
Top speed: 20mph
Braking system: Electronic brake E-ABS
Max load capacity: Not specified
At $990 (£899, AU$1,299) a pop, we wouldn’t recommend the Unagi Model One E500 as one of the best electric scooters for students. However, the price isn’t wholly unexpected. As mentioned earlier, portability comes at a premium, and seeing that Unagi has positioned this electric scooter as such, it isn’t surprising that it sits in a higher price range.
If you have deep pockets, the investment is certainly worth it in return for a scooter that's easy to lug around and stow. But bear in mind that you're also sacrificing a comfortable ride, especially if you live in a city where well-paved roads are more the exception rather than the rule.
The Unagi Model One E500 is readily available in the US, the UK and Australia, although if you want the Unagi All-Access E500 subscription of $49 per month instead, do double-check if it's available in your region.
- Value: 3 / 5
Unagi Model One E500: Assembly
- Comes in a smaller box
- Effortless setup
- Comes charged out of the box
One of the best things about the Unagi Model One E500 is the easy assembly. Unlike other electric scooters, which demand a more involved setup – you have to attach the handles, mount and screw in the handlebar, and sometimes even set up the brake line – this one merely asks you to connect the tube cable and the handlebar.
In fact, assembly is so simple that you don’t even need a manual to guide you – although there is one included in the box for any e-scooter newbies unsure of what to do. The manual also includes operating instructions. Luckily, the scooter comes charged out of the box, so you won’t have to wait to jump on.
Since this is a compact model, even its stem is shorter than most other electric scooters we’ve tested, expect the box it comes in to be small as well.
- Assembly: 5 / 5
Unagi Model One E500: Design
- Sleek design, elegant curves
- Lightweight, easy to fold and carry
- Dash is visible in full sunlight
These days, it’s become difficult to tell all these commuter electric scooters apart, since an increasing number of models are opting for that bulky, solid black aesthetic with lots of straight lines. Unagi takes a different approach here, choosing elegant curves, a streamlined design, and even better, brighter colors. These include Cosmic Blue, Scarlet Red alongside the more common Matte Black and Sea Salt white.
The result is striking. The Unagi Model One E500 has a slim, stylish Toray carbon fiber stem that’s just as robust as it is graceful and lightweight, and a magnesium handlebar that looks ultra-modern yet still tasteful. Being compact, the deck isn’t as spacious as we'd have liked, but there’s enough room for the average rider’s feet.
There aren’t a lot of parts that protrude here, either, adding to the clean design. The handles are flushed with the dashboard, as is most of its folding mechanism (apart from the plastic ends of the hinge that you push down to release the stem.) Two cables do stick out, but not by much, and only at the bottom of the stem itself – out of your way and hardly noticeable really.
You won’t even see the usual brake levers or large bell here; just another thumb control that's similar to the throttle and a button above that for the horn. The brake and the throttle controls sit on either side of the dash for a more balanced look.
One thoughtful detail we welcome is the dedicated driving mode button, which can be found above the throttle. It’s small, very similar to the horn button, but it’s easy to press and does make changing driving modes during rides a less stressful affair. Instead of you having to let go of one handle, so you can press the power button that usually moonlights as the driving mode button (at least on other e-scooters), you literally just reach for it with your thumb, much like you would to press the throttle. It’s brilliant.
That seamlessness extends to the Unagi Model One E500’s operation as well, making this one of the easiest electric scooters to handle. The dashboard is intuitive to use – not to mention bright enough that you won’t struggle to see the display in bright situations. The handles are kind to your palms, but offer a lot of grippage at the same time. The brake and throttle buttons are within comfortable reach.
And the folding mechanism is by far the best we’ve seen. You just press the hinge down with two fingers to fold and unfold. Just bring the stem all the way down (when folding) or back up (when unfolding), wait for the click, and it locks in place. Simple.
For night riding safety, there are of course the 1.8W LED headlights that’s more than bright enough and the LED taillight that automatically turns on when you turn on the e-scooter.
- Performance: 4.5 / 5
Unagi Model One E500: Features
- Three riding modes
- IP54 rating only
Much like other e-scooters, the Unagi Model One E500 comes with three riding modes: eco, which tops at 11mph; standard, which tops at 13mph; and pro, which lets you reach top speed. Although not quite rain-ready, it does have an ingress protection rating of IP54, which means it’ has some, if limited, protection against dust and water splashes.
However, if you’re hoping for advanced features such as regenerative braking and anti-theft technology, you'll be disappointed. Better keep that charger and that U-lock to hand.
- Features: 3 / 5
Unagi Model One E500: Performance
- Quiet motor, even at 20mph top speed
- 7.5-inch solid tires not great shock absorbers
- Smooth riding on smooth roads, rough riding on rough roads
The Unagi Model One E500 doesn’t just exude elegance in its design. The two 250W motors it hides in its wheels are also elegantly quiet. The whole unit is also so well-constructed that people won’t hear you clattering from a mile away. That's a welcome change, since we’ve ridden some obnoxiously loud and rickety-sounding e-scooters.
In other words, this is the electric scooter most business professionals would want to ride to work, especially if they’re wearing their suits on those daily commutes but still want to look cool.
These motors are gloriously snappy as well. We've noticed that while the Unagi Model One E500 still requires a quick start, the motors pick up speed quickly, so it really only needs a light kick. That’s actually helpful for short riders such as myself, since we don’t have the leverage of height and need to put a little more force in our kicks.
The e-scooter has a top speed of 20mph, and it doesn’t take too long for it to go from 0 to 10mph. So, if you’re a novice, be sure to test ride along empty roads, lest you risk an accident. Also, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, many cities have a speed limit for e-scooters, so you'd be wise to check yours before you switch to Pro mode and push the throttle all the way down. Note that because the brake lever doesn’t have a lot of resistance, it’s easy to accidentally brake hard. (Our how to ride an e-scooter safely guide offers pointers on what to do when that happens.)
It has a hill grade rating of 15 degrees, which isn’t normal. However, it only really manages a 7mph speed on an actual 15-degree hill, and that’s with an under 125-pound rider on it. We have found that if you manage to get up to top speed before you climb, it does last at a higher speed a little longer.
Unagi has opted for a pair of solid tires here – more specifically, 7.5-inch tires. They're airless and smaller than the tires on other e-scooters at this price. The benefit of having solid rubber tires is that they're puncture-proof, which means less maintenance for you. The downside is that they’re not very good when it comes to shock absorption.
The tires on the Unagi Model One E500 are designed with built-in pockets, which Unagi says help with shock absorption. But, if we’re being honest, they barely make a difference. We rode this on the usual pothole- and crack-riddled roads on which we test all our e-scooters, and we were vibrating all over during the ride. Not just the scooter itself, but our whole body. It wasn't a fun experience.
However, on smooth roads this scooter is actually a dream to ride. Super-smooth, in fact, which is the reason we’d really only recommend it if your usual every day route is on well-paved roads. Otherwise, it won't be an entirely comfortable experience.
The battery delivers only a 15.5-mile range, which means that you will have to charge the scooter at least a couple of times a week, depending on the length of your daily commute. On the upside, it does seem to keep those battery levels well when unused. We had ours sitting for almost a month, and it was still fully charged when we turned it back on.
- Performance: 4 / 5
Should I buy the Unagi Model One E500?
Buy it if…
Don't buy it if…
Unagi Model One E500: Report card
|Value||This is expensive, but considering how lightweight and compact it is, it isn’t surprising.||3 / 5|
|Assembly||Setup and assembly is so easy, you’ll be riding in no time after unboxing.||5 / 5|
|Design||This is where the Unagi Model One E500 really shines. Its sleek, elegant, lightweight design sets it apart.||4.5 / 5|
|Features||There aren’t a lot of features here, being a very minimalist e-scooter.||3 / 5|
|Performance||It might not be very good at shock absorption, but its motor is quiet, snappy, and responsive.||4 / 5|
|Total||The only thing that really holds the Unagi Model One E500 is its terrible shock absorption.||3.9 / 5|
- First reviewed October 2022
How we test
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained – regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.