Home » This Laptop-Sized Folding E-Scooter Is Almost Small Enough To Fit Inside A Backpack

This Laptop-Sized Folding E-Scooter Is Almost Small Enough To Fit Inside A Backpack

Backpack Scooter Ts2
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Last month, Honda released the Motocompacto out into the world, introducing a lot of people to tiny modes of transportation along the way. As cute as the Motocompacto is, it’s not as tiny as these scooters get. Japanese startup company Shimizu says it’s created one of the smallest e-scooters ever made. The Arma Scooter is so small it makes a cup of coffee look big and like a lunchbox, it can fit into your backpack. It’s almost small enough to fit inside of a Motocompacto.

I’m happy to report that I’ve finally received my own Honda Motocompacto. I love the little guy and have been so happy Honda did something so fun. However, I discovered one downside pretty much immediately. The Honda Motocompacto is too big to bring with you in public, and way too big to bring onto a plane. That means if you were thinking about scooting your Honda to your gate, you might want to think twice about that.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

This got me thinking, aside from rideable luggage like the Modobag, is there a folding scooter that is small enough to fit in an overhead bin? We’ve been sort of obsessed with little transportation devices lately, so I went digging. Japanese startup Shimizu wants to do even better than just a small scooter. Its Arma Scooter design folds so tiny that you could slip it into a carry-on bag like a laptop. Oh, and you get swappable batteries to go with it!

What Is Shimizu?

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The Arma Scooter comes from a Japanese company called Shimizu, a division of SMZ Inc. According to SMZ’s Japanese company profile, it was founded in December 2021 by Masaki Shimizu. The firm operates out of a small building in Okayama, Japan.

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Under the SMZ umbrella are two brands, Veracity and Shimizu. Veracity was launched first and its product is a Japanese road-legal scooter. It’s essentially a stand-up e-scooter with mirrors, proper lighting, a suspension, and a bicycle seat. The Veracity VX series of scooters are marketed as being better than a bicycle, but not a motorcycle. With a top speed of about 40 mph, it’s a different flavor of moped. To date, SMZ says it has sold 135 VX scooters.

Veracity Vx125 And Vx50
SMZ Inc.

The other brand is Shimizu, and it’s named after the founder of SMZ. This branch of SMZ is also a mobility brand like Veracity. However, instead of making a road-legal scooter, it wants to tackle first and last-mile mobility. You can already buy a wide variety of scooters and other contraptions to get you that last leg to your destination. However, these scooters are often a bit too chunky to go everywhere you want to. Not unless you like wearing a scooter as a large backpack.

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Myway

In recent years, startup companies have been experimenting with the idea of creating minuscule scooters. Forget scooters that fit in your car’s trunk or a scooter that can double as your luggage, how about a scooter that you can fit in your carry-on? Back in 2012, there was the Myway Compact (above), a scooter that folded into a briefcase shape. Sadly, it never left the concept stage. More recently, there’s the Blizwheel E-Scooter (below), an electric scooter that fits into a backpack. That one just started shipping.

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Shimizu is only the latest startup with a compact scooter design with a huge, or rather, micro promise.

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The Arma Scooter

Arma

Shimizu is making a bold claim. Shimizu says this is the world’s smallest E-Scooter. When folded, the Arma Scooter measures 11.7 inches long by 8.3 inches tall by 3.7 inches wide. It’s a few inches shorter than the Blizwheel, but two inches taller. Its folded width is the same as a Motocompacto’s body, but it has nearly a third of the length and half of the height. This is a scooter so small it makes a Honda Motocompacto look like a GMC Hummer EV.

Now, let’s check Shimizu’s claim of having the world’s smallest scooter against the smallest one I could find on the net, the 15.6-inch by 3.9-inch by 6.4-inch Blizwheel. I ran these scooters through a calculator to determine surface area. Arma has 342.2 inches squared of surface area. The Blizwheel? It has 371.3 inches squared of surface area. So, Shimizu’s claim may be correct, but the difference between it and the next scooter up isn’t much.

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What’s important in my eyes is the fact that will easily fit into a bag that fits on an aircraft as a carry-on. For example, United Airlines says its carry-on limits are 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches thick. A Motocompacto doesn’t stand a chance, but you can fit this scooter in a bag with a weekend of clothes and probably still have room.

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The highlight of the Arma Scooter is its many joints. The scooter’s frame, wheels, and stem contort until they compact into a space barely larger than what’s taken up by a laptop or a lunchbox. Shimizu says the whole folding process takes about 30 seconds. Here’s an animation:

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Of course, you’ve probably noticed by now that this isn’t a sit-down affair. Instead, you stand on a folding platform. This is a bit different than a traditional scooter, which has you standing on a beam that runs the length of the scooter. It looks like having these platforms allows the scooter to get even smaller. The whole thing is said to weigh less than 10 pounds. That’s a quarter of the Motocompacto’s weight.

Once you’ve unpacked the scooter, the Arma seems to provide decent performance. There’s a 250-watt motor good for a top speed of 15 mph. That motor feeds from a removable 3.5 Ah, 36 V, 126 Wh lithium battery, good for 7 to 9 miles of running. You’re not getting much range, but remember, this is really for getting you across short distances that you don’t want to walk. It’s not going to be your commuter.

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If you do need more range, Shimizu says you can swap the removable batteries to double or triple your range. Speaking of those batteries, they charge in roughly two hours from a USB-C charger.

In terms of instrumentation, you get a display showing metrics such as speed and charge. Control happens through the bars, where you’ll find the brake and the throttle.

Can You Bring It Onto A Plane?

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I used to think there wasn’t much of a point in riding something to your gate. If you’re capable of doing the walk, traversing an airport isn’t so bad. Then I found myself stranded in places like Phoenix and was forced to walk the length of entire airports more than once. By the end of nights like those, I would have paid someone a bunch of money just to ride in one of those airport golf carts. So, I could see the jet-setting traveler putting some miles on a rideable contraption.

The big question is, can you do it? Modobag, the most known maker of rideable luggage, says its carry-on-sized luggage scooter is “TSA, FAA, and ITA Compliant.” The FAA sees lithium battery thermal runaway as a serious concern, so there are rules about what you can and cannot bring onboard a commercial flight. Loose lithium batteries, including power packs and cell phone battery cases, have to be carried in the aircraft’s cabin with your carry-on luggage. You also can’t bring batteries onboard a plane unless they’re for your personal use.

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There are also size limits for batteries. The FAA allows up to 100 Wh batteries. If you want to bring a bigger battery onboard, you have to ask the airline first and you’re limited to up to 160 Wh. Further, you can bring only two of them. On paper, the Modobag follows all of these rules, but some people have experienced headaches when they try to bring a rideable suitcase onto a plane.

Now, you may wonder why the FAA acknowledges that lithium batteries can be dangerous right before recommending you bring them into the cabin.  The FAA explains that flight crews are trained in putting out battery fires so that your flight can continue safely. Reportedly, incidents with lithium batteries happen a little over once a week. Considering that there are roughly 45,000 flights every day, it’s unlikely you’ll be on a plane when a battery malfunctions. In most instances, a flight attendant will throw the overheated battery into a thermal containment bag and the flight will continue as normal. In more serious cases, the flight will divert.

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The Arma Scooter’s battery is 126 Wh, so you’d have to ask your airline first, but you could bring it onto a plane. I could see it as being easier to work within an airport, too. The scooter is tiny enough to fit in your bag and you can easily separate the scooter from the battery. An Arma would fit in your luggage while a Modobag is your luggage.

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The Catch

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Alright, if you’re about to crack open your wallet, I have to stop you. While Shimizu has a working prototype, the E-Scooter is not for sale yet. The company expects to build a second prototype in early 2024. Production is expected in June 2024 with shipments in fall 2024. Shimizu is funding this project through Kickstarter. As of writing, the project has reached $39,369 of Shimizu’s desired goal of $34,060. Of course, as with all Kickstarter campaigns, this thing could become total vaporware.

If that’s good enough for you to trust that you’ll get your Arma, the current cheapest pledge is $1,077, which Shimizu says is a 30 percent discount. That suggests an MSRP of $1,400 for one scooter plus one battery. Of course, since Shimizu is only in the prototyping stage, pricing and specifications are subject to change.

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The expected cost is far more than the $995 Honda Motocompacto, which is on sale right now. The Honda also has a seat, a distinctive design, and even a bare minimum of storage space. Also notable is the Arma Scooter’s 220-pound weight limit, which is less than the 265 pounds that the Honda can carry.

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Still, it’s pretty incredible that this team of engineers has been able to take the basic Bird-style e-scooter and figure out how to compact it into something barely taller than a cup of coffee. You could carry this thing in a big purse or small backpack and just deploy it when you don’t feel like walking. That’s neat! So, hopefully, by this time next year, you might see me scooting around O’Hare.

(Images: SMZ Inc., unless otherwise noted.)

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Ron888
Ron888
4 months ago

Very cool but- for boring common sense reasons- i wouldnt buy one.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
4 months ago

The concept has been a preoccupation with me for decades, and with my father previously. So many promising designs have come and gone.
My current favorite

https://www.frankebearings.co.uk/new-contract-with-award-winning-hub-less-wheel-electric-bike/

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
4 months ago

I suspect that if they came out with a TerraShimizu that it’d be popular with the coffee-flavored dessert crowd.

MrLM002
MrLM002
4 months ago

It’s a cool idea in theory and I do like the straight on standing approach for the deck design.

However the wheels are obscenely small, I don’t see this working anywhere where the “road” surface is not extremely smooth.

I’ve had this issue with rolling luggage for years, it’s all fine and dandy till you leave the smooth airport floors and you have to roll it around, then it’s scrapes and bumps most of the time it is on its wheels.

The difference between this and that is that my rolling luggage is transporting my stuff, and if my rolling luggage hits a bump that stops it dead in its tracks I won’t be catapulted off, and considering a helmet takes up even more storage space I wager most people would be without a helmet in that situation.

I love tiny vehicles quite a lot, but wheels are absolutely the last thing you should make small when setting out to make a wheeled tiny vehicle.

Sbzr
Sbzr
4 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

yeah these japanese inovations seems to only consider strictly Tokyoite roads, I like this setup where you rest with both feet on top of the wheel, but at least the front should be at least double the diameter

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
4 months ago

Brompton Brompton Brompton Brompton Brompton. There, I feel better. I’ve flown across the country using my Brompton for a door-to-door trip. It fits in most ovehead bins, and I’ve done that. Show up at the airport, fold it and put it through the X-ray, roll or ride to the gate, fold it up and carry it on, chuck it overhead with your bag as your personal item. Deplane, ride away from the gate.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
4 months ago

I do want one. I am guessing its not exactly heirloom quality for durability though and at that price, it would kind of need to be.

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