Founded by former Beats Music CEO David Hayman, the Unagi e-scooter company has inserted itself into a corner of popular culture. Its sleek scooters are often found in the hands of celebrities and musicians, setting them apart from the generic rental models found on street corners. Now, the company has revealed the Model One Voyager, a second-generation version of its current model, which the company will either sell to you immediately, or lease to you for $55 a month. Given the plaudits given to this device, it should come as no surprise that Voyager chose not to fix what wasn’t broken, but rather focus on addressing its predecessor’s (relatively few) flaws.
Longtime Unagi followers may remember that the company was working on an ultra-high-end scooter to top its lineup. At $2,440, the Eleven would have offered GPS tracking, turn-by-turn directions, and an ADAS collision sensor. Unagi killed the product, saying the market was shifting away from expensive one-time purchases to a service model. The majority of its customers currently pay $55 per month to rent a Model One, with the company taking care of maintenance and insurance. And this shift in focus is likely to result in more models looking to advance the existing concept, rather than delivering something more dramatic.
To avoid all the clichés, let’s get them all out in one paragraph and be done with it. Voyager is a file polishingAnd developmenta revision In the current form of the first form, you will find it difficult to distinguish them when looking at them from a distance. It uses the same industrial design, and the same high-quality materials, though the neck and fork angles have been modified for better stability. It’s still one of the best-looking e-scooters on the market today, with a clean, sleek design and color options that straddle the line between transportation and fashion statement.
Instead, the big changes are all on the inside, with a particular focus on addressing issues around scale and power that the existing tenants have dealt with first-rate. For example, while the first model’s quoted range tops out at a less-than-ideal 12 miles, the Voyager stretches out to 25, which should be enough to get you where you need to go and back without worry. Now, your real-world mileage will be very different based on your usage (and weight), but the hope is that Voyager will eliminate range anxiety for most people.
The second new feature, Distance To Empty, is a system that calculates your remaining range. It’s not overly complicated, as it uses a dynamic lookup table that checks your weight, speed profile, and hills profile against your current battery level. But it’s probably a better educated guess about how far you can go than just letting you see what percentage of battery is still there and letting you hope for the best.
In addition to the attention that goes into making sure you get enough power in Voyager, there’s a lot of focus on getting it back up again. The Model One can produce 26Nm of torque, but the Voyager will squirt out 32, with both motors delivering a combined peak power of 1,000W. Unagi said you can expect to see a 25 percent improvement in acceleration and deceleration from the engines, and that you’ll see charging times cut in half compared to the first model. That’s before we get to the promised improvements in hillclimbing, with Unagi saying riders should “get ready for magical, seemingly impossible hills.”
Disclaimer: I am based in the UK and it is currently illegal to ride an e-scooter on public roads and sidewalks. There is a generous exception to a series of government-sanctioned e-scooter trials currently, but private scooters are nearly all banned. For this review, I mainly used private roads and other private places, where laws do not apply, and not in public places. While the intended audience for this review is primarily American, our lawyers have reminded us to say that Engadget does not condone breaking the law, and that potential users in the UK risk having their scooters confiscated, or face criminal penalties including points on your driver’s license and a fine. However, Unagi sells the Model One to UK customers for £899, if you’re prepared to take the risk yourself.
You won’t need to spend a lot of time inside the Voyager’s companion app, which connects to the scooter via Bluetooth. You’ll see the odometer and the distance to the empty digits, and you can switch between single and dual drive modes. (You’ll mostly stay in dual-motor mode which offers better range and performance unless you’re on a flat surface and don’t need to speed up or slow down that much.) You can also activate headlights and, crucially, lock your scooter’s wheels to make it more difficult for an outrageous type to steal it.
If there’s one thing the Unagi should have, but didn’t improve on from the original, it’s the ride quality. Specifically, an effort to help Voyager level the less-than-pristine asphalt on our streets at times. Voyager comes with the same small solid rubber tires as the first model, without much suspension or shock absorption. When I feel every bump and crack in the road, it erodes my confidence as to how far I want to drive this thing.
Admittedly, this is a common problem with a lot of e-scooters, but it’s worth checking if you’re charging two or three times as much as the Xiaomi. Sure, the monthly rental cost covers maintenance, insurance, and everything else, but it’s still an excellent product. It all depends on whether you live somewhere with flat, well-maintained roads, because none of this will concern you. But if your streets have more than a few notches, prepare to feel them all on your knees.
I will say, the Unagi shared the confidence in their puncture-resistant tires and the belief that more could be done. A representative said that improvements to both the framing and deck board are in the pipeline, though neither will be ready for some time. It’s not yet clear if these modifications will be available in a future version of Voyager, or if they’ll be discontinued for the next new model, the Model 2, which is slated to arrive sometime in 2024.
This is probably the only drawback I can give, however, as everything else has seen the details get sweaty, and for good reason. There is the same electronic throttle and brake combo found in the previous model, which I found very easy to trust. It’s a personal preference I know, but I’ve often preferred the convenience of a mechanical brake over cheaper e-scooters to give me a sense of security when it comes to stopping. Oh, I can also grumble on the Milquetoast horn, which I’m sure won’t send a bunch of slow walkers your way, but that’s really it.
If you’re not familiar with the Model One, and you’re using an e-scooter with a smartphone mount, the Voyager’s screen may seem a little slim. There’s an old-school feel to the data displayed, with a brightly backlit speedometer that’s easily seen in strong light. This is key, since you’ll have to take your eyes off the road to check your speed—though I’ll admit I find my gut tells me how fast I can handle based on the surroundings rather than trying to stick to a solid speed form.
Below that number, you’ll find either the odometer or the trip computer, depending on your preference, and below that, the battery display. At the bottom, you’ll also be able to see which speed profile the scooter is set to, and icons that tell you if you’re in single or dual motor mode. To be honest, I don’t know how much extra data you would need on a scooter screen, and I love the neat and tidy way all this information has been laid out.
On flat roads, straights and gentle slopes, I found the Voyager to provide fairly excellent balance. With some practice, I was able to keep the cornering radius to a minimum, and it’s easy to ride at slow speeds. It’s very easy to ride when you open the throttle and try to get close to that top speed, even if I’m too chicken to get to the limit. Likewise, the headlights are bright enough, though if I were driving this on the roads at night I’d tend to have a head-up or shirt tail light because the deck brake light is a bit lower.
Voyager weighs in for the better part of 30 pounds, which is a lot of bulk to haul in your hands. 30 pounds may not sound like much, but with the scooter folded down, it’s very difficult to hold in your hand. I pulled my back one night, and the next day, I tried to haul this to a private road for testing before I rescued it and dumped it in the car instead. This rigidity may make it a no-brainer to climb every stair in the building, but it also gives you confidence that it won’t fall apart after a few weeks of use.
If you’re sold on the idea of carrying one of these with you, now you’ll want to look at the numbers. The Unagi Model One Voyager costs $1,190 to buy, but the company doesn’t expect many people to buy it right away. Alternatively, you hope they choose to rent their scooter through it which includes service, and theft insurance for an additional fee.
Base payment is $69 per month for no-obligation rental, with theft insurance an additional $5 per month. You can also order a “Guaranteed Brand New Scooter” for an additional $10 per month premium. As the name suggests, this will ensure that you get brand new hardware when you sign up and also if you need a replacement. Plus, of course, you’ll need to pay a one-time $50 subscription fee. Adding it all up and dividing by twelve means that to get one of those in your life, your monthly bill would be $89 a month.
Now, you need to decide whether to get that much back compared to, say, using the local Lime or Bird scooters in your area. The obvious advantage is that you’ll be able to ride your own scooter and never have to search for a working model when you’re out and about. The downside is that it is a fairly large expense each month so you better be certain you are getting your money’s worth by using a scooter as your primary means of transportation.
Meanwhile, if you already live inside Unagi’s scooter rental ecosystem and are paying for the first model, you can upgrade to the Voyager by switching your plan to the more expensive option and paying a one-time $50 fee.
If you’re looking for a motorcycle that will hopefully last a long time, get you to and from anywhere you need to go, and look good while doing it, this is probably a decent bet.