Battery-swappable Japanese e-scooter folds smaller than a briefcase
There are a surprising number of folding electric scooters out there designed to fit in a basic backpack or even shoulder bag, but Japanese personal mobility company Shimizu has even bigger ... er ... tinier aspirations. It's currently refining a prototype it says will be the world's smallest and lightest, and while we're not ready to rubber-stamp it as such, its 10-lb (4.5-kg) Arma folder is indeed impressively compact. The last-mile transporter quickly packs to the length and width of a piece of printer paper to carry in a messenger bag or daypack ... or work as its own briefcase, complete with built-in handle.
As far as Shimizu's "world's smallest and lightest" claims, we've seen at least one design in recent years with comparably tiny dimensions and an even lower 8.8-lb (4-kg) weight – the Blizwheel scooter. We're not going to get too hung up on crowning a king, though, since both models were/are in the pre-production crowdfunding stage at the time of coverage, and specs tend to be quite fluid at that point. Also, there always seems to be another "world's lightest, smallest, quickest ..." waiting just around the corner.
Superlatives or not, the Arma promises to be a very convenient urban commuter, especially when it comes to carrying it onto public transportation, up a high-rise office or apartment building, into retail stores, etc. And it brings a feature you don't often see on folding e-scooters of any size: a battery swappable platform that lets users quickly replace a drained battery with a fresh one.
Shimizu estimates that each 3.5-Ah 36-V lithium battery can run the 250-W motor for between 7 and 9 miles (11 and 14.5 km) of range while maintaining that the Arma is still in the prototype stage and final specs may change. Top speed is estimated at 14.9 mph (24 km/h), which sounds about as fast as anyone should want to go on a tiny, multi-jointed stand-up scooter. The battery is located in the central body shell connecting the scooter's steering tube and foot platform, removing quickly and easily to charge in roughly two hours via USB-C.
Unlike the classic single-jointed scooter stem/foot deck folding mechanism, the Arma employs multiple joints so that it can pack much smaller. Each of the two foot decks folds down around the rear wheel to create the lower half of the packed case which swings around to surround the folded front wheel. Up top, the handlebars fold inward, allowing the full-length steering tube to fold in three over the midsection and become the top of the packaged carry case. Shimizu says the process takes less than 30 seconds and hopes to make it even quicker on the production version.
The packaged Arma's 210 x 297-mm (8.3 x 11.7-in) height x width are the exact same dimensions as a leaf of A4 paper, the international equivalent of US 8.5 x 11-in printer paper. The 3.8-in (96-mm) depth of the packed Arma is, of course, thicker than paper but still makes for a very compact package that can slide into a backpack, laptop bag, briefcase or tote. At an even 10 lb (4.5 kg), it's light enough to avoid becoming cumbersome, even with a spare battery or two thrown in the pack for added range.
The Arma includes both an accelerator and brake button on the handlebars, along with a central display for metrics like speed and battery life. It can support riders up to 220 lb (100 kg).
Shimizu showed the first Arma prototype at the Japan Mobility Show back in October and launched a Kickstarter this week to raise money to continue refining the second prototype. It plans to test that prototype in early 2024 before moving into the production phase. Those who want to get in early on the scooter will find the Arma for pledge levels as low as ¥135,000 (approx. US$920), an estimated 40% off MSRP. A single battery is included and spare batteries can be added for roughly $199 each.
The video shows a seamless multimodal commute stitched together with the Arma.