Reviews

NIU KQi Air: Carbon Fiber Featherweight Champion

We’ve watched manufacturers struggle to get the balance between weight and performance right. NIU’s engineers have nailed it with the KQi Air, without compromising on what matters.

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NIU KQi Air – $1399

The NIU KQi Air delivers the same quality and performance of NIU’s other excellent scooters in a carbon fiber frame that brings the weight down to 26 lbs.

Who Is This Scooter For?

While aimed at commuters who want ultimate portability, the KQi Air will appeal to anyone who wants a fun, super-lightweight last-mile personal electric vehicle.

Our reviewer Mitchell says:

“This is gonna be one that sits next to my door for a long time for daily errands or to toss in the car for travel, or a hundred other things.”


Our Full Video Review

Top: NIU KQi Air: Carbon Fiber Featherweight Champion

NIU KQi Air: Performance

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Top Speed

The big story of the KQi Air is that is performs pretty much exactly like its bigger sibling, the KQi3 Pro (a scooter we once called a “Mercedes Benz of electric scooters”), with a top speed of around 18 mph. But it’s twenty pounds lighter thanks to a carbon-fiber frame.

That story, our tests showed, is basically true.

Numbers vary due to differences in rider weight, terrain, weather and wind conditions, etc. But we produced basically the same results from the NIU KQi3 Pro and the NIU KQi Air.

That’s no surprise given the KQi Air’s specs: a 48V, 9.4 Ah battery, a single rear 350W motor (with 700W peak power), a claimed top speed of 20 mph, and range of 31 miles.

The KQi Air also passes “the feel test,” says our reviewer Mitchell Anderson:

“Riding both the KQi3 [Pro] and the KQi Air one after the other, I don’t notice any difference in acceleration or speed. The big difference is really the weight of the scooter under you.”

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Range

Designed for riders of up to 265 lbs, the KQi Air likely won’t get close to its promised range of 31 miles except in the most ideal of conditions. 

However, the KQi Air stacks up nicely next to the much heavier KQi3 Pro. We got over 20 miles of range with a 165 lbs rider, and around 15-16 miles of range with a 200 lbs rider. 

Braking

The combination of a single rear electronic brake and front mechanical disc (or some variation) has proven itself over and over as an effective means of stopping a lightweight electric scooter. There’s certainly no exception here.

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Almost no scooter on the market is currently as light as the KQi Air, which could be the ideal replacement for, and upgrade from, for the no-longer available 27-lb Xiaomi Mi M365.

Ride Quality

Maybe one of the biggest compromises all makers of lightweight electric scooters make is deciding to forgo suspension.

Here, as with all of NIU’s foldable electric scooters, the company relies on a spacious deck and large tubeless tires to dampen bumps and potholes; and as with the other KQi scooters, the design works perfectly well for the scooter’s intended use as an urban commuter and fun errand runner.

Top: NIU KQi Air: Carbon Fiber Featherweight Champion
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NIU KQi Air: Design, Build & Reliability

NIU has gone for minimalism with the design of the KQi Air, streamlining the scooter’s cockpit with a twist throttle with embedded controls for parameters and display settings.

The signature NIU headlight with always-on halo and 9.5 inch tubeless pneumatic tires identify this scooter as similar to its siblings, but its luxuriously wide, concave deck make it more suitable for carving than just riding city streets.

Aside from the few plastic and aluminum components, nearly everything on the KQi Air is crafted from carbon except the deck bridge, a part that’s harder to manufacture and so here is made of magnesium, a material with a similarly high strength-to-weight ratio.

The carbon fiber is exposed, and it’s an attractive material that pairs well with the scooter’s basic black trim. And with an IP55 weather resistance rating, you don’t need to worry about commuting in the rain. 

We encountered some problems with the app that may likely be fixed by the time this review publishes or soon after (see our full video review for more specifics). None of the technical issues were deal breakers.

“My issue with the app is a minor blemish on what would otherwise be a near perfect scooter [with] almost no meaningful flaws…. This is probably the best featherweight scooter on the market.”


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NIU KQi Air: Is It Worth It? Our Verdict

The KQi Air comes in two flavors, the mostly-carbon KQi Air and fully-carbon KQi Air X for competists.

There’s no reason not to spend an extra $400, if you want to, on the X. You’ll shave off about a half pound of weight from the scooter.

But there’s also no reason to do so when the KQi Air is already an incredible value at $1399 ($1049 on sale!) and weighs only 26 lbs.

In fact, this may be the lightest electric scooter for adults on the market today, or at least one of the lightest scooters we can confidently recommend. Can we recommend it? Yes, we can confidently recommend a scooter our tester described as having “no meaningful flaws.”

Top: NIU KQi Air: Carbon Fiber Featherweight Champion

Mitchell Anderson

Mitchell has been fascinated by electric scooters since 2019. He began sharing his enthusiasm on his YouTube channel, “RK9 Rides,” in 2020. He joined Rider Guide in 2023, and between the two channels, he spends seven days a week riding, testing, and writing about electric scooters. He has tested dozens of models from dozens of brands and is always on the lookout for the newest and greatest scooters. His current favorite models are the NAMI Klima and the NIU KQi3 Max.

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