Corporate DispatchPro

Shared scooters jump into future

- KAREN KWOK

Electric scooters are not kids’ toys anymore. The pandemic has helped turn twowheeled transporta­tion into an essential part of urban traffic. More cities are also allowing them on the street. That has given startups which offer shared scooters in Europe a new lease of life.

Companies which let anyone with a smartphone rent a motorised scooter for short trips were already grappling with high operating costs, concerns about safety and intense competitio­n. Then the pandemic hit. In March 2020, U.S. operator Bird laid off a third of its staff. Rival Lime in May accepted a cash infusion from Uber Technologi­es at a 79% lower valuation, according to The Informatio­n. But social distancing has convinced more city dwellers seeking an alternativ­e to public transport to try the battery-powered two-wheelers. Major cities including London, New York and Paris legalised e-scooters, while limiting the number of shared operators through licensing.

Voi Technology, a Swedish startup that has won nearly twothirds of city licences in Europe to date, said the number of rides increased by 85% year-on-year in the three months to November. Even after the pandemic ends, Mckinsey expects global usage of shared e-scooters to grow by 12% compared to pre-crisis levels. While demand picks up, costs have come down. One of the biggest expenses for operators is fixing, recharging and relocating their e-scooter fleets. Voi, Lime and Berlin-based Tier have developed swappable batteries, which can halve maintenanc­e and relocation costs.

The result is that the businesses are becoming profitable. Users typically pay a one-off charge of $1 to unlock the device, and then

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