Micromobility has arrived
Lime has released 900 electric scooters onto the streets of Christchurch and Auckland this week, making New Zealand the first country in the Asia Pacific in which the company has launched its urban transport solution.
Lime scooters can be rented by users via an app for $1 to unlock the e-scooter and 30c a minute, or up to $18 an hour, to ride. They travel at speeds up to 25km an hour, and as they are dockless, the e-scooters can be picked up - and left - anywhere within a defined geographical area. According to the NZTA, riders aren't legally required to wear a helmet (although its recommended) and e-scooters can be driven on roads, footpaths and cycleways.
Lime, which was founded in June 2017, is one of numerous e-scooter transport companies to have launched in the USA in the past two years. The company has raised over US$467m in venture capital funding and is in over 100 North American and European marketts.
In the US, local authorities have differed in their approach to this new form of transport, with some more friendly to e-scooters than others. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, for example, has only granted licenses to two e-scooter companies - Scoot and Skip - to operate. Incidentally, these companies are licensed to deploy 625 scooters each, so Auckland is well stocked with Lime's 900 e-scooters.
New Zealand councils appear - on the face of it - quite welcoming. Stuff quotes Christchurch city councillor Vicki Buck as finding the scooters to be "zero emissions and a lot of fun".
Aside from concerns about pedestrian and rider safety the main beef with e-scooters is that they are randomly scattered around the city's parks and footpaths. Lime says the scooters will be picked up each night by independent contractors who will recharge and return them for the following day.
Lime's main rival in Auckland is Onzo, which launched a bike-share fleet in November last year and which, according to the NZ Herald, plans to add 500 e-scooters to its fleet later this month, with a further 2000 in the coming months.
While this may seem like an over-supply, the market for e-scooters is so brand-new that's it's difficult to say if it will be an enduring feature of city transportation. The companies that have sprung up to offer e-scooters are certainly bullish. A recent conference call about micromobility by the Silicon Valley news outlet The Information with Scoot, Skip and Uber-owned Jump, showed that the market could be huge. Scoot CEO Michael Keating estimates that four trillion trips are made annually in cities around the world (that is, people going to work, school and home again etc) and it's estimated a trillion of those trips could be addressed by "small electric vehicles".
The e-scooter companies said on the call that a friendly local council was more advantageous then being first to a city, and that climate is a major factor when picking a city in which to launch (no surprises that Lime has arrived in springtime!). The most difficult part of the operation is the hardware - keeping the e-scooters on the road (or footpath) and recharged.
If overseas experience is any indication, e-scooters are proving popular with consumers, and there are no reasons to doubt that they won't take off over here to. The adoption of ridesharing apps such as Uber and Zoomy in our cities has been swift, aided by a Government willing to accommodate new and innovative forms of public transport.
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