First came bike sharing schemes, then electric car sharing systems started gaining in popularity. Now several large cities around the world are rolling out electric scooter sharing services. Will this be the new vehicle of choice for urban dwellers?
The first mass-produced electric scooter (aptly named Scoot’Elec) was released by Peugeot in 1996. Since then, several different brands have launched their own model, and they are getting sleeker and more efficient every year.
It is therefore not surprising that they are starting to get attention as an alternative – or a compromise – between bicycles and electric cars, especially in big cities.
Paris Has Cityscoot and Mober
In Paris, Cityscoot is the main player in the e-scooter sharing scene. After a successful launch in June 2016, the company is planning to increase its fleet from 650 to 1000 scooters by the end of March this year, with the ultimate goal of having 3000 scooters in the French capital by 2020. Renting a Cityscoot costs 0.28 EUR per minute and the helmet is in the scooter.
According to Vincent Bustarret, marketing director of Cityscoot, the company’s success is due to the fact that the vehicles can be picked up anywhere (they are found with an app) and parked anywhere after being used, unlike electric cars which often need to be returned to a specific charging station.
This would explain why the user numbers of Autolib (a car share system) are stagnating, while Cityscoot and their rival Mober are increasing in popularity.
Scoot Networks in San Francisco
Thousands of kilometres away, San Francisco’s streets are filling with bright red electric scooters. Scoot Networks currently has a fleet of 500 vehicles in the Californian city and the number is steadily growing.
According to their FAQ,
“Even when you factor in the emissions from the power plants that make the electricity that goes into a scoot’s battery, the scoot still emits 2% of what a car emits when driving in the city.”
Just like Cityscoot, the sharing system is based on an app. The first 30 minutes cost a flat rate of 3$, and then 10 cents for each additional minute. New scooter drivers have the option to sign up for lessons if they are not comfortable hitting the road on their new ride.
Electric Mopeds in the Rest of the World
Cityscoot and Scoot Networks are some of the most prominent examples, but e-scooter sharing schemes are appearing and growing in several more cities. In Berlin, different sharing platforms are competing for attention, including eMio and Coup.
In Vancouver, Saturna Green Systems is planning to launch a trial run with 50-100 scooters in June this year.
What Are the Advantages of an Electric Scooter?
The advantages of electric scooters are clear: less noise, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less traffic, less time spent looking for a parking spot. While the same can be said about bikes, scooters are faster, they allow users to cover greater distances and can attract customers who are not able to cycle for physical reasons.
In addition, based on my personal experience pushing my bike up San Francisco’s steepest hills, scooters are ideal for non-flat cities.
It is important to note that not all cities are equally well suited to electric scooters. There is a reason why mopeds are traditionally associated with a romantic view of Europe: their narrow streets are more appropriate for the two-wheelers.
In North America, most cities were built with the car in mind and little scooters have to fight for space on broad, multi-lane streets. This is one of the reasons why the idea of bringing a scooter share to New York City is so controversial.