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Mobility Perspectives

The Electric Bike/Scooter Sharing Craze Explained

Terenig Topjian | April 14, 2018

What the hell is going on?

It seems like the hottest thing in tech right now isn’t crypto, it’s not VR, or 3D printing…but bicycles?

How is it that e-bikes and e-scooters that just a few months ago were considered toys are now being invested in and bought out left and right?

First, Ford dips its toes and partners with Los Angeles based OjO.

Then things start heating up in the dockless e-bike and e-scooter sharing space. Here are the latest numbers of the most recent rounds of funding raised:

And with the ink barely dry on our analysis about these new vehicles and their hugely disruptive power, Uber now seems to recognize these “toys” for what they are, amazing mobility disruptors. It just acquired JUMP for potentially $200 million!

What’s going on?

Today’s Mobility Tradeoffs 

Let’s look at today’s primary urban mobility options:

  • Public transportation

  • Walking

  • Biking

  • Car

These options have significant trade-offs

On one hand, cars rank high in perceived ease of use, convenience, versatility, etc. Yet they are expensive, very inefficient, dangerous, and generally bad for users, cities, and the planet due to too much sitting, gridlock, emissions, causing terrible urban design, sprawl, community vibrancy, and decreased quality of life.

On the other hand there is biking and walking. These options are amazingly affordable, efficient, safe, and are incredibly good for users, cities, and the planet thanks to their encouragement of movement, zero emissions, higher bandwidth, small footprint, and propensity to encourage great urban design. Yet biking and walking rank low in perceived ease, convenience, speed, and versatility.

And then we have mass transit, which splits the difference. On average, mass transit ranks as acceptable on most metrics of mobility: cost, efficiency, emissions, ease of use, convenience, speed, and versatility (though they do score very high on safety). They are somewhat good for users, cities, and the planet.

In a nutshell, today’s mobility options have substantial tradeoffs, visually simplified below:

Rise of the Lightweight Vehicle 

Over the past few years the humble bicycle, scooter, and skateboard have begun evolving.

First, they acquired the power of the electric motor and battery. This gave them the biggest benefit of cars: power. This translates to ease of use, drastically less sweating/panting, uphill boosts, longer range. So most of the upside of cars without the weight, size, inefficiency, emissions, traffic, safety issues, and sprawl issues.

But the fun didn’t stop there! The bicycle, scooter, and skateboard have begun diversifying in form factor.

This diversification has seeing an entire ecosystem of new, light, green, efficient, affordable, and easy to ride vehicles from electric unicycles, to electric folding bikes, to electric bicycle-cars hybrids, skateboard-scooter hybrids, to electric cargo bikes, to motorcycle-bikes, and on and on.

Electric power combined with the diversification of form factors has spawned an entirely new class of mobility: lightweight electric vehicles.

By essentially stealing the best part of the car, the engine/motor, and slicing up the chunky automobile into an ecosystem of different form factors, lightweight EVs give us all the benefits of cars with almost none of their negative side effects!

And with stunning results. Let’s compare are lightweight EVs to cars:

Lightweight electric vehicles simply blow cars away in every category.

What Mobility Tradeoff?

Now, when we overlay lightweight EVs on top of our previous visualization, the mobility tradeoff simply vanishes:

Within App’s Reach

Currently, purchasing and using a lightweight electric vehicle like an e-scooter or an e-bike is no walk (or ride) in the park.

Early adopters of these awesome products have a lot of hoops to jump through:

  • Learn about the different categories of LEVs: e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skateboards, e-unicycles, e-bike/car hybrids, etc…

  • Learning about all the the different brand and sifting through cheap knockoffs vs trusted brands

  • Learning about all the different models, their differences, and features

  • Learning the technical specs and understanding what they mean

  • Learning about what features are important for their needs like quality, cargo capacity, top speed, reliability, safety, range, hill capabilities, portability

  • Test riding a few models to get a feel for them

  • Making a substantial financial commitment

  • Figuring out where to park or store after riding

  • Worrying about maintenance

  • Dockless bike sharing companies have completely eliminated all of these hurdles!

What took dozens of hours of research and testing and a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in investment, now takes a smartphone and a few minutes of app setup.

By putting LEVs on every corner, dockless bike sharing companies have literally put the power and fun of LEVs within app’s reach of anyone lucky enough to live in a city where they have launched!

Frictionless Access to Awesome Mobility 

This is why the dockless e-bike and e-scooter space has gotten so heated.

First, they eliminate the age old urban mobility tradeoff between today’s modes of urban mobility: biking, walking, cars, and public transport. They are insanely cost effective, super efficient, easy to use, incredibly sustainable, and fun to ride!

And second, dockless sharing companies have removed the barriers to adoption by putting e-bikes and e-scooters within app’s reach! No purchase required and no need to look for parking or storage when you’re done, or theft to worry about.

And people are absolutely loving them.

Topics: Autonomy, Electric, Innovation, Shared Mobility

Terenig Topjian, Founder, Have A Go