Tuesday, October 26, 2021

E-scooter boom threatened by stricter rules and more providers, even as the London test program grows

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Companies offering short-term e-scooter rentals are reporting the number of drivers that have returned to pre-pandemic levels as urban commuters avoid public transportation

After a period of breakneck growth, electric scooter companies are slowing their rapid expansion as they face shrinking profits and tighter regulations around the world.

But companies that offer short-term e-scooter rentals are also reporting that the number of drivers is returning to pre-pandemic levels, as urban commuters want to avoid public transport or rising taxi costs.

Since the launch of the Transport for London (TfL) e-scooter test program in June, over 165,000 trips have been made with the London fleet of 3,400 e-scooters from Lime, Tier and Dott.

At the same time, many unlicensed and illegal e-scooter trips are made every day, with the Metropolitan Police Service seizing more than 2,500 private vehicles since the beginning of 2021.

In June, researchers at dashcam company Nextbase predicted e-scooters would be involved in up to 200,000 accidents this year as ownership increases.

Internationally, increasing pressure on smaller vendors has resulted in many being bought by their larger competitors, including U.S. vendor Zagster, which was acquired by transportation technology company Superpedestrian in 2020, and Scoot in San Francisco, which was acquired by Bird Rides in 2019.

“It really takes orders of magnitude to get profitability up and running,” says Travis VanderZanden, CEO of Bird, which merged with the special acquisition company (Spac) Switchback II Corp. to go public We will see that some of the smaller players fall by the wayside. “

Bird has forecast its revenue to double in 2021 compared to a pandemic-stricken 2020, and then back to 400 million ridesharing companies like Uber in 2022, which had gross sales of 4.1 billion in 2019.

Bird’s merger – pending a shareholder vote on November 2 – valued the company at $ 2.3 billion, about 20 percent below the January 2020 price tag.

Lime, also a global player, recorded a loss in value of almost 80 percent compared to the previous year during a financing round in June 2020.

Businesses are facing cities using licenses to limit the number of operators, consumers demanding better software and vehicles, and insurers increasingly aware of the safety risks of small vehicles.

“There are many companies that cannot invest in hardware, invest in security, or invest in training,” said Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime.

Even so, there are widespread demands across the industry for the government to legalize private and shared e-scooters.

A report published by the Center for London in September said that ‘micromobility’ vehicles like e-scooters and e-bikes could help reduce car use, lower CO2 emissions and improve air quality.

Recommendations included giving TfL the power to manage joint e-scooter programs, ensuring all vehicles meet safety standards, and requiring operators to provide access to shared systems in places with less public transport.

Currently, e-scooters can only be rented in select London neighborhoods through supported programs: Ealing; Hammersmith and Fulham; Kensington and Chelsea; Richmond upon Thames; City of London; Lambeth; Southwark; Tower hamlet; and Westminster.

However, the test program is only open to three providers – Lime, Tier and Dott – and ends in June 2022.

“We are determined to make sure that safety is the focus of our test and that it works for everyone,” said Helen Sharp, TfL’s Head of E-Scooter Test for London.

“Safety remains at the center of our endeavors and we continue to work with e-scooter operators, London City Councils and London boroughs to ensure that strict standards are maintained.”

In order to meet the requirements of London, the Berlin company Tier has developed software that prevents their scooters from driving on certain busy streets.

“You could just push it, maybe, but it wouldn’t be easy,” said Tiers UK and Ireland city chief Georgia Yexley.

Another problem for aspiring e-scooter providers is that insurers generally view micro-vehicles as more dangerous than bicycles or cars.

“Drivers are particularly at risk, more so than cyclists,” said Martin Smith, technical claims manager for motor vehicles at Aviva, a major insurer that does not yet cover e-scooters.

Regular car insurers such as AXA, Admiral and Unipolsai are also avoiding e-scooter providers and leaving them to specialized players such as the London start-up Zego.

Additional coverage by Newswires.

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