Even while facing rollout problems at home, electric scooter share companies are flush with cash and expanding their operations overseas. The scooter companies are hoping that they can make early claims to European cities and snatch up market share before their competitors.
Lime, one of many US-based electric scooter share companies embroiled in controversy back home, has announced that they are rolling out operations with hundreds of electric scooters in Paris as of yesterday. Last week they began similar scooter rental services in Zurich.
Lime says that they plan to have thousands of electric scooters available in Paris soon, where users can locate and rent the scooters using a smartphone app.
The scooters are dockless, meaning they don’t need to be returned to specific receptacles. Riders can simply leave them anywhere in the city, allowing much more freedom than traditional bike sharing services found in many large cities.
Prices for Lime’s scooters in Paris are comparable to those in the US, just €1 ($1.16) plus €0.15 ($0.17) per minute afterwards for as long as the user rides the scooter. Most rides in the US end up costing around $2-$3, depending on the length of the trip – much cheaper than taking a taxi and much faster than riding the bus.
The electric scooters have received mixed reviews in the US. Their rollouts have been met with cheers by many riders who enjoy the convenient new form of transportation, even while many pedestrians cry foul over riders zipping dangerously (and sometimes illegally) around sidewalks.
City governments have also pushed back against the scooter companies that began operations without cooperating with the cities, instead just dropping scooters on city streets overnight in a “ask for forgiveness, not permission” strategy.
It appears that Lime has learned a lesson from the municipal pushback in the US, and this time coordinated with the city of Paris before beginning operations. According to CNN, a spokesperson for the mayor of Paris said:
“The local government supports any service that will improve mobility and allow Parisians to move about easily. But it must be organized, there will be a charter to regulate this service, [and] they must be kept off the pavements and not interrupt pedestrian movements.”
That last part may prove to be an issue for Lime, as it has been the main stumbling block that all US-based electric scooter share companies have been trying to deal with since their recent inception.
It is no secret that the electric scooter share companies in the US have been butting heads with municipalities and city governments in nearly every city they have entered.
The main companies including Bird, Spin and Lime are also cash-rich right now, riding high on hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital funding. But in order to succeed, each company has to grab as much market share as possible, lest they fall to the wayside. With such fierce competition in the US combined with city crackdowns and a rash of cease-and-desist orders, expanding internationally was the next logical step.
The companies are likely hoping to find friendlier waters in Europe, where smaller vehicles such as mopeds and electric scooters are already commonly displacing gas alternatives. Perhaps with a greater acceptance of alternative forms of transportation, the companies will not only find an ever larger ridership, but will also receive a warmer welcome from the cities they enter.
The scooters are absolutely a positive thing for cities and their residents, as they provide a cheap and effective form of personal transportation. They can also be a great way to introduce people to the concept of small electric vehicles. But hopefully the companies can find a middle ground to work with cities and ensure the scooters remain a convenience to users and not an inconvenience to everyone else.