If you’ve spent any amount of time in large cities in the US recently, you’ve probably seen shared electric scooters. Everyone from flip-flop wearing millennials to loafer-clad businessmen have been spotted scooting around urban centers on the nimble little EVs. And while companies like Lime and Bird have taken the country by storm with their stand-up electric kick scooters, a new scooter sharing company known as OjO is set to provide an alternative sit-down option.

OjO debuts a new style of e-scooter share

New micro-mobility startup OjO is now preparing to roll out their sit-down electric scooter sharing platform in the US. With operations beginning in Austin, Texas, OjO’s new take on scooter sharing could signal a shift in the industry.

Functionally, OjO’s scooter sharing model will be similar to those of Bird, Lime and other electric scooter sharing companies. Scooters are parked free range-style around a city, waiting for users to unlock them and ride away, all via a smartphone application.

However, OjO’s scooters are starkly different from the popular razor-style electric scooters.

The OjO electric scooters more closely resemble Vespa-style scooters. They offer a seated riding position with a step-through frame design, and even offer a cargo trunk in the rear.

The OjO scooters will also travel faster than those offered by Bird and Lime, reaching speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/h). With both front and rear suspension, a lower center of gravity and a steeper rake angle, the OjO scooters should be much more stable than conventional electric kick scooters.

Anyone who has ridden a bicycle will find the controls instantly more familiar and comfortable than kick scooters, further aiding in reducing the learning curve.

According to OjO CEO Max Smith:

“OjO Electric is taking shared-use scooters to the next level, greatly improving the accessibility and range of scooters with our groundbreaking commuter scooter, equipped with a seat, so riders can stand or sit. This is truly a scooter for everyone.

Our OjO scooter is unique. It’s unlike anything the rideshare scooter market has seen and our rider experience is the safest on the streets.”

The scooters themselves offer more room for batteries, allowing a range of 50 miles (80 km) on a charge. Swappable 48V batteries allow the scooters to be quickly placed back into service when they eventually run out of charge. Current scooter sharing models like those by Bird and Lime require paying private citizens to collect and charge scooters in their homes.

OjO scooters will cost $1.25 to unlock and $0.18 per minute to ride. That’s slightly more expensive than the standard $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute charged by most other electric kick scooter companies.

OjO says that its scooters are intended only for bike lanes and street travel – not for sidewalks. Riders operating electric scooters on sidewalks has been one of the biggest source of complaints against the scooter sharing industry. The company claims that higher speed of 20 mph makes them safer options for city streets where they are better able to keep up with city traffic.

Electrek’s Take

I think that Vespa-style electric scooters with slightly higher speed limits are a great idea.

Wait, hold on. Put down the pitchforks and hear me out.

These types of vehicles use larger wheels and more stable frame geometries that more closely resemble bicycles and motorcycles, making them much safer to ride. Such vehicles are inherently stable when traveling at speed. Try taking your hands off a Bird scooter at 15 mph and see how that works out for you. Actually, don’t do that. Just trust me, it won’t end well. But do the same thing on a bicycle, motorcycle or vespa-style scooter and you’ll find that you don’t immediately eat pavement.

While increasing the speed of electric scooters used in scooter sharing programs might sound dangerous, I believe it can actually be safer. As someone who commuted for years on 20 mph electric bicycles, I always felt safer when I had that extra speed. In many cities, cars rarely travel faster than 25 mph in city centers, and roads with higher speeds often have bicycle lanes to provide safe riding areas for bikes and scooters.

And sure, I can already hear the disgruntled “but MY city has streets that go faster than that!” Yes, fine. Of course. And these scooters aren’t necessarily the answer to every commuting situation. Not every road in a city will be a 20 mph paradise or offer beautifully designed and manicured bike lanes, but for the many that do, these OjO scooters can be a great solution. They are one piece of a larger electric commuting ecosystem.

In fact, I believe these OjO scooters could finally help Americans realize what Europeans figured out decades ago. Nimble little seated scooters can be the perfect urban commuter vehicles. And while I feel better on my 30 mph GenZe 2.0 electric scooter, these OjO scooters are a great start to help transition Americans towards larger and faster electric scooter sharing programs.

And so while some might see these little EVs as further e-scooter nuisance, I see them as an opportunity for an evolution in the scooter-sharing model towards more comfortable, safer and ultimately more sustainable urban transportation.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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