Electric scooter company Wheels believes that scooter-share riders would rather sit than stand. And investors are banking on them, big time.
Wheels’ e-scooters raise big-time cash
Wheels just raised US $50 million in a funding round led by DBL Partners.
That’s a lot of electric scooters.
According to Ira Ehrenpreis, DBL Partners’ founder and managing partner:
The micromobility market has the ability to continue to revolutionize the future electrification of transport, but problems of safety and sustainability are keeping the industry from reaching its true potential. Wheels is solving these issues with its safety-focused product design, including the upcoming release of its integrated helmet technology, a more sustainable business and maintenance model, and a mass-market design that appeals to a wider gender and age demographic.
It’s not DBL’s first electric vehicle investment. The firm was an early investor in Tesla, and Ehrenpreis has been a longtime board member at the California-based automaker.
Wheels’ electric scooters use a similar business model to companies like Lime and Bird. The electric scooters can be rented by the minute using a smartphone and are dockless, meaning they can be left just about anywhere around a city once the user has arrived at his or her destination.
Unlike most scooter companies, though, Wheels has a few differences. Wheels uses swappable batteries to improve unit economics and make it easier to keep charged scooters on the road.
And of course Wheels’ scooters look a bit different thanks to the seated form factor, which almost no other electric scooter sharing company has adopted.
Are sit-down electric scooters better?
Wheels sure thinks that seated electric scooters are better, and it seems that a lot of riders agree.
Many people feel more comfortable riding an electric scooter in the seated position, which more closely mimics the natural feeling of riding a bicycle.
The seated design also gives riders a lower center of gravity, which can help them to feel more stable.
Further increasing stability are the larger diameter wheels found on the Wheels electric scooters. That’s an issue that has plagued many other electric scooter sharing companies. With the small wheels found on most electric scooters, even small ledges or potholes can become serious safety hazards.
But Wheels’ focus on safety doesn’t just come down to larger wheels and a seat. The company also has a patent-pending sharable and smart helmet design that is integrated directly into the scooter. It ensures riders are wearing proper protection while operating the seated electric scooter.
Wheels will be using the new round of investment to help it expand to new cities in the US and into Europe. The company believes its electric scooters will be particularly suited to many European cities, where cobblestone streets and paths have proved troublesome for many of the established electric scooter sharing companies.
There’s a lot for me to like here.
The last time I rode a lime scooter in Paris, the cobblestone paths shook me so hard that my vision was literally blurring and it became hard to see where I was going.
So the larger wheels of the Wheels electric scooters could be a huge advantage in that regard.
I also just prefer sitting while riding these types of vehicles. Sure, I’ve ridden and tested just about every type of electric micromobility product. But whether I’m on an electric unicycle or a 40 mph (64 km/h) electric scooter, there’s just nothing that feels quite as stable or natural as an electric bicycle.
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