Lime plans to add moped-sharing to scooter and bike services

Lime, the scooter and bike-sharing platform, plans to introduce mopeds to somefleets starting this spring as it continuestoassemble a range oftransportation options intended to tempt people to give uptheir cars. The additions will bringthe company into directcompetition with Revel Transit Inc.,the Brooklyn, New York-based startup that has popularized moped-sharing in a handful of American cities over the last year.

File photo of a Lime shared electric scooter used for representational purpose (AFP)
File photo of a Lime shared electric scooter used for representational purpose

Lime, whose official name is Neutron Holdings Inc., sees mopeds as a form oftransportation that’s more appropriate for travel distances ofup to five miles, or for lugging around groceries. The company willlaunch first with 600 scootersinWashingtonin March, followed by Paris later this spring. Itis considering expanding toother cities later in the year.Wayne Ting, Lime’s chief executive officer, said thecompany choseWashington and Parisbecause italready operates fleets ofbikes and scooters inthose cities, whoselocal governments are amenable to new mobility options.“They’re committed to showing there’s something better than the car," Tingsaid. Lime is in active conversations with most cities about permitting.

The Washington,D.C.,Department ofTransportation, which is currently running a pilotprogram for moped sharing , said it has not yet approved companies other than Revel to operate in the district. Lime, whose mopeds will be manufactured by the Beijing-based Niu Technologies — the same supplierRevel uses —says it has added such features to the motorbikesasinfrared sensors that will help ensure riders return helmets to the cases attached to thevehicles.

Also Read : Ola to launch its electric two-wheeler range in New Zealand

When it launched in 2017, Lime was solelyfocused on bicycles. Itadded scooters laterthat year, after Bird Rides Inc. gained overnight success with a scooter-sharing service in Santa Monica, California.The two companies began racing to launch in new cities, fueled by an astonishingamount of venture capital.Lime expanded its service to include other forms of transportation. Its founders said in 2018that they were working on creating a network ofgo-kart-esque“transit pods," and the company briefly ran a car-sharing service in Seattle.Lime and Bird burnedthrough money, and both were forced to retrencheven before Covid hit the mobility industry hard early last year.

Ting said Lime’s attempt to expand into car-sharing came too early, and that itdidn’t make sense to add a fleet of vehicles thatrelied on combustion engines,given that company’smission toreducecarbon emissions. The electric mopeds are a better fit, he said, adding that thecompany alsoplans to launch othervehicle types bythe end of the year.Gabe Klein, a former Zipcar executive who now runs CityFi, a consultancy, said thatit’s logical formobilitycompanies to expand into various types of vehicles.“I’m less impressed on the business side withcompanies that are marriedto just one form factor," he said.But mopeds bring their own set of concerns. They are bigger andfaster than scooters, which makes them more dangerous.

Klein saidmore riders will inevitably mean more accidents, which he fearscould makeinsurance costsuntenable.Revel hasalready faced controversyover fatal crashes involving its vehicles,which could makepublicofficials less receptive to moped-sharingprograms inthe future.Even if city governmentsembrace moped-sharing, theycouldundermine itseconomics with regulations.In New York, someofficials have argued for safety measures that seemed almost impossible to comply with.

Polly Trottenberg, the former commissioner of transportation for the city, acknowledged last fall thatthe requirements the citywas considering for Revel“may make it hard for the company to be financially viable."Mopeds cost more than scooters for companies like Lime to purchase, and it’s notclear how much more people will pay to ride them;Lime says it is still working onpricing forWashington. Ting said he guessespeople will take longer trips on mopeds than on scooters, translating to higher revenue for each ride. But he acknowledged thatmany questions remain open.“We’regoing to find out," he said. 'What happens in Excel doesn’t always happen in real life."

First Published Date: 27 Jan 2021, 17:05 PM IST
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