As we discussed in our first post, dockless e-scooter and e-bike sharing companies are actually the best thing to happen to the future of the ownership model of lightweight electric vehicles (LEV) thanks to the elimination of several bottlenecks of LEV adoption thanks to the tremendous exposure.
But now with so many of them easily accessible on city streets, why even own?
We thought you’d never ask!
Renting/sharing is definitely here to stay. And it will play a major (if not the primary role) in LEV use and adoption.
But are numerous reasons why many are going to want an LEV of their very own.
EASIER ACCESS IN LOW DENSITY AREAS
While it’s feasible to plop hundreds of scooters in a dense parts of town, there will always be large swaths of urban areas where it will probably not make financial sense for rental/sharing companies to have, maintain, and rebalance scooters or bikes. In such areas, ownership would work really well. We’re already seeing user behavior mimicking ownership: bringing a LimeBike or Bird inside apartment complex gates in the evening to guarantee access to one in the morning has been reported among semi-regular users.
HIGH COST OF FREQUENT RENTAL
A quick scoot around the block is pretty cheap. But any ride over 15-20 minutes means spending $4-5. Longer rides cost more. Renting a bike or a scooter for commuting to and from work can quickly add up to $10-15 per day. So daily, regular use ain’t cheap and ownership would make much more sense.
The generic JUMP bike or Spin scooter is fine for a quick ride. But as users start using them regularly, they will start becoming more discerning and more demanding of their electric rides:
- Steeper hills: Those who live in hillier areas will find some rental LEVs under-powered and will want to opt for more powerful LEVs. Today’s Bird scooters have 250W motors, but there are many comparable scooters like the Speedway Mini 4 Pro double that with 500W of power.
- Smoother rides for bad road conditions or longer rides: Models with more suspension, larger, cushier, more capable tires help smooth out an otherwise bumpy rides. The hefty tires of Sondors or Lithium Cycles should help with some smooth sailing.
- Off-roading: LEVs aren’t just utilitarian. In fact, our research indicates that a significant percentage of LEV owners use them for fun. A Rad Rover fat tire electric bike provides much off-roading awesomeness and a OneWheel lets riders essentially snowboard on any street or trail.
- Faster: With the safe (boring) top speed of 15 mph, many users will quickly feel the need to go a bit faster, especially on protected bike lanes or roads with limited car traffic. Faster pedelec e-bikes like the BULLS Urban EVO allow riders to fly up to 28 mph!
- Cargo: As people begin using LEVs more and more, they’ll begin using them to run their errands and might feel the need for some cargo capacity. An URB-E let’s you put a baskets on a scooter and wheel it around a grocery store and cargo bikes like the Virtue Cycles Schoolbus+ are practically SUVs without the 6000 extra pounds and tens of thousands of dollars of expense.
- Design/self expression: While the generic LEV might work for pure utilitarian function, many might prefer something well designed, unique, or customized, and might pay top dollar for the sleekness of a Propella or the retro of a Faraday Porteur.
- Craving a challenge: Any 4 year old can ride a Razor scooter and this ease is one of the appeals of e-scooters. Yet some people will want more of a challenge. Electric unicycles for instance take days to learn, weeks to get good at, and months to master. But that’s why thousands love them. The journey is half the fun!
- Weather: Writing from sunny Los Angeles, it’s easy to forget that sometimes water or ice falls from the sky. When the atmosphere does decide to misbehave, there are protected bike/car hybrids like the Organic Transit ELF to keep you nice and dry.
- Balance: Finally, not everybody is completely able bodied. The elderly or those with disabilities would have a much easier time with e-tricycles, like a Sun 24″ Electric Traditional Tricycle, which require no balance.
Here’s Propella’s Founder/CEO Ben Tarassoli echoing some of these points:
The ownership models works better for e-bike and other forms of lightweight electric vehicles. From a design standpoint, most electric bikes used by bike shares like LimeBike or Jump are simply a motor and battery added to a bike and do not count for weight distribution, comfort, ride dynamics, etc. Most regular e-bike commuters pay attention to great design and want to invest in a long-term solution.
BUT CLEARLY, DOCKLESS SHARING WILL MEAN A MUCH SMALLER OWNERSHIP MARKET, NO?
True, before renting/sharing, ownership had a near 100% market share. But it was a teeny-tiny market. It was super niche.
Renting/sharing has suddenly blown the LEV market wide open, exposing millions to e-bikes and e-scooters making LEVs mass market. Even though ownership will constitute a smaller percentage of the LEV market, the market itself will become a truly massive, global, multi-billion dollar industry. This is because LEVs aren’t simply walking replacements. They are quickly starting to replace car trips, as evidenced by the Uber acquisition of JUMP and a study by for Portland based National Institute for Transportation and Communities. This is classic disruption at work, which we wrote about a few posts ago.
So a smaller overall percentage of a larger market will be an absolutely stunning win for the ownership model and for brands and manufacturers of LEVs.
It amounts to a smaller piece of a much, much, much larger pie.