Technologies such as smart phones, GPS technology and lithium batteries have created the perfect storm for the birth of the shared economy and micromobility. Across many cities a new generation bypasses owning their vehicle altogether and chooses to rent instead for their most mundane trips across the city. For a nominal fee charged per kilometer driven, the app-operated system creates a real alternative for the so-called “last mile” transportation needs: the space between an established mass-transit system and the destination.
But it has become more than that. Silicon Valley darlings such as Bird, Lime or Spin are raising hundreds of million dollars creating a new class of personal mobility in the process. Uber has jumped on the bandwagon by acquiring Jump for some $200 million. Even car companies such as BMW have come up with their own e-scooters showing a global interest in the shared economy, even by mainstream transportation companies.
Few people know, however, that the forerunner of today's e-scooter originated in Zurich. In 1997, Wim Ouboter, CEO of Micro Mobility Systems designed the first foldable micro scooter, which at the time already led to a new kind of mass mobility.
It is, however, not entirely smooth-riding as they still need to overcome a number of hurdles. Cities are having trouble coping with the increasing number of e-scooters cluttering roads and sidewalks, creating safety hazard wherever they are found; not to mention the danger posed to pedestrians by particularly reckless riders. In the US, rental e-scooters have an estimated lifespan of approximately 28 days; and the increasing number of serious accidents incurred by e-scooters has even led to calls for them to be totally banned.
Absence of legal framework by cities worldwide is however only one aspect of the issues facing the fledgeling industry. A clear path to profitability is not certain, due to affordable rent rates and short equipment lifespan. This phase could, however, be the first step as better and safer vehicles come along.