Electric Scooter Rentals - Everything you need to know
- Read Time: 12 min
You must have seen them by now, if you live in or have visited a bigger metropolitan city in the last three years. Be it in the US, Europe, South America or Asia. Electric Scooter Rentals are a part of the scenery of the "hoipolloi" that we have gotten so used to by now as part of the western way of life in modern city centers.
A maelstrom of tourists and local commuters who all seem to be out at the same time, fighting to get to their end destinations. Walkways and bikelanes are now also visited frequently by scooter riders who with a tap on their smartphone, have easy access to a vehicle that can swiftly get them to their next stop for a beer, coffee or a business meeting.
Electric Scooter Rental Companies
There's more of these companies than one would guess. Lime and Bird, being two of the biggest we recognize of course, but have you heard of some of the others? Let's see... Spin, Jump, Grab, Neuron, Voi, Circ, Tier, Yellow, Grin, Lyft, Wind, Skip, Ofo, are some of the scooter rental companies that operate around the globe today.
In this article, we will cover all you need to know about how it works to use one, what to consider when renting one, different pricings, how safe it is, pros & cons, and compare some of the bigger ones.
Lime Rental Scooters
Let's begin with Lime since they are global and is, (or maybe one should say was...) one of the biggest if not the biggest.
As of September 2019, Lime operated in more than 120 cities across more than 30 countries. However, in January 2020, Lime announced that it was pulling away from 11 locations, including several US metropolitan areas such as Atlanta. Finding out where Lime operates today is not just a question of a quick Google check, but rather to download their app and see if they are in your area.
If they are, then it's a very simple process to use one. The rental program is similar to most other scooter rental companies. You register your card details via their app, search for an e-scooter closest to you, and once you find your scooter, you unlock it with a QR code at a fee of 1 USD or 1 Euro, and then you pay per minute. Initially, it cost 0.15 cents per minute, but the minute price has gone up to as much as 0.25 cents. It might not seem much looking at the number, but it is an increase of 66% and it can quickly add up.
Again, it is the app that will let you know what you have to pay per minute depending on your location. The app will also tell you where you can ride and where you can't. After usage, you need to take a picture of it to make sure it is parked in a Lime designated area. If you drop it off outside in the "red zone" there will be a fee.
Lime also operates e-bikes in a bike share program. It works basically the same way. Find your nearest bike via the app, unlock it with the QR code, unlocking fee the same, 1 USD or 1 Euro and off you go at 0.15 USD/minute. The e-bike, however, is a much more cumbersome vehicle and, as far as e-bikes goes, Limes choice is not a very good one. It only has one gear, and if you need to climb some hills it will be a challenge as you need to pedal all the time since it has no throttle. I suppose the reason one would opt for the e-bike instead of the e-scooter is a feeling of knowing how to bike, feels safer than operating an electric scooter. The e-bike takes up more space though and is not as agile or swift as its electric scooter counterpart. Top speed for the bike as well as the e-scooter is 16 mph (25 kph). The range varies though as the bike can reach approximately 60 miles (100 km) whereas the smaller capacity battery of the e-scooter has a range of about 12-25 miles (20-40 km) depending on how you use it obviously.
Bird Rental Scooters
Bird is the biggest competitor of Lime and started about the same time. They operate globally in 100 cities at the time of this writing. The same method basically as with Lime. Download the Bird app, which is only for iOS system so far, register your profile and details and you are ready to go look for your nearest bird scooter. Once you find it, scan the QR code to unlock. Same lockup fee...yes you guessed it...1USD/EURO and 0.15 USD per minute as you go.
They also have "red zones" where if you park it and leave it you will be charged a fine, and that is why you need to take a picture of it before you can close up your ride and charging fee. They also offer a monthly deal in their rental program starting at 24.99 USD. However prices for sharing and monthly rentals differ according to country, currency and local laws and again... the app at your specific location is the only way to know the cost as it is not listed online on their website or at least....when I tried to find it...I couldn't. At least not as quickly as we have gotten used to online regarding most things today. This is probably due to prices and laws changing quite frequently and to spend a lot of time updating that info on one's website, might not be of much value. After all, the app is where everything happens.
Spin Rental Scooters
Spin is another US company that started with dockless bike share and has since expanded into rental electric scooters as well, covering 66 cities and 12 campuses in the US. They say they will expand to Europe in the spring of 2020. The Wall Street Journal reported that Spin was valued at $80 to 90 million at the time of Ford purchasing the company in November 2018. So maybe we will see a name change and then you can say you took your Ford for a spin.... muahaha. Same procedure as with the other ones.
Going through each and every scooter rental companies in detail is rather futile. They pretty much operate the same way as far as the technology goes but who will survive and thrive remains to be seen. Lime, as reported, has run into some financial difficulties and when prices start creeping up, the business model and end consumer might change in ways not yet clear.
How much does it cost to rent an electric scooter?
One of the most commonly asked questions how much does it cost to rent an electric scooter? When first looking at the costs it may just seem its pretty much the same across the board and that's because most companies started in a similar fashion, 1 USD to unlock and 0.15 USD per minute. Whilst some scooter rental companies decided to skip the unlock fee and go straight to a higher minute price. Now if you're like me and use rental scooters on rare occasions, which does happen even though I have a scooter or two *cough (3-4) of my own - it does happen, traveling and unable to bring a scooter, or spontaneously needing to move through town rentals are great! And to be honest, personally, the price differences make no impact on which scooter I go for.
However, the bigger focus should be on the avid user, the commuter, to and from work, school or just someone using it for everyday transport across town. I've been in several conversations and heard people admit they use a rental scooter almost every day and they all think it's "cheap" and get surprised when they check their credit card and bank statements at the end of the month. To make it very clear, below is a table showing the latest prices I could find and please know this can vary on the country, state and even city level but it is a good indication of what the actual costs are, even if you just use it once or ride around on rental scooters on a regular basis.
|Price to Unlock||Price Per Minute||20 Minute Ride||Monthly Commute|
Pros & Cons of Electric Rental Scooters
The idea to travel "green" through the city streets is a great one but, not without its challenges and issues. Some cities don't like the clutter of these new micro-mobility machines, and not always how scooter riders use them as well, flying down the walkways at breakneck speed. This affects the market as laws and rules are being adapted to this new reality.
Will your favorite scooter rental be around next month or week even? Who knows. If prices keep creeping up, eventually the charm of the idea might be lost in the customer's opinion, and they will opt to take an Uber instead. Especially if prices are compatible.
And one of the cons of this choice is exactly that. Availability. When you need one, can you be sure to find an available scooter? And is it charged sufficiently enough for your trip? You also need to keep in mind that your phone must be charged enough for you to be able to close up your journey or....the meter will be ticking away until you find a charger. The big pro with rental scooters of course, is that you can use one for that one time only when you might need it. And you don't need to worry about it once you leave it and the process to do so is simple. If it breaks down (unless you're reckless with it and held responsible) service and maintenance are taken care of.
But...and this is a big but...the scooters that are predominantly used in this business model are not top of the line. You would be surprised how big a difference the riding experience can be on electric scooters today. I remember when I tried the Mantis for the first time, My eyes opened wide and my hair was on fire as I gunned it, looked down and saw 41 mph (67 kph) on the tacho...and the ride was so smooth. It felt like the BMW of electric scooters. So no....you cant compare. The rental scooters are meant to transport people as cheap and simple as possible. Not to give an experience of what riding a modern electric scooter can be.
How fast does a rental scooter go?
Because of the smaller wheels and tires, you need to be very careful as it is more dangerous than compared to a bike. Tripping over potholes and other obstacles is not to be ignored as a true peril on these machines. For that part, it's a good thing they are limited to a top speed of 15 mph (25 kph).
In many places this is also the legal speed limits nowadays for e-scooters on bike lanes and inner cities. Some countries have top speed limits as low as 12 mph (20 kph) and in most cases, the rental scooter companies adapt but I do remember the early days when I heard friends prefer a specific brand because "they were the fast ones" - clearly they hadn't tried a scooter with 1000watts or more!
Where can you ride rental scooters?
The question of where and how you can ride one is also (or should be) provided by each companies app. But laws and regulations change so it might be wise to double-check for latest updates in your area. Usually, walkways and pavements are a nono. Bike lanes and regular streets are recommended. For Lime, Bird and Spin in the US, you must be over the age of 18 to ride, have a valid driver's license, and you can only ride one person at a time.
Helmet & safety laws for rental scooters
Safety is also of utmost importance on these machines. In some places helmet laws require the use of one, whereas in others wearing one is completely at your own discretion. Given that most electric scooters can reach speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h), falling off or crashing into another vehicle or obstacle without a helmet can result in serious injury or worse.
So be smart, wear a helmet. There have been some issues as well reported with brakes locking while the e-scooter was still in motion. In Limes case, it resulted in the withdrawal of their fleet in some locations around the globe.
How to rent an electric scooter
To summarize. If you find the electric scooter is for you and will use them frequently. The best option is getting your own. There are finance deals as low as 35 USD/ month for 12 months on an e-scooter at around 420 USD. Or why not go for one of the best scooters on the market like Whidewheel at 88 USD/12 months. This will provide you with a much better e-scooter at that price. Performance and quality will be on another level. You can choose from a lot of different scooter companies and make sure you get one that is perfect for your area and your specific needs.
Below is a recap of how the majority of the rental scooter apps work and how to use it.
1. Download app for iOS or Android
2. With your phone number, email or through Facebook, create a user.
3. A map will appear and nearby e-scooters will show up in the app.
4. To see more details tap a scooter or zoom in - you can check the status of each scooter like battery charge and on some apps, you can even reserve the scooter if you're in a hurry and want to make sure you get it (this will cost you per minute).
5. Add your credit card details in the app settings.
6. When you're ready to rent an e-scooter close to you, tap the button to unlock it.
7. Scooters are unlocked via the QR code located in the middle of the handlebar.
8. You may need to scan your driver's license the first time depending on your location.
9. Most rentals all use kick and go feature, meaning it wont start until you kick forward and then hit the throttle.
10. Acceleration is to the right and brake on your left. The brakes differ between the company scooter models, some use a break similar to your everyday bike that goes by wire to your brake caliper. Otherwise use a motor brake and a foot brake on the back wheel.
11. When you are done riding, make sure to park the scooter in an approved area, most apps will notify you if you can park in the area or not and some won't even let you finish your ride until parking in an approved area.
12. Once parked, open your app and close the ride, most apps will ask for an image to finish the ride as well to make sure you parked it in an orderly fashion and that the scooter is in good condition.
13. You'll get a summary of your ride including the cost, time and range travelled.