Corona Crisis Innovation is helping micromobility companies navigate COVID-19
It's fair to say that few could have predicted a pandemic this time last year, or the impact of COVID-19 on all sectors - including transport. It's been interesting to see the effect on micromobility - ostensibly e-scooters, e-bikes, and mopeds. There's been an increase in cycling and cities building emergency bike paths, as well as making some streets car-free in response to social distancing requirements of COVID-19.
Yet micromobility providers have struggled, particularly in the early stages of stay at home, where many including Lime and Voi postponed their operations. Electric scooter startup laid off over 400 staff in April. Scandinavian company Voi announced in March that they had applied for government support packages "in all countries where we operate, in order for us to be able to return to being a healthy company. The executive management team have agreed to a significant salary reduction to do everything we can to save our company.
What's happened since then? Quite a lot, as startups and other providers increase their efforts to stay relevant to the masses.
Cross-mobility platforms and bundling
It follows that as people attempt to ensure socially distant travel on trains, trams, and buses, micromobility can provide an alternative, especially during peak times when you just don't want to risk the subway.
TIER now offers the 'Commute with TIER' package. Holders of public transport subscriptions who have to commute to work and want to avoid crowds can receive 40 free unlocks by uploading a picture of their subscription pass. The 40 unlocks support a normal five-day commute to get to work and back home again for one month.
BlaBlaCar announced a partnership with Voi Technology to offer BlaBla Ride Scooters. BlaBlaCar's 18 million members in France will be able to connect through their BlaBlaCar account on the BlaBla Ride app. Members will also be able to select a scooter to ride on the last mile of a longer carpool or bus trip, powering a convenient and environmentally efficient door-to-door journey.
It's foreseeable that we'll also see greater integration of micromobility into public transport provider apps, for seamless end to end travel.
We've seen a slew of announcements about how shared micromobility providers have upped the ante when it comes to cleaning, including detailed instructions on their sites and apps and greater access to PPE for staff and riders.
TIER Mobility is trialing a new innovation for anti-bacterial handlebar technology from German provider Protexus. The self disinfecting copper fleece on the handlebars kills 99,8% of all viruses within minutes and is trialed on TIER e-scooters in Paris and Bordeaux.
In the US, Wheels e-bikes announced a partnership with NanoSeptic with Wheels devices now featuring custom-made NanoSeptic surfaces on handlebars and brake levers. According to the company: "NanoSeptic surfaces contain mineral nanocrystals that are powered by any visible light to create a powerful and toxin-free oxidation reaction that continuously breaks down any organic contaminants at the microscopic level without the use of poisons, traditional heavy metals or dangerous chemicals."
Social good for essential workers
Scooter companies are making their vehicles available free of charge for emergency workers in Turin, Indonesia, Austin, and other cities. A new public and private sector transport platform, supported by the World Economic Forum called #WeAllMove, has been launched. It's part of the World Economic Forum's efforts to help secure livelihoods during the pandemic and make it easier for key workers to get to their jobs across shut down cities.
The platform features companies such as Voi, Hertz, and Allianz. It enables medical professionals, care workers, food delivery employees, grocery store workers, and others to see at a glance what offers operators are making to help essential workers travel, in many cases for free, during the crisis. The platform integrates private, public, and joint mobility options into a single search engine. It includes planning tools for users and operators to help them communicate with the public during the current crisis.
New business models
COVID-19 has initiated a change in the business model for some operators. This includes the provision of long-term rentals for shared scooters or bikes. Customer targeting has also pivoted with providers such as Gotcha electric vehicles pivoting their business model to support local businesses and their employees and customers. Based on availability in each market, local businesses can choose from e-bikes, seated scooters, or stand-up scooters at a discounted rate of $15 per day for each vehicle (further discounts offered for more than 5 vehicles). The company reports a surge of ridership across its fleet of e-bikes, e-scooters, and pedal bikes.
Accelerated consolidation in a crowded space
It was recently announced that Uber has recently decided to sell its red Jump bikes and scooters to competitor Lime, as the company consolidates its efforts in delivery services and Uber Eats. - Uber released quarterly earnings last week — the company has lost $2.9 billion since the start of the year and has had to lay off 14% of its workforce. People will be able to rent the devices through either the Uber app or through the Lime app. Will we see more consolidation in service providers? Only time will tell.
TIER became the first e-scooter company worldwide to launch an integrated helmet solution, which kicked off this month in Paris and Berlin. The inhouse developed smart box, with a foldable helmet, is part of their plan to introduce more than 5,000 e-scooters to be rolled out across the summer.