E-scooter market charges ahead but faces bumpy road

E-scooters are lined up during a presentation at the DESY campus in Hamburg, Germany, April 16, 2019. (File/Reuters/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 05 July 2019

E-scooter market charges ahead but faces bumpy road

  • Among the best known companies having joined the two-wheel party are US firm Lime, Mexico’s Grow Mobility and Germany’s Flash, who have between them raised $1.5 billion in funding
  • Self-service E-scooter providers do not publish financial data but it is widely accepted that they are still a long way off turning a profit

PARIS: The E-scooter market has exploded over the past two years but operators are by no means assured of finding a long-term niche in the urban transport sector.
Participants, jumping on a bandwagon which saw US firm Bird first out of the blocks in 2017, must above all ensure their own survival as they confront the thorny issue of longevity of gear mostly made in China.
Among the best known companies having joined the two-wheel party are US firm Lime, Mexico’s Grow Mobility and Germany’s Flash, who have between them raised $1.5 billion in funding according to The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Last year alone saw global growth in the market of 76 percent according to a report by France’s Federation of Micro Mobility Professionals (FP2M) and the Smart Mobility Lab.
Bird and Lime have both muscled in on more than 120 cities worldwide and claim a combined 10 million users to date.
The BCG calculates that by 2025, the global market will be worth $40 to $50 billion.
Self-service E-scooter providers do not publish financial data but it is widely accepted that they are still a long way off turning a profit.
The BCG study calculates that four months of use covers the cost of making a scooter but rented ones tend to last for only three.
“As of today, the economy of the E-scooter does not work,” says Tyler Barrack, one of the authors of the BCG report.
“We are above the four months put forward by the BCG,” insists, however, Arthur-Louis Jacquier, director general of Lime France.
He highlights efforts by Lime to extend the life of their machines, a crucial issue given the environmental footprint of the scooters.
“We are capable of repairing an E-scooter in 25-30 minutes and we are going to throw almost nothing away,” say Jacquier.
The Quartz website carried out an enquiry last year into the use of scooters in Louisville, Kentucky, which showed that they last — on average — 28.8 days.
Bird, whose scooters are used there, contests the figures.
So far, the only clear winner from the explosion of scooter use looks to be Chinese manufacturer Ninebot, which notably is the main supplier in US rental markets.
According to Bloomberg, Ninebot estimated late last year that four of every five scooters in circulation globally came from its factories.
The spectacular growth in E-scooter use is down to a swift evolution in modes of transport.
“There has been a real move toward the electrical and toward urban mobility which has been overtaking leisure mobility,” Jean Ambert, director general of Smart Mobility Lab, told AFP recently.
Yet uncertainty persists over the market’s long-term prospects.
“How many problems are remaining, especially with regulators? Where do we park? How do we protect customers?” asks Barrack, as city and state authorities roll out legislation to cover existing legal loopholes surrounding use of such machines.
There is also the issue of how many E-scooter start-ups will manage to survive cut-throat competition which is a hallmark of the market.
“Consolidation is inevitable,” says Barrack.
Even so, Patrick Studener, Bird vice president observes: “We’ve seen many companies pivoting to get into the E-scooter business. It proves the market’s right.”
Bird recently bought out rival and compatriot Scoot for, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter, $25 million.
There has furthermore been media speculation of a Lime buyout by Uber, which has already invested in the firm to add E-scooters to its car app.


Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

Updated 17 min 20 sec ago

Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

  • Amirah Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students

DUBAI: Saudi women aiming to emulate Yasmeen Al-Maimani’s feat, the Kingdom’s first female commercial pilot, now have that opportunity as Oxford Aviation Academy has opened its doors for them to take flying lessons and earn their licenses.

One those women raring to earn her pilot wings is 19-year-old Amirah Al-Saif, who enrolled in the aviation academy to fulfill her dream of flying for the Kingdom’s national carrier Saudi Airlines (Saudia).

“They have been very supportive of us females,” Al-Saif, who hails from Riyadh, told Arab News at the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow, when asked about her experience at the academy.

Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students, with six of them already in ground school, expected to receive their licenses by the start of 2021 after a grueling course that requires them to first learn English, Mathematics, Physics and other basic knowledge subjects.

She is also the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry.

Student pilot Amirah Al-Saif, right, who hails from Riyadh, is the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry. (Supplied)

Those who pass the foundation program can then move on to ground school for practical lessons and ideally graduate in two years with three licenses: the Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot License.

Al-Saif considers herself lucky since she was not constrained take courses abroad for her pilot training, unlike Al-Maimani who had to leave the Kingdom to receive her license, as well as wait for a long time before being eventually hired by Nesma Airlines.

The flying school is located at the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and is an authorized branch of Oxford Aviation Academy based in the UK.

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