Scooter sharing – Welcome to the unprofitable future of mobility?!
Recently, Bird, the e-scooter sharing platform founded in 2017, was valued at $ 2.3 billion. Tech giants like Uber and Google-parent Alphabet, as well as some well-known venture capitalists like Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures and Target Global already invested millions in e-scooter sharing platforms like Bird, Lime, Spin or Flash. When looking at future mobility models, we tend to ignore one thing – profitability. Everybody invests in the firm belief that this will be solved eventually. Let’s change that and crunch the numbers.
Thanks to open data from the City of Louisville (https://data.louisvilleky.gov/dataset/dockless-vehicles), we conclude that the average profit per ride is around $ 0.96 and the average loss per scooter amounts to $ 271.53. City-specific costs for the infrastructure are not yet included.
This calculation suggests that a profitable future of e-scooter sharing platforms may still be rather distant.
In addition, vandalism is a big issue for e-scooter providers. People destroy them, leave them around and misuse them. This results in even higher costs, annoyed citizens resulting in reputation damage of e-scooter sharing platforms and gives rise to the question of whether people are ready for sharing platform business models. (Please see for our previous analysis of this matter in the field of bikesharing)
Putting the numbers and vandalism aside, there still is a potential for e-scooter sharing platforms as they can improve the crucial last mile mobility. E-scooters might close the gap when the distance is too far to walk but using a car or public transportation are too expensive, inconvenient or nonexistent.
When comparing e-scooter sharing offers with bike sharing offers, e-scooters are slightly more expensive but more convenient for people who can’t or don’t want the extra workout like business people on the way to a meeting or older people. In comparison with ride hailing or taxis, e-scooters are cheaper, less asset intensive and potentially better for the environment and traffic congestion. Eventually, we believe that governments may subsidize services like e-scooters to improve the infrastructure and offer citizens the alternative to use CO2-friendly options (always assuming the energy produced comes from renewable sources) to lower emissions. Especially in urban areas where traffic smog and fine dust are endangering the environment as well as people’s health.