Why The Failure of Rental Scooters is going to be Painful

by freshlycharged

In this article I’m going to give you 5 reasons why I predict the failure of rental scooters, and that it will leave a trail of devastation in its wake.

The rental e-scooters are ruining it for everyone who enjoys the hobby of electric rideable devices like the Onewheel, eskate, and EUC.

If you are unfamiliar with the rental e-scooter business model, it is quite simple: flood a city with hundreds of scooters for anyone to rent. Customers locate and pay for scooters using a smartphone. When done, leave the scooter wherever you please.

The rental electric scooter business model was a huge boom when it was first introduced but because of questionable business practices and a focus on rapid growth and market share no matter the cost rather than focusing on the community and rider safety.

What was probably a very good and practical scooter share idea has metastasized into a nuisance and a perceived public hazard that will end up hurting many more than just the rental companies. Let me explain.

It seemed like overnight, scooters invaded the streets of some big cities. Some people thought they were great. But many hated the unsightly scooters that littered the streets and sidewalks. People didn’t know what to think of the new tech that surrounded them and some people got hurt. A few people even died in accidents. Some people got angry and started vandalizing the scooters.

City officials and leaders reacted to the pesky rental scooters with blanket laws and bans that unfortunately affect all electric rideable devices like in San Diego which has banned not only the rental scooters, but privately owned devices like the Onewheel, electric skateboard, electric unicycle, e-bikes, and personally owned e-scooters. This is a shame.

But since cities can’t ban stupid, a ban on electric rideable devices seems to be the solution.

Jimmy Chang

San Diego is the most recent example of this to happen and I’m sure other cities will be following their example.

This story hits close to home for me because it was on this very boardwalk where I was stopped by a lifeguard and told that I could not ride my Onewheel. Me, the guy that wears safety gear and rides responsibly.

As the lifeguard and I talked, rental scooters zipped around us. Check out that video if you have not already.

Here are my 5 reasons why I think the electric rental scooter business model as we know it will fail:

  1. The business practices of dumping large numbers of scooters in cities has tarnished the perception of electric scooters, and especially the rental e-scooters. There is a huge distaste for the companies and their scooters leading to a poor reputation. This is resulting in e-scooter vandalism and many cities are choosing to not even allow the scooter companies into their cities.
  2. The companies have yet to make a profit. Ever wonder how you can rent these e-scooters at such a low price? Well, Venture capitalists have poured millions and maybe billions of dollars into this new industry to make riding affordable and appealing to the masses. Think about it. Every time a scooter is purchased and rented out, money is lost by the company. This is a common business practice, but it can only go on for so long. Eventually the company needs to become profitable and in its current state, the business model shows little evidence of that happening.
  3. Maintenance expenses are high and will remain so. Despite newer generation e-scooters being designed and built with rental companies in mind with bigger and more durable scooters, rental units naturally get treated like crap when compared to personally owned property. Think rental cars and rental homes. The big difference between rental cars and rental e-scooters is there is absolutely no accountability. At least with the rental car or rental home, there’s a check out list and you are expected to return the car or home in decent condition. With the scooters, you can rent them, trash them, dismantle them, then dump them in the ocean and never be held accountable for it.
  4. Injuries are high for multiple reasons. Before the dawn of the electric rental scooter, how many adults were actually using scooters for legitimate transportation? Almost zero! There’s a reason for that. The small wheels make scooters more susceptible to crashes from cracks and potholes. One of the worst wipeouts in my life happened on one of those razor scooters when I hit a crack in the sidewalk resulting in a flip over the handlebars and the wind getting knocked over me. Adding a motor to a rental scooter makes it worse. Sure, the rental scooters are evolving to meet the needs of their riders with larger tires, but many riders have spent little time on a scooter and the inexperience can lead to injury. High speeds + unfamiliarity with the device + lack of riding skill + lack of safety gear + alcohol = recipe for injury. The mere fact that you pay for your ride by the minute incentivizes riders to go as fast as possible so that they can get to their destination as quickly as possible and therefore play less money.
  5. One of the touted benefits of the rental e-scooters is the environmental benefits. By encouraging folks to commute using itconvenient and clean rental electric scooters,  this helps to decrease traffic on our streets. But has anyone shown that rental e-scooters are helping the environment? Are these rental e-scooters actually taking cars off the road or are we just replacing walking and bicycling with e-scootering? I’d also like to know where all these abused and broken e-scooters are going? landfills?

Unless big changes are made, it doesn’t matter how much money venture capitalists pour into the business, the rental e-scooter movement will not survive.

I, for one, will not be saddened when it happens because even after the rental e-scooters are gone, I’ll be the one suffering from the reactionary laws that cities and communities will have enacted, preventing me from riding responsibly in some of my favorite areas just like here in San Diego.

Personally, I secretly hope that the current state of rental electric scooter business is a fad that will fade.

To be fair, I can’t put all the blame on the rental companies. Going back to the rental car analogy, another reason why rental car accidents and injuries aren’t an epidemic is because there are common laws and rules that drivers abide by to keep everyone safe.

Instead of banning all electric vehicles, why don’t we set some rules like I’ve discussed before like speed limits, helmet requirements, and slow riding zones and times. Watch this video for some ideas that can be implemented instead of an all out ban:

At the core, the real problem stems from irresponsible riders going too fast and doing stupid stuff. The rental scooters just give people a chance to show off how irresponsible and stupid they can be.

But since cities can’t ban stupid, a ban on electric rideable devices seems to be the solution.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hating on e-scooters. I enjoy them. I just don’t like the current state of the rental e-scooter business and hope it will change before too many harsh laws and bans prevent me from riding in some of my favorite spots.

Look! I ride and like e-scooters!

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We are Andrew and Jimmy, two guys who love personal electric vehicles, and we hope to share our experiences and reviews to help you find the best next PEV for your needs.

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