How e-scooters are quietly conquering cities


In Berlin there are already e-scooter rentals – now other cities and startups are following suit. The infrastructure remains a problem, but there are already solutions.

They do not stink and barely make any noise – not only delivery services but also increasingly scooter rentals rely on electric power. Founded in July 2015 with a fleet of 150 e-scooters the Berlin startup eMio is the most famous example of this sharing culture in Germany. But in Hamburg, Munich and NRW, too, the market has just shifted from gasoline-power to more environmentally friendly electric power.

The Hamburg startup Jaano launched the first scooter rental company in this country. It makes the search for vehicles and booking available via an app. Launched in March 2015, the shared scooters initially all used gasoline. But that will change soon: “We really want to go into the e-scooter segment,” says Marian Jantzen, chief marketing officer of Jaano, to Gründerszene. “If you think about the whole concept of sharing mobility then the change to electric is essential in our view.” Jaano carried out a test program with different e-scooters last year. But the startup is still looking for a better battery solution, since it was not satisfied with the storage capacity, says Jantzen.

“If scooters, then only e-scooters!” spokeswoman Anja Smetanin from Verkehrsclub Germany also confirmed. A 2014 study published by the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen delivers the best argument: Two-stroke engines produce a hundred times more harmful pollutants than other vehicles. In China, the polluters have been largely relegated away from the streets since the 90’s. Since then the market for e-scooters has flourished in China.

In Asia there are about 22 million reported e-scooters, while in Germany there are about 5,500, says the founder of Amberscoot , Heiko Meyenberg. His company sells and rents electric scooters in Cologne, Essen, Duisburg and Gelsenkirchen. Like Emco or the Berlin e-scooter startup Unu, Meyenberg sources his scooters from China.

One problem for Amberscoot: the lack of infrastructure for e-scooters. The Essen-based company relies on local charging stations, similar to the car sharer DriveNow by BMW – but there is no cooperation with Vattenfall and RWE, and therefore no matching charging station with the necessary charging interfaces for e-scooters. As a result, Meyenberg has erected his own solar-powered charging stations in NRW. So far there are only twelve stations in the four cities where Amberscoot is active. The cost point per station: around 3,000 euros.

For uniform charging stations that can be used by both electronic cars and scooters or e-bikes, there is no lack of ideas, but great hurdles in the bureaucracy. Ubitricity, a Berlin-based startup that develops mobile charging systems, is already working, retrofitting streetlights as charging stations, initially for e-bikes. If that is well received, one could well imagine they will make charger interfaces for e-scooters, says founder Knut Hechtfischer to Gründerszene: “The problem is not the technology but the bureaucracy with the billing.” It would require a measurement technique for the billing that could be settled easily on the app, adds Hechtfischer.

“I see potential to standardize the battery pack”
Charging stations are not the primary solution for many e-scooter manufacturers and rentals. Instead the scooters by Unu, Emco and Govecs work with exchangeable batteries. Most of the removable batteries can charged at any power outlet.

The Berlin e-scooter rental company eMio, which sources its scooters from Emco, replaces the batteries of their scooters in the night with a driver. “That way we are not dependent on the charging infrastructure,” says co-founder Valerian Seither. Nevertheless, at eMio they are working on infrastructure expansion: “I see potential to standardize the battery packs. Then you can also talk about building public stations for batteries. That would simplify everything. There is no reason that each service has its own solution.”

The first cooperation already exists: The Berlin startup Green Pack who develops standardized interchangeable battery systems is in negotiations with eMio and other partners. Delivery services and rickshaw drivers have also expressed interest, says Tobias Breyer, marketing director of GreenPack.

The idea was that the exchangeable battery is an all-rounder, similar to a 9-V battery, that can be used for different applications, from the electric lawnmower to the e-scooter. In 2017 the exchange stations for batteries will be first set up at service stations starting in Berlin.

Not only will the infrastructure be set up in different locations, but the scooter fleets will also be increased: “We are planning to expand the fleet in Berlin,” says the eMio founder. “There is good feedback and more demand in Berlin.” After this, expansion is planned in other cities including Rome and Barcelona.

That the companies are also looking to go abroad is no coincidence. Amberscoot’s founder Meyenberg is clear: “In Germany, there are several obstacles: The speed control at 45 km/h. Not being allowed to drive on cycle paths like in Netherlands. And for e-scooters there is no financial support as there is for electric cars. It lacks the appeal. We lost our focus on the scooter topic over the years. ”

This article was originally published on Gründerszene.

Images: Emio / Green Pack