The scooter, a hip mobility device

We talk about electric cars, electric buses and diversifying public transportation with the evolution of trams, trains, subways and other forms of rail, but have we thought about PMDs?

As a reminder, the acronym PMD stands for what we refer to as Personal Mobility Devices. In France, this designation includes all electric-powered vehicles such as scooters, Segways, hoverboards and electric unicycles. These modes of transportation carry only one person and travel on public thoroughfares.

The electric scooter provides a solution to this problem. Besides, it was originally designed as a toy to be used more or less for leisure. However it has become an essential accessory for citizens to get from one place to another on the streets of large cities, weaving their way between pedestrians.

Quicker and more maneuverable than all the other types of transportation, the scooter’s popularity has grown since becoming electric.

 

The scooter sector is ramping up

*The electric scooter market reached 278 million euros in 2018. It incredibly increased compared to 210 million in 2017 and 134 million in 2016. We can basically say the figures doubled in two years, thanks to the explosion of electronic scooter sales in 2018. In fact, 2018 saw a 129% increase compared to 2017.

This leap can be explained by discounted prices to encourage purchase (scooters haven’t always been this fashionable) as well as their timesaving element. Word of mouth also probably had a lot to do with it. Don’t forget that a product’s best ambassador is still the customer!

However, we should clarify that this national obsession is only over electric scooters. Non-electric scooters have fallen 20%.

Why such an obsession with PMDs?

According to Jean Ambert, managing director of Smart Mobility Lab: “There’s been a true shift toward electric and urban mobility, which takes precedence over leisure mobility.”

Indeed, we’re talking about electric scooters here. But hoverboards, electric skateboards, Segways and electric unicycles are also included.

According to Jean Ambert, the cause is due to delays with public transportation and automobiles. People have found a solution for their need to be on time through these new modes of transportation. What’s more, the practicality of PMDs remains a significant advantage. No license is required to operate these vehicles which, for those interested, have the advantage of being “very maneuverable and very mobile” at the same time.

 

Self-service scooters are under pressure

The city of Nantes showed their resistance to electric scooters in public spaces on more than one occasion. The law had not yet been decided regarding their limits for use. So the city decided to remain cautious in the face of this new type of mobility. As such, city hall has already seized the fleets of two companies (in October 2018 and March 2019). Cause they tried to circumvent the city’s decision regarding free floating.

Free floating means the ability to leave your scooter anywhere in the city after having used it – no more need for terminals. A great thing for users, but a real nightmare for city dwellers who find their streets too congested with these devices.

Paris won the bet on electric scooters?

In June 2018, we saw the first self-service scooters scattered about on pedestrian streets in the French capital. Lime, the company behind this development, modeled itself after the NVEI (New Individual Electric Vehicles) car-sharing model. This American company is no longer at its trial cost since it happens to be the world leader in free floating scooters. The concept has since been imitated by eight other companies in Paris.

In the face of this hearty rollout, Paris’ city hall announced its decision to tax these new companies according to the number of devices they deploy. Lille, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Bordeaux have already done the same thing. Rightly so, since Paris now has no fewer than 15,000 self-service scooters which were used for two million trips by 315,000 users with Lime and 110,000 with Bird (Source: Figaro.fr).

 

Scooters are faster than the subway

Lime and the Odoxa Institute conducted opinion research among 1,511 Ile-de-France residents in February 2019 (whether they were users of Lime or not). And the results were enlightening:

  • 11% of Parisians have adopted them as a mobility device, compared with 5% of those living in the greater Ile-de-France area
  • On average, these users estimate having gained 11 minutes (or 1/3 of their time spent on public transportation) on their commute to work.

Practical and economical

More and more affordable, scooters have decreased in price from 767 euros in 2016 to 477 in 2018. As for self-service, we have found that the costs are the same among all companies. It costs 1 euro to unlock the scooter and 15 centimes per minute of use.

Except for one company, Dot, which doesn’t charge for unlocking. And Hive, which is the only company to offer (paid) reservations of scooters. Prices are the same in Lyon. However, there are special taxes for:

  • Strasbourg and Colmar (both include a discount with an SNCF card)
  • or business districts such as Plaine Saint-Denis (1/30 min or 5/5h) and La Défense and Versailles (2€/h).

With such an obsession, we could soon perhaps dream of self-service roller skates or skateboards. If leisure objects now offer mobility, anything is possible…

To read: Will our mobility be increased with Big Data?

 

*Figures from the Federation of Micro-Mobility Professionals (FP2M) and futurist agency Smart Mobility Lab.