E-scooters are bulking up.
As the next generation of rentable e-scooters rolls out, operators are building vehicles designed in-house instead of slapping logos on pre-fabricated Xiaomi scooters. These new designs are informed by years of vandalism, aggressive riding, tough street life, and elusive profits.
That’s why Wednesday, Ford-owned Spin became the latest operator to unveil its bulked up next-gen e-scooter, the S-100T, complete with a massive stomp brake. It will first roll out in Sacramento, California, in the coming weeks before other U.S. markets later this year.
At an unveiling event in San Francisco last week, the S-100T was available for test rides around the neighborhood. Immediately noticeable was the width and imposing shape. This didn’t look like something you could snap in half. Spin execs said the T stands for “tough.”
There’s barely any wiring or protruding parts for people to mess with and the long, rectangular neck is sturdy and thick. Spin said the hulking device went through rigorous testing and was essentially beat up to mimic life on the street.
The bulked-up trend has been happening throughout the scooter industry. Lime’s newest scooter, the Gen4, is also wider and thicker for a more stable ride, and Bird’s newest scooter is boxier than its original slim design. These scooters need to last.
Maxime Veron, Spin’s vice president of product, pointed out that the tougher scooter “lasts twice as long” as older versions that had about a yearlong lifespan. That’s “better for business” he noted. With easier to replace parts, a swappable battery, and 36-mile battery range, it doesn’t cost Spin as much to rent out each scooter. The longer battery life means less servicing for recharging or swapping.
Lime had its first profitable quarter at the end of 2020. It then unveiled its most imposing scooter yet, designed to last more than two years on city streets. It was first available in Paris.
As scooter software company Superpedestrian flagged years ago, e-scooters need to be able to withstand a lot to make sense economically. Otherwise operators are just throwing money at repairs or constantly replacing new devices.
The New York Times‘ Kevin Roose laid out Bird’s new pricing and design strategy based on a recent investor presentation:
Pandemic-related losses, coupled with the pressure to turn a profit, forced Bird to trim its sails. It raised its prices — a Bird now costs as much as $1 plus 42 cents a minute in some cities — built more durable scooters and revamped its fleet management system.
Bird used to lose $9.66 for every $10 it made on rides, as Roose reported. Now, longer-lasting, tougher models coupled with higher per-minute charges let Bird keep more of that $10. As the NYT reported, Bird was making $1.43 for every $10 ride by the end of 2020 instead of only 34 cents.
Spin’s CTO, Benny Wong, said that the new, bigger scooters wouldn’t cost more than older scooters in the fleet and that post-pandemic pricing wouldn’t shoot up like Uber and Lyft rides.
“We know it’s tough for people right now,” he said. But, he quickly continued, “we need to do what’s right for the business.”
Bigger is always better. Right?