“We predict the e-scooter market will grow very fast!” Interview with Fabian Ladda, Director Policy and Government Affairs, Lime
While rentable e-scooters have long been a fixture in many European cities, Germany has been slow to come forward on the issue. Finally the wait is over: Germany is set to pass regulation later this year permitting the use of e-scooters on roads and bike lanes. Providers of rentable e-scooters are predictably excited. We talk to US e-scooter provider Lime on their plans for Germany and their experience of launching in foreign markets.
Welcome Fabian! In your opinion, how will the micromobility market in Germany develop following regulation?
We predict the e-scooter market will grow very fast! We predict that a good many companies will enter cities providing e-scooters to rent. In terms of total number of e-scooters, latest estimations from the Ministry for Transport roughly suggest between 30,000 and 150,000 scooters will hit the road.
It is really interesting to see what is happening in Austria. Initial study results have recently been reported which estimate that 9% of all 25 to 64 year olds in Austria could easily travel daily with an e-scooter – and this doesn’t even take into account people younger than 25, a huge section of the potential e-scooter population. I could well imagine that if young people were counted, figures would show that around 20% of the Austrian population ride e-scooters daily.
Lime is a US company which has now arrived in many European countries. What are your key learnings from entering the European market?
My top tips: always stay in close conversation with the cities and learn from the mistakes of others! We want to build real partnerships with cities. We have also invested a great deal in ensuring our scooters don’t contribute to any disorder. If used, our e-scooters need to be charged every day so our maintenance team collects them up each day, charges them and then parks them again. In Paris and Vienna we also have our own scooter patrol that goes around to check that the scooters have been parked in the right places and are not causing any obstructions. It’s important to determine from the start a city’s priorities, their pain points and design an experience which takes users along.
Micromobility is a major trend in Germany. And Lime is not the only US player that wants to come to Germany. How do you differ from the other providers?
In three ways: design, technology and experience. We have designed our own scooters and we don’t just buy them off the shelf like other providers. Our Generation 3 scooter at 20 kg is heavier than most which weigh around 14 kg and has bigger tyres – this completely alters the ride experience. We also offer the best rider experience – by the end of the year the displays on our e-scooters will hopefully offer navigational help, helping the user get from A to B. We also invest heavily in technology which makes the ride experience safer. Our Generation 3 scooter will allow us to better communicate issues that are most important to the entire community. These include Informing riders when they’ve entered a no-parking zone and warning riders if their scooters are improperly parked. We also come with experience of launching in over 100 cities which means we know what we are doing.
In the US or in Europe, for example Austria, Switzerland and France, e-scooters have long been part of everyday life. In Germany, however, the law has been delayed due to safety concerns. How challenging is Germany from a regulatory point of view?
I think the law which is coming will provide a solid future framework. In an ideal world I would have wanted e-scooters classified as ebikes and not as motorised vehicles. This means there are certain restrictions we have to work with. They have to be “parked” properly, not just set down like bikes, and they cannot be ridden through parks. But anyway, we will work with what we have!
Lime is a very progressive company. What technologies will you rely on in the future?
Our focus is on safety. We are experimenting with scooter sensors which can tell the user whether they are riding on the pavement – which isn’t allowed in Germany. We have also made huge software leaps since the days of the traditional rent-a-bike. We have a great solution which ensures the scooters are not parked in the wrong place – we ask users to take a picture of where they have parked, and Artificial Intelligence examines the picture for any potential problems or obstacles (if they have parked on a zebra crossing, for example). If there is a problem, we will send a patrol out to relocate the scooter.