Opinion: Why docking could be a gamechanger for the micromobility in cities
E-scooters have reshaped how commuters, tourists and residents navigate our cities, providing a fun, low-carbon mode of transport. But while the pandemic has seen an upsurge in ridership because scooters offer a socially distanced mode of travel - the fact that they are permitted has not solved the challenges posed by their deployment. Crowded sidewalks, vandalism, charging-related issues, you heard about it already…
We are happy to share insights about the unit economics of docked based scooter/bike sharing operations with the help of our friends from KNOT - innovative company providing docking stations for scooter services.
Docked e-scooters not only remove the obstruction that scooters cause when left on pavements, but also are far less lightly to be vandalised. Another advantage of stations is that operators can provide video and other guidance to counsel users on how to ride safely and helmets can be made available at the stations.
But what about docking infrastructure economics? More investment beforehand for a less operational expenses? Where we can situate the break-even? Find our numbers below!
Free-floating vs. dock-based economics
Docking stations reduce operational costs – scooters are locked and charged at the station – meaning there is no need to employ staff to collect scooters every night to swap batteries. The cost breakdown compared is impressive, operational expenses per scooter goes down from almost 6 € to 1 € per day.
On average it costs €0.03 to charge one docked scooter per day, versus €2-6 for free-floating scooters, when all other operational costs are factored in, and the average docking station’s lifespan is 5 years. Also, scooters will be always fully charged, which means you can guarantee your services all day long, even for scooters with low battery capacity.
Station based services also helps to reduce the vandalism impact, increasing the lifespan of the scooter and reducing the overall maintenance costs.
If we put it into the revenues prospective, the daily revenue per scooter (with 3 rides a day assumption) will be considerably higher, here below a rough calculation made on assumption of 3 rides per scooter a day for a fleet of 250 scooters:
Naturally, dock-based solutions require a substantial investment into infrastructure. For 250 scooter network cities would need to install around 60 docking stations with 8 slots each (if you opt for a 100% docked-based network), which represents around 250 000 € including scooter upgrade.
It means, to launch your system, you need to account from 35 to 60% more on the investment side, but you will save 30-70% on daily operations.
The bigger picture
Taking the time to look at the bigger picture can save cities a lot of trouble and money – in just seven to nine months the initial cost of a docking-based system starts to pay off when compared to a free-floating model. This investment is not just financially astute, it also creates infrastructure that can lead to a more secure transit ecosystem where e-scooters can be viewed not as nuisance or novelty but an integral part of the transit network.
But as every city is different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. For example, in Strasbourg, KNOT allows users to park two metres around the actual station if it’s full (the City of Strasbourg is against free floating e-scooters and doesn't allow it anywhere else in the city).Having flexible options that suit users’ needs gives cities a real opportunity to make the e-scooter a mode of transport that can be truly embraced.
As more countries and cities across the world look to e-scooters as a solution those responsible for their rollout need to consider how they can impact the change in their mobility ecosystem. Docking offers a wise investment and the chance to cement this micromobility mode into the urban landscape.