E-scooters have been on Germany’s roads for a good two weeks. Some startups are also relying on the new mobility trend and have brought rental offers onto the market. Except for the color and the logo, the electric runabouts hardly seem to differ – at least at first glance.
On closer inspection, however, there are major differences in the availability and state of charge of the e-scooter, as an analysis by the German consulting firm Civity shows. The consultants read out the position and movement data of the individual e-scooters via the open interfaces (APIs) of the rental apps.
Using market data from Civity and its own test experiences, NewsABC.net compared the offers of the four largest startups Lime, Tier, Circ and Voi. This is our balance sheet:
There is hardly any difference in price between the providers: the entry fee for the scooter costs one euro across the board, with an additional 15 cents for every additional minute. In some cities, however, it is a bit more expensive to borrow: In Munich, Hamburg and Düsseldorf, the minute’s drive sometimes costs 19 cents (Tier) or 20 cents (Lime, Circ).
This makes the e-scooters relatively expensive compared to local public transport. An example: During a test drive through Berlin Mitte, we covered almost 2.5 kilometers in eleven minutes. Cost: 2.80 euros. The same route would have cost only 1.70 euros with the short-haul local transport tariff.
Interim conclusion: The e-scooter is a relatively expensive pleasure on journeys that take more than ten minutes.
2. Speed and range
How fast and how long do the e-scooters travel? At least in terms of speed, there is hardly any leeway for differentiation between the providers, which is primarily due to the strict legal requirements. Because: After the small electric vehicles
If you also take into account the weight of the scooters, which is also similar due to the construction regulations, the scooters from Tier, Lime, Circ and Voi all travel at about the same speed.
The decisive differentiating feature for the performance is therefore the charging infrastructure of the provider. In other words: who can offer the scooters with the highest battery capacity? After all, it is the battery level that determines the speed and range over the last few meters.
The data from Civity from June 2019 indicate that there are definitely differences between the providers in the battery capacity of the fleets.
According to this, the average battery level of the Circ fleet at the high of the day, i.e. in the morning at 7 a.m., is around 85 percent. This indicates that Circ appears to be having trouble recharging its entire fleet overnight. The Voi fleet does better: Here the average charge level at the high of the day is around 90 percent. However: Compared to the competition, Voi also had a significantly smaller fleet, which should make fleet management easier.
Civity has no data for the providers Lime and Tier.
Interim conclusion: Tier, Lime, Circ and Voi e-scooters are about the same speed. It will therefore be particularly exciting to see how good the providers are at keeping the battery level of the fleet high – because in the end it is decisive for the range. Voi has the edge here at the moment.
Since the e-scooters on the market are almost identical due to the strict regulation (apart from the color and a few gadgets), one question will be decisive for the user in the end: How far is it to the next scooter? Those who can demonstrate a high level of availability are likely to establish themselves in the market. Because: The space on the users’ homescreen is limited and hardly anyone feels like installing several rental apps.
The data from Civity shows: So far, the provider Tier has the most scooters in Germany with a fleet of almost 3,000 e-scooters and is represented in most cities with at least eight locations, followed by Lime with around 1,300 e-scooters and at least seven Cities. At the bottom of the list is Voi with 325 companions, but no nationwide data are available for Circ.
If you travel a lot within Germany, then – based on the available fleet data – animal and lime in particular should be of interest to you. However: there is still a lot of dynamism in the e-scooter market. It can therefore be assumed that the data from Civity is no longer up-to-date.
If you look at the size of the fleet by city, then Lime and Tier in particular are in a head-to-head race for market leadership. The most fiercely contested is Berlin, where Voi is also involved.
In general, the following is evident: the bigger the city, the bigger the fleet and the competition between the providers. So it tends to be easier to find an e-scooter in Berlin than in Bonn.
Interim conclusion: With the providers Lime and Tier, you currently have the best chances of finding an e-scooter nearby in most cities. However, due to the dynamic in the market and the lack of data for Circ, it is still too early to identify a clear market leader.
4. Number of users
How are the electric runabouts received by users? Here, too, a look at the data helps: In its analysis, Civity recorded usage rates of up to three rentals per day and scooter. This means that the capacity utilization has not been particularly high so far, considering that the e-scooters cover an average of two to three kilometers per trip.
If you believe the data, most people still ignore the e-scooter. However, the experts at Civity assume that usage rates will increase in the coming weeks.
“We can see from the ramp-up curve that e-scooters are already being accepted much faster than car-sharing or bike-sharing offers,” said Civity analyst Friedemann Brockmeyer to NewsABC.net. This is due, among other things, to the media hype, the international role models and the fact that the registration effort is lower.
If lime, animal and co. Want to assert themselves in the market, they have to increase their usage rates significantly. Brockmeyer assumes, for example, that e-scooters would have to be moved at least seven times a day for a life of three to four months for the concept to be profitable.
However, the measured usage rates should be treated with caution, as Civity itself admits. This is because the providers’ movement data does not reveal whether the movement is caused by the user or the disposition of the vehicles by the providers themselves.
Interim conclusion: The market launch of e-scooters has evidently been more successful than the launch of comparable offers, such as rental bikes or car sharing offers. However, it is not possible to determine from the available data which startup has been best received so far.
5. Competitiveness with other modes of transport
In addition to the previous acceptance of users, the data also shows how the e-scooters perform compared to other means of transport.
Here it becomes clear: Most people use the electric runabouts primarily for distances that are typically covered on foot or by bike. They are therefore usually used as a supplement to the car and public transport – not as a replacement.
The promise of the “last mile”, with which many providers and politicians have advertised the introduction of e-scooters, only seems to be partially true. Their argument: e-scooters could help people leave their cars because they make it easy to get to the next bus stop.
“Especially in areas where you have to rely on alternatives for the last mile, there is no such thing. The e-scooters are mainly distributed in densely populated areas, ”says Civity consultant Caroline Held.
The business areas of Tier, Lime, Circ and Voi extend mainly to the inner cities, where the transport offer is well developed. In the outskirts or in rural areas, where they would be interesting as a connection alternative from the user’s point of view, they rarely occur – also because it is not worthwhile for the providers.
Interim conclusion: Anyone who wants to rent the e-scooter outside of the metropolitan areas, for example as a means of transport to the bus stop, has bad cards. Due to the limited range and the lack of driving comfort (it jerks quite a bit on cobblestones), the e-scooters seem to be establishing themselves as an alternative to cycling or walking, especially on short trips.
In Germany there are currently four major players vying for user favor: Tier, Lime, Circ and Voi. With regard to the price level and the performance (range, speed) there are no significant differences between the providers.
From the user’s point of view, it is therefore of particular interest how far away the next e-scooter is. In terms of fleet size, Lime and Tier are currently in the lead, data for Circ are missing. However, due to the dynamic in the market, the providers could still catch up.
The charging management of the providers will also be decisive for the success of the electric runabouts. So far it has been shown that Voi maintains the fleet with the highest battery level compared to Circ – but here, too, there is no comparative data from Tier and Lime.
Who will prevail in the end and convince most of the users is still open. Civity analyst Brockmeyer is only certain of one point: “We are assuming that in the end there will be no more than three providers per city.”