Just a few years ago, it was rare to see an electric scooter on US streets. Today, it’s commonplace to see them sharing bike lanes with a variety of other one, two, and three-wheeled vehicles in cities around the world.
This micromobility boom has been a long time coming, and Superpedestrian was an early pioneer. Our team has been developing micromobility vehicles and technologies since 2014, including the Copenhagen Wheel; a technology management system for micro-vehicles; and now, our own designed-from-the-wheels-up electric scooter.
This summer, Superpedestrian is launching LINK, our shared e-scooter division that will bring our best-in-class e-scooter to city streets in the US and Europe. To celebrate this new chapter, we wanted to share a bit about how we got here, what we’ve learned, and where we think the micromobility industry needs to go to make zero-emission, human-scale mobility available to all.
The Copenhagen Wheel
With their small size, relatively affordable price tag, and ability to travel long distances, electric bikes are an ideal urban vehicle and have been popular in Asia since the 1980s. But their heavy frames, frequent breakdowns, and complicated maintenance have historically prevented widespread adoption.
We knew technology could solve some of these issues, so in 2014, Superpedestrian set out to develop a system to manage micro-vehicle performance. This effort culminated in our Vehicle Intelligence System (VIS), a collection of sensors, firmware, and onboard diagnostic technology that monitors the mechanical and electrical status of an entire vehicle in real-time, and autonomously resolves a majority of potential issues.
VIS found its first home in the Copenhagen Wheel, an e-bike entirely contained in a rear bicycle wheel. By solving small issues before they become big problems, the Copenhagen Wheel has proven to be nine times more reliable than commercial e-bikes.
The Shared E-Scooter Boom
In 2017, e-scooter sharing took cities by storm, clocking nearly 40 million rides in its first full year and attracting many riders to two wheels for the first time. In US cities, around one third of these rides replaced car trips, and about 25% of these trips connected riders to transit. This popularity made it clear from early on that the electric scooter had great potential to connect people to transit and improve overall mobility access.
Also notable in these early days was that the e-scooters being deployed on city streets were not appropriate for shared use. The e-scooter models that operators were deploying suffered from short life spans, mechanical failures, and battery fires. Furthermore, operators struggled to stay in compliance with city requirements to prevent sidewalk riding, and could not reliably enforce parking and no-ride restrictions.
The Superpedestrian E-Scooter
So, we set forth to engineer a better e-scooter.
First, we wanted to understand what was causing e-scooters to fail, so we outfitted a few widely-used models with sensors and test-rode them extensively. It quickly became clear that retrofitting consumer model vehicles for the shared environment would never cut it; components that aren’t designed to work together can easily fail when working in concert, sometimes in unexpected and potentially dangerous ways.
Furthermore, these e-scooters did not provide comprehensive performance data, leaving operators largely in the dark about whether or not a vehicle was safe to ride, and resulting in expensive vehicle repair and maintenance regimes that impacted the financial viability of shared scooter operators.
Putting public safety at risk was a non-starter for Superpedestrian, so we decided to engineer our e-scooter from the wheels up, designing and manufacturing every component. We do not know of any shared operator that has done the same.
To build a better e-scooter, we took data from our vehicle tests and determined the exact engineering requirements needed to achieve 2,500 rides in a vehicle’s lifetime — up to five times as many rides as the industry average. Next, we built, tested, and iterated, using the VIS to measure performance. Each iteration went through 67 different tests, including riding over cobblestones and up and down hills, submerging vehicles in water, and stressing the battery and brakes.
While this kind of testing is commonplace on cars, it was new to micro-vehicles. We didn’t take any shortcuts; we stayed in the lab until we had a product we knew would be safe and reliable enough for our family members to ride. After two years of engineering and refining followed by six months of real-world riding, we approved mass production.
The finished Superpedestrian e-scooter is unlike any other model on the market. It can travel upwards of 55 miles on a single charge, and requires little maintenance thanks to VIS’ ability to spot and remedy performance issues. Our e-scooter is also more compliant with city rules around parking and no-ride zones — our on-board maps enable geofencing enforcement in under one second.
The Launch of LINK, A New Generation of Shared Mobility Provider
This January, we deployed shared Superpedestrian e-scooters in Fort Pierce, Florida. To help with local operations, we partnered with industry-leading micromobility fleet manager Zagster, a company known for running efficient operations in partnership with the communities they serve.
The past five months in Fort Pierce have affirmed that our vehicle investment was well worth the wait. LINK’s operating costs are 65% lower than the industry average, our geofencing has 99% enforcement accuracy, our vehicles rarely require repair, and our customers love the ride.
Now, we’re excited to bring our scooters to city streets around the world. Having acquired Zagster’s scooter operations business and raised a fresh round of funding, we’ll be launching LINK in dozens of US and European cities by the end of this year. LINK’s scooters and operational approach are:
- Designed to work with cities, powered by advanced technologies that encourage safe riding and protect shared public spaces.
- Built for rider safety, including constant monitoring for vehicle performance and automatic mitigation of potential issues.
- Engineered to make business sense, by keeping per-ride vehicle costs low and extending the e-scooter’s lifespan.
(We’ll be discussing each of these in upcoming Medium posts, so watch this space!)
To reduce car trips and improve cities, the next generation of micromobility must be safer, more sustainable, and economically rational. By combining the most intelligent e-scooters on the market with the most experienced and efficient fleet operations, we believe LINK will set a new standard for micromobility. We’re looking for communities and partners who want to be part of this ride. If that’s you, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.