Shared Electric Micromobility: Lessons from Electric Feel

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Expert Interviews, Micromobility, Shared Mobility

Summary

The number of shared micromobility trips is growing worldwide, as people gravitate toward smaller, more environmentally friendly forms of transport. Most of those trips are on electric vehicles, whether e-bikes, kick scooters, or electric mopeds. We asked Moritz Meenen, CEO at ElectricFeel, what he sees in shared mobility space today and what it takes to start and run a successful service.

Shared Electric Micromobility - Lessons from Electric Feel

Shared micromobility has been shaped by electric vehicles including e-mopeds, e-bikes and scooters over the last few years. A few years ago, new electric shared micromobility services flooded many cities. When the initial excitement cooled down, we saw that some services met customer needs and survived, and others did not.

In this edition of “Lessons from,” we asked Moritz Meenen, CEO of ElectricFeel AG, about recent developments in the shared micromobility market and what he thinks operators need to do to have success in it. Founded in 2012 as a spin-off from an urban mobility research project at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), ElectricFeel combines networked mobility sharing with light electric vehicles to significantly improve the efficiency of urban transportation. ElectricFeel’s Sharing Platform is the all-in-one solution for entrepreneurs and innovators to start their micromobility service with e-bike sharing, moped sharing or scooter sharing. Customers include Pick-e-Bike, Revel and Cooltra.

How do e-bikes and e-mopeds fit into the shared mobility ecosystem?

Let’s start with e-bikes: if the city has good cycling infrastructure, e-bikes have great potential in sharing services. They augment riders’ muscle power, making it easier to cycle longer and uphill, leaving users less sweaty and tired. They’re likely the quickest way to reach destinations 1-5km away, depending on public transport, street network, and traffic.

This makes e-bikes great for short commutes, leisure trips, and errands. They’re very easy to ride; people who haven’t learned to bike sometimes have their first experience on an e-bike. They’re also liked by tourists, who use them for a few hours or a day to cruise around the city. The challenges with e-bikes lie in maintenance, as they are a bit more vulnerable to vandalism than other micromobility vehicles.

E-mopeds made their sharing debut in cities where mopeds were already a part of mobility culture. Cooltra started with us in Barcelona, for example, then in Rome, Milan, Madrid and other south European cities with lots of mopeds. But recently, e-moped sharing also became popular in cities with no previous moped culture, like Hamburg, Berlin, or Vienna.

E-mopeds bring unique benefits to riders. They move at speeds similar to cars, and are better suited than e-bikes for trips over 5km. Parking them is much easier than parking cars, so getting from A to B in a city is quicker than in a car. E-mopeds typically have two seats, so the cost of the ride can be split in two. And last but not least: fun. People enjoy the riding experience, chatting while riding, getting a feel for the city. Challenges include helmet theft, and tickets or towing of illegally parked vehicles. Finally, moving mopeds costs more than moving e-bikes or kick scooters, so operators try to balance maintenance in the field vs. in repair facilities.

How has the shared mobility space changed over the past few years and how have your clients adapted?

Shared micromobility has grown a lot in the last few years, and more people are using it as part of their lives. The pandemic did not slow demand; in fact, changing needs have solidified it. With many people working from home at least part of the week, old mobility patterns are falling apart. People living in cities question the model of car ownership, and instead explore more flexible and eco-friendly mobility options. It’s a massive opportunity for shared electric mobility, and all players active in the field benefit from this trend. Various brands of micromobility vehicles are filling cities, and shared mobility is seeing lots of competition in big cities. Operators can stand out by integrating with public transit, through partnerships with local employers or businesses, or via loyalty programs. They can also differentiate by optimizing the availability of their fleet for their chosen target audience.

At the same time, cities – who often felt overwhelmed by the flood of new vehicles – have started to regulate business conduct through permits and licensing, data sharing requirements, and parking rules. Operators need to be technically and procedurally prepared to comply with these rules, and stay in close dialogue with the city’s technical and planning departments.

What are key success factors for operators?

First, clients demand a good user experience: they want an easy-to-use app with smooth sign-up, rental, and payment flow processes. They want tailor-made offers and pricing that suits their needs. They want a safe and fun vehicle, that ideally is available where and when they need it. And they want customer support to help them resolve issues quickly.

Operational excellence is also key. Operational inefficiency can limit the financial viability and user experience of a sharing service. Getting great at managing the fleet’s supply and demand, vehicle repairs, and in-field operations is critical. The key to success here is being highly data-driven; operators should select, set goals, and monitor vital KPIs.

The last factor is the quality and speed of the marketing strategy. Successful operators have a brand with a clear purpose and promise. They use the right marketing channels quickly to generate demand, and grow engagement and re-engagement to build their business.

shared moped and scooter

How does your tech contribute to your clients’ growth and success?

First, the ElectricFeel Shared Mobility Operating System is a complete solution that includes more than just the essentials. It consists of the rider app, fleet management, customer management, billing and invoicing, and the operations app for the in-field service teams to manage battery swapping and other tasks. The system also includes a data warehouse. It lets operators avoid shopping for, contracting, and managing separate pieces of operations software. Instead, they can save the time and money and put it towards launching and scaling their business.

Next, revenue generation: we designed our end-user app to be as easy-to-use as possible to maximize conversion and ridership. We empower our partners to better understand usage patterns and interactions through advanced analytics. They can use insights from these analytics to launch highly targeted tariffs, and subscriptions and promotions to increase loyalty and usage, resulting in higher long-term revenues.

Last but not least, operations: everyone who’s worked in shared electric mobility operations knows how big of a challenge it is. ElectricFeel’s system digitizes and automates core operational processes for vehicle state management, tasks and shift management, battery fleet management, etc. In addition, it produces and provides structured data to empower our partners to manage and consistently improve their operations by monitoring KPIs specific to their industry. ElectricFeel has been developing the technology and know-how over the last 10 years, and new partners immediately benefit from this experience.

How do operators benefit from working with integration partners for their tech stack?

Many operators have found success working with tech partners instead of building their tech stack in-house, as it lets them focus on building relationships with clients, partners, local businesses and cities instead. In-house software development slows down the time to market, creates big business risks, and needs funding that could go to vehicles and marketing instead. The development can be easily outsourced to companies like INVERS for connectivity, and ElectricFeel for the Operating System and App. Client relations are what matters most in the short and long run, so operators should invest a lot into them from day one.

The US market leader Revel provides a good example. Thanks to ElectricFeel and a fast go-to-market approach, they quickly became the north-American leader in e-moped sharing. Our mission is to enable more operators aiming to become the next Cooltra or Revel by entering a market decisively, and scaling to a multi-million revenue business.

What aspects of the tech stack should operators focus on the most?

The answer depends on their stage of development. However, we see that the tech stacks of our successful operator partners focus on three things:

  • Performance and scalability
  • Flexibility on revenue generation
  • Operational efficiency

Tech stacks should perform great and be able to scale to ensure the high service reliability that users expect. Even when an operator is just beginning with a small fleet, their users must be highly satisfied from day one. The business can’t grow without user retention.

The tech stack should be flexible around different ways of generating revenue. The best tech stacks enable the operator to continuously analyze how clients are using the service, and build pricing plans that fit the needs of different segments. In addition, their tools should allow them to manage promotional campaigns to target new users or re-engage existing ones.

The third and highly critical area of focus is operational efficiency. Operations are the Achilles’ heel of a shared electric mobility business. Platforms should help operations teams keep the fleet charged and maintained in high demand areas to maximize availability.

What trends do you foresee in the mobility space?

People who live in cities will drive cars less. They will use smaller, compact vehicles with two, three or four wheels: e-bikes, e-mopeds, e-scooters, and small electric pod-cars. They will also shift from owning cars to shared and rented vehicles. Urban centers will slowly force privately-owned cars out; instead we’ll see more shared vehicle fleets combining with public transit services via mobility hubs. This will free up space for walking, cycling, social life, and commerce in the city. Barcelona is a great example of this transition with the concept of Super Blocks, and a great variety of shared micromobility services in its center. The impact on air quality, noise level, and quality of life is measurable. In the future, people in Barcelona will not want to go back to city centers cluttered with cars.

Second, multi-modality will become a reality. Today, it’s still hard to take a trip using many service providers through a single ticket or app. Soon, it will be possible to use a single app to book multiple vehicles for a journey. For example, we’ll be able to use one app to start the trip in a shared car to reach a Park & Ride space, get on a public train, and finish the trip on a shared e-bike. Users will book all parts of the trip on one app, using a harmonized tariff or a monthly subscription.

Last but not least, we believe that shared mobility will reach more places and go beyond large cities. Mid-sized and even small towns will build shared mobility services in cooperation with employers, residential projects, and local commerce. We expect to see the rise of locally designed and operated services that will bring shared mobility to more people.

What’s your best advice for mobility businesses looking to get into this market?

First, it’s critical for a new shared mobility business to find real market gaps. One more kick scooter sharing service in a city with a handful already won’t add value and will probably fail. On the other hand, creating an e-moped sharing service in a city where none are available, or focusing on a specific target group can result in strong demand, loyal customers, and growth.

Second, being fast to market is critical. If there is a clear and unmet need, we recommend the shared mobility business enters the market as swiftly as possible to build and secure market share. To do that, it’s essential to work with the right partners that have the outstanding operational experience to enable them to launch and scale fast.

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