On-demand access to electric mopeds -- the small, motorised scooters that you sit on, not kick -- has been a small but persistent part of the multi-modal transportation mix on offer to people in cities these days. Today, a startup out of The Netherlands is announcing some funding with ambitions to make e-mopeds more mainstream, and to expand into a wider set of vehicle options.
GO Sharing, which has a fleet of around 5,000 e-mopeds across 30 cities in three countries -- The Netherlands, Belgium and Austria -- has picked up €50 million (around $60 million). The startup, based near Utrecht, plans to use the funding to expand its footprint for e-mopeds; add electric cars and e-bikes to its app; and continue building out the technology underpinning it all.
GO Sharing believes tech will be the answer to creating a profitable operation, using AI algorithms to optimize locations for e-mopeds, encouraging people to drop off in those locations with incentives like discounts, and keeping that network charged.
Germany, the U.K. and Turkey are next on GO Sharing's list of countries, the company said.
The funding is being led by Opportunity Partners -- a firm based out of Amsterdam that also backs online supermarket Crisp, with the startup's founders -- CEO Raymon Pouwels, Doeke Boersma and Donny van den Oever -- also participating. A previous round of about $12 million came from Rabo Corporate Investments, the VC arm of the banking giant.
In a world where we now have many choices for getting around cities -- taxis, public transport, push and electric bikes, scooters, walking, carpools, car rentals or our own cars -- e-mopeds occupy an interesting niche in the mix.
They can be faster than bikes and scooters -- 25 km per hour is a typical speed limit in cities, 40 km per hour in less dense areas -- more agile than cars, completely quiet compared to their very noisy fuel-based cousins and, of course, much more eco-friendly. For those managing fleets, they are less likely to break down and need replacing than some of the other alternatives like e-bikes and e-scooters.
But they also represent a higher barrier to entry for picking up customers: riders need a license to operate them as you would other moving vehicles, and in some (but not all) places riders need to wear helmets; and the operators of fleets need to sort out how required insurance will work and need special permits as a vehicle provider in most places, and they can also face the same issue as other vehicles like bikes and kick scooters of being a public nuisance when parked.
That mix of challenges -- and the fact that fleets can be expensive to operate and might even if all the boxes are ticked still not attract enough users -- has meant that the e-moped market has been a patchy one, with some startups shutting down, some cancelling cities after low demand and some retreating over and then returning with better safety measures.
Yet with on-demand transport companies increasingly looking to provide "any" mode in their multi-modal plays to capture more consumers at more times, they remain a class of vehicle that the bigger players and newer entrants will continue to entertain. Lime earlier this year said it was adding e-mopeds to its fleet in certain cities. Uber teamed up with Cityscoot in Paris to integrate the e-moped's fleet into its app. Cityscoot itself raised some funding last year and is active in several cities across Europe.
And while it can be work to get permits and other regulatory aspects in place to operate services, Pouwels said that GO Sharing was finding that many municipalities actually liked the idea of bringing in more e-mopeds as an eco-friendly alternative to more vehicles -- the idea being to provide a transport option to people who are not interested in kick-scooters or bikes and might have driven their own cars, meaning they already have licenses.
The eco-friendly option is also motivating how the company is planning out other parts of its strategy.
"What we have heard from regulators is that they want to motivate people to walk or move in other ways, for example with bicycles," Pouwels said in an interview. "What we’ve seen with kick scooters is that they 'deactivate' people. This is why we see bikes [not adding e-scooters] as the healthy way of moving forward." The plan with adding electric cars, he said, is to address the needs of people to travel longer distances than shorter inner-city journeys.
Handling supply for its services is coming by way of GreenMo, a sister operation run by Boersma that has been procuring and running a rental service of e-mopeds that are used by drivers for delivery services, with some 10,000 bikes already used this way. GreenMo recently acquired Dutch startup e-bike to go and a took a majority stake in Belgian company zZoomer, to expand its fleet.