2012-09-26

Forget Zipcar: Rent An Electric Scooter To Get There Faster

Is a new short-term scooter rental the true future of shared urban transportation?

In many large U.S. cities, it’s easy to get around without a car. Still, there are times when you need to get out of town, and that’s when services like Zipcar are useful. But what about when you need to quickly get across the city and don’t have a bike or easily accessible public transportation to rely on? Scoot Networks, a San Francisco electric scooter sharing startup that sprung from the Greenstart cleantech accelerator, wants to fill that gap.

We first wrote about Scoot this past spring, when its founders were aiming for a San Francisco launch by the end of 2012. Now the launch has been moved up to today. "We wanted to get a broader class of people riding sooner," says Michael Keating, cofounder of Scoot Networks.

The service, which has been beta tested with corporate clients for months, will initially roll out with 50 scooters spread out across a number of neighborhoods. Using Scoot is simple: available and charged scooters can be located with a smartphone app, and each scooter has a smartphone dock. When a rider places their smartphone in the dock, the scooter unlocks and the phone transforms into a dashboard, offering info on range as well as a map. There are no advance reservations, which is both good and bad--it means you can’t necessarily rely on a scooter being available where and when you want it, but you also don’t have to contend with people renting out the small number of available scooters days in advance.

The scooters have a range of 20 to 30 miles and a top speed of 30 MPH. That will get drivers from any one point in the city to any other point, but it means that jaunts outside the city are mostly out of the question. Not that that will really matter, according to Keating: "People really like commuting on the scooters, taking them home at night, and bringing them back in the morning." The scooters cost $5 an hour or a $10 flat rate overnight (from 5 pm to 10 am), and frequent rider discounts are available. For now, riders have to bring the scooters back to their original spots, but that may change.



Training is required for all riders. Keating explains in an email: "Experienced motorcyclists get through it in a few minutes. People who bike a lot also learn fast, but we will spend an hour with someone if we have to get them comfortable and riding safely." Armed with a fresh seed round of $550,000 in funding, it won’t be long before Scoot expands further into San Francisco and other cities around the world.

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