The “last mile” solution specialists at Lime made a name for the company with an innovative rental scheme involving electric kick-scooters. More recently, it has quietly expanded into pedal-assisted e-bike rentals, too, and the success of that program has inspired it to add a new commuting solution that goes beyond that last mile: NIU electric scooters.
For the uninitiated, NIU is the market leader for connected electric scooters, having sold literally hundreds of thousands of these Vespa-style vehicles in Europe and China, and having recently logged over a billion (with a “b”) connected miles through its app. The vehicles are considered “the Tesla of electric two-wheelers” for a reason, in other words, and Lime will be leaning on its proven app to track, service, and maintain its new fleet of NIU scooters as the project moves forward.
The real question for Lime, however, isn’t whether or not it has the right partner, it’s whether or not it has the right idea. That’s because Americans’ appetite for the risks associated with larger, heavier, and faster electric scooters remains largely untested. What’s more, the licensing requirements for electric scooters with 30-50 MPH top speeds vary significantly from state to state, making a rollout like this potentially much more complex that it seems on the surface.
For its part, though, Lime will require moped renters attend a free 45-minute in-person lesson for all riders, taught by certified motorcycle instructors in small class sizes. The company will also require riders to wear one of the infrared sensor-equipped helmets locked in the scooter’s topcase (that “trunk” deal on the back). Getting the helmet out and on is just one of three different digital “checkpoints” worked into the process to ensure riders can’t ride off without wearing a helmet. Another will require riders to upload a selfie showing them actually wearing the helmet, which I thought was pretty clever.
Lime will also use the NIU scooters’ onboard sensors to watch for dangerous and unsafe riding, which can have a much bigger consequence on a 300 lb. scooter than, say, a 50 lb. e-bike. “Lime will take strict enforcement measures for repeat safety violators, including removal from the platform, to avoid putting themselves and other road users at risk,” reads a statement from the company’s press release, which echoes some of the language used in Bird’s recent revelation about its own “skid detection” software a few weeks ago. Lime will also electronically limit the NIU’s top speed to just 28 MPH.
Which, again, it sucks, but I know who it is for and I totally get it. And it’s OK, because the people who get exposed to these bikes and decide they absolutely *MUST* bomb down Western Ave. during rush hour at 50 MPH with wind in their hair and their a**es on fire will feel that urge suddenly and urgently. And they’ll buy their own NIU or a Vespa Elettrica or a Serial 1 or a big Livewire or something. The normals will just tap the app, pay the man, and ride to work on a clean, modern, safe electric scooter that Lime claims will be checked on and “handled” every three days or so to ensure everything is safe and tip-top.
It remains to be seen how popular this new third option will be for Lime. Once the initial pilot programs inform the company of demand (there will be 2, one in Washington, DC, and the other in Paris), we might see big Lime scooters just about everywhere, and that would be very, very cool. That’s my take, anyway — what do you guys think? Is this just a major liability meatball that has Lime begging for a massive lawsuit, or will this be the killer app that finally takes Scooter Trash like me into the mainstream? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know!
Featured Image: courtesy Lime.