Over the last four years, TriplePundit has periodically reported on the growth of the San Francisco-based electric-scooter sharing service, Scoot Networks. Since its inception in 2012, with a fledgling service of just 20 scooters located in four locations in the city, the company has grown substantially.
Last week, Scoot announced a partnership with electric scooter manufacturer GenZe, and plans to rapidly expand its operation with a fleet of new American-made machines.
The service, which today remains a San Francisco-only operation, allows members to rent “Vespa-style,” all-electric scooters and ride them anywhere in the city. Because the scooters are classified as mopeds, members only need a regular driver license to join. The service is app-enabled: Members use the Scoot Networks' app to locate, reserve and unlock the machines. Though the company offers different service plans, riders are charged as little as $2 per half hour, and they can keep a scooter overnight for a flat $10 fee.
We visited Scoot Networks' new headquarters in San Francisco last week, where the number of employees has grown to 40 full-time staff. At Scoot HQ, we met with founder and CEO Michael Keating to learn more about the company's expansion.
Of course, an increase in demand is a good problem to have, and already the company has grown to 50 “powered” locations in 40 San Francisco neighborhoods. The scooter fleet grew too, with over 400 machines now in circulation. But it still falls short of requirements, hence the forthcoming aggressive increase in scale.
Scoot Networks plans to add "at least 100 scoots to the fleet each month for the foreseeable future,” Keating said, and the partnership with GenZe is key to this expansion. The fact that the fleet's new arrivals are built in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a nice synergy. When we interviewed Keating back in 2012, he said the initial fleet of vehicles had to be sourced from China, because there wasn’t a U.S.-based manufacturer of electric scooters at that time.
Now, happily, that’s changed. “In addition to shorter lead times [for supply], it is easier for us to travel to their factory in Michigan than it was to travel to factories in Europe or Asia," Keating said of the partnership with GenZe in an e-mail after our visit last week. "There are fewer language and time-zone barriers to collaboration between our teams. Also their headquarters is in Fremont [California], so for non-engineering matters, coordination is very easy.”
We had a chance to ride one of Scoot’s new GenZe scooters, and as well as being smooth to get off the line, it’s quick enough to merge safely into city traffic.
The top speed is 30 miles per hour, which is more than enough for the city, where speed limits top out at 25 in residential areas. In the San Francisco environment, Scoot says a conservative range of 20 miles is to be expected. With reassuringly strong brakes and easy handling, it makes navigating all the intricacies of San Francisco’s urban landscape a piece of cake. And the GenZe scooters appear to be a nice upgrade to Scoot’s existing fleet of smaller-wheeled mopeds.
Beyond the fleet-expansion partnership, both Scoot Networks and GenZe share the same philosophy when it comes to the future of urban transportation, Keating told us. “Both companies see electrification of personal, urban transportation as inevitable," he explained, "and both companies believe that to accelerate that change, electric vehicles need to be made affordable to everyone.”
Scoot’s new bikes are a slightly customized version of the models GenZe makes for the consumer market, and you can read more about them in this extensive test by TriplePundit’s Bill Roth.
Although Scoot Networks operates only in San Francisco, the company is still eying new market opportunities here in the United States and also in Europe. That said, with each incremental increase in scale, the Scoot team finds they learn new things. And as Keating told us, “We are still learning how big the San Francisco market can be, and we want to launch in new cities with that knowledge.”
Scoot members have ridden over 1 million miles to date, according to the company. That’s pretty impressive in San Francisco’s 49-square-mile footprint, on machines with a 20-mile range. And as well as the scooters, the company is also dipping its toe into other electric vehicle options, and recently began offering a small number of two-seater quad vehicles for members who want to take a passenger along for the ride.
Images courtesy of the author
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.