Tracking the Rise of Electric Scooters

For the past few years, one of our analysts was lucky enough to go to Paris, France for business trips. The difference the analyst noticed between Paris 2017 and Paris 2018? Electric scooters. The analyst saw no scooters in Paris in 2017, but in 2018, the things were everywhere, with all sorts of people using them.

Even those who probably shouldn’t have been.

Why did this catch our analyst’s interest?

First, look at Paris’ transit infrastructure:

It’s very comprehensive. It’s inexpensive to use (about 23 Euro per week for a tourist, INCLUDING travel to/from the airport). It’s frequent, with subway trains arriving about every 2 minutes during rush hours, and about every 6-7 in slower times.

And yet scooters were still being used everywhere in less than a year.

How does that happen?

Cities around the world continue dealing with the challenges of traffic and commuting in various ways. In Paris, France, the commuting infrastructure is comprehensive, with the city’s subway alone consisting of over 300 stations and 220 kilometers (136 miles) of track.12 Daily ridership of Paris’ Metropolitan averages 4.5 million riders.3 In spite of this city convenience, Parisians, and citizens of other cities with similar infrastructures, still deal with standstill traffic and crowded trains. However, some entrepreneurs are using space infrastructure to offer alternative transportation modes in cities for reasonable prices.

In June 2018, electric scooters hit the pavement for rental in Paris, filling a need for cost-effective transportation without the hassle of commuting and clogging up the streets with bulky vehicles. Historically, alternatives to driving involved getting on a crowded bus or train, riding a bicycle, or walking. Electric scooter rentals avoid possible claustrophobia of buses and removes physical exertion while riding a bike or walking. Two companies launched in Paris around the same time: Lime and Bird.4

Both companies offer the same service; motorized scooter rentals paid for using a smartphone application. Using smartphone apps to locate and monitor fares, these services are dependent upon radio signals from positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) satellites to manage real-time scooter locations. Their smartphone apps provide directions to users for nearby scooters. The apps also unlock the scooters for customers’ use in a nearly seamless fashion. For each, once a rider starts, the app monitors the time (and the amount charged per minute) and the location of the scooter.

The smartphone application guides the user to the scooter and then tracks the scooter as it’s ridden to the customer’s destination. Once the user arrives at the end of the journey, the apps calculate the distance and time using PNT data and charge the user.56 When the application is disconnected, it then locks the scooter. Neither of the businesses offers a way to monitor and manage if the users are obeying the rules provided.7

These companies offer their services to both college campuses and municipals as well. With the added feature of the scooters being electric, it cuts down on carbon footprints and total pollution in the air compared to the average car.8 While it might be an adjustment to Parisian citizens, its rapid adoption by them within the city indicates a welcome addition to the municipal transport system and may help unclog some of the crowded public transport already in place.

  1. “Understanding how our lines are named and numbered.” RATP. (accessed October 23, 2018)
  2. “Paris Subway Map.” 2016. (accessed October 23, 2018)
  3. “Paris Metro, Île-de-France.” Railway Technology. 2018. (accessed October 23, 2018)
  4. Katy Lee. “Scoot alors! Will Paris fall in love with the electric scooter?” The Guardian. (accessed September 28, 2018)
  5. “About”. Lime. (accessed September 28, 2018)
  6. “About”. Bird. (accessed September 28, 2018)
  7. Kayla Matthews, “Regulating San Francisco’s Electric Scooter Problem,” The Drive. June 4, 2018. (accessed October 18, 2018)
  8. “How Clean is Your Electric Car?” UCUSA. (accessed October 18, 2018)