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Coronavirus fails to put the brakes on e-scooters

In Europe’s major cities, the sharing of e-scooters, bikes and similar means of transport continues to be firmly anchored in the market. This is the finding of an investigation conducted by ZHAW students in seven European cities, suggesting that neither the pandemic nor ever more regulations can put the brakes on the providers.

The European market for the sharing of e-scooters also grew during the crisis year of 2020, albeit not as strongly as in the prior year when the total number of e-scooters increased more than tenfold within a 12-month period. This is shown by a comparative study carried out annually by ZHAW students completing the Bachelor’s degree in Transport Systems. The bike-sharing market, on the other hand, contracted slightly last year. In Zurich and Vienna, there are now almost three times as many e-scooters available to borrow as there are bikes. In all other cities, however, bikes still have the upper hand.

Zurich home to the highest density of e-scooters

In 2019, it was Berlin, Copenhagen and Zurich, in particular, that were flooded with e-scooters. One year later, this boom has now also reached Barcelona and Paris. While the fleet sizes in Berlin and Copenhagen have hardly changed since 2019, further year-on-year growth can be observed in Zurich. With almost 4,000 e-scooters and thus more than eight vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, the sharing offer here is now four times denser than in the other cities studied. But when will this growth come to an end? “The stagnating numbers in Berlin and Copenhagen could be the first harbingers of market saturation”, says Transport Systems student Christof Kraft, who headed up the ZHAW study. “It remains to be seen whether a stabilisation in numbers will also be observed in other cities or whether, in some instances, there will even be a decline due to legal restrictions”.

Ever more rules for e-scooters

Many cities in Europe have already taken measures aimed at regulating e-scooter sharing services. In Zurich, for example, no more than 800 vehicles are allowed per provider. In Vienna, in addition to the maximum number of vehicles per provider being restricted to 1,500, a police decree stipulating additional regulations and more stringent requirements has been in place since mid-2020. During the summer of 2020, an application process was conducted in Paris that saw 16 providers seek to gain a license to operate in the city. In the end, three providers were selected. Over the next two years, they will be allowed to operate in Paris with a maximum of 5,000 vehicles each. London will likewise hold a similar selection process in 2021.

Scooter sharing facing difficulties

In the bike-sharing market, there is a great deal of competition among the providers. This is evidenced by numerous market exits and takeovers by various operators. The total number of sharing bikes has dropped by almost 15%. Fleet sizes in the area of scooter sharing have also declined slightly in many cities. “The fall in the scooter offering can be explained, on the one hand, by the increasing attractiveness of e-scooter sharing”, explains Christof Kraft. “On the other, the e-bikes that have been added to the market cover those needs that scooter sharing originally aimed to meet”. Scooters are also more expensive to buy and maintain. The students expect that this sharing service will play an ever small role over the coming years.

Contact

Prof. Thomas Sauter-Servaes, Transport Systems Programme Director, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone 058 934 71 77, e-mail thomas.sauter-servaes@zhaw.ch

Matthias Kleefoot, Public Relations Manager, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone 058 934 70 85, e-mail medien.engineering@zhaw.ch