Having spent a number of years in Toronto, I spent all of it riding a Bixi/Bike Share Toronto bicycle around. For the price of $99/year, unlimited 30 minute sessions (more than enough to reach any station in my radius of living), I didn't pay much attention to the obvious step-up solution right in front of me.
When you look around, whether in the big city, on the highways, or in smaller towns, a significant amount of the population drives a vehicle, but often it's with only one passenger, and many times, if there is a passenger, it's just one.
This is a massive waste of numerous resources including: fuel, space, heat exhaust and noise. It also means more wear and tear on the vehicle (oil, tires, suspension etc), and results in higher maintenance costs.
The solution to someone with a bike and someone who doesn't want to absorb the costs of owning a car is obvious but often over-looked: the electric scooter!
Allow me to compare the scooter in three products you can relate too:
The maintenance and ease of a bicycle with the independence of a car at the cost of a laptop.
In my opinion, the North American market has largely not considered this a valid transportation option. This is to their own detriment and is a no-brainer once you have one, especially to anyone living in the city sick of public transit and to millennials who make a lot of small trips where walking is time consuming, biking can make you sweaty and owning/using a car isn't practical.
I recently tweaked Elon Musk and suggested the escooter market is ripe for disruption similar to what Tesla is doing for electric cars. Here is what I think the ultimate electric scooter should include:
1. Slightly improved aesthetics, making it marginally more sporty, practical and refined with some essence of style.
2. Wireless connectivity to smartphone displaying: battery percentage, range, speed, efficiency, recharge time, initiate power and nearest battery terminal etc. Obviously charge the phone too.
3. Industry will need to consider geographical charging locations. Currently, to recharge my scooter takes approximately 7 hours from dead to full -- far too long! Existing infrastructure is already in place to vastly expand the range a scooter can go. Instead of stopping at a place and waiting for a charge, gas stations, Tesla Supercharge stations and corner stores (any location really) could easily install a small cage to charge batteries with a solar panel on top. People then approach, unlock the case by smartphone authentication (in-app) and can swap their batteries (either for free or a menial charge like $1). For places with additional space, a scooter parking lot could be set up just by adding a small fence made of rebar. In Tianjin, there are dedicated scooter parking lots all over. Typically, near a mall, there will an above ground lot and one below (my building has one). Below ground have special stairs to walk your bike down, banks of plugs for charging and someone watch over the bike (you get a ticket like in valet). These lots charge 2¥ ($0.40) to park for the day! North America could easily charge $1.00 per hour. An ultra brief estimate of a scooter lot across my building had 25 scooter in one line, estimated to be 1/3 full and seemed to be able to hold four rows. This amounts to 300 scooters at once, though I'd approximate at least double that many go through each day making it 600, and a totally of 1,200¥/$240 every day! North America could easily make that $1,200 per day (translation to $36,000/month and 324,000 over 9 months assuming 3 months of winter). Having the battery swap for such a menial charge would obliterate any "range anxiety" some EV drivers report, though most people don't travel the equivalent of the battery total range anyways. Additionally, having this fallback option would highly encourage people to use this method transportation as a regular means of travel.
4. The scooter would need to contain a built in smartphone bracket allowing for syncing while preferably underneath a piece of transparent plastic to shield from weather, and include a charging port. This would also allow for accessing gps on the phone without your phone dying en route.
5. At least one water bottle holder/compartment to hold small hand held items such as wallet, keys, small food etc.
6. A lot of leg room! Many residence here place objects in front of them on the floor where their feet go (myself included - backpack).
7. A small hook on the plastic covering the steering column facing me. This hook has proven invaluable for bags that will sit in front of me but cannot prop themselves up (grocery bags, shopping bags, juice/water jugs with handles etc, can hang there).
8. I'd personally like to have an escooter be able to charge off a solar panel (either included/separate of purchase) I can plug my bike into and charge up anywhere (this is TRUE mobility). Ideally, the scooter body would be made of solar panels, and would charge it constantly (even in use) allowing for unlimited travel!
9. Customizable storage bins. Most scooters come with a small storage compartment on the back which include a lock, reflector, and doubles as a back desk for the second rider. Largely, these work fantastic as they are and typically used for storing a lock, poncho (which covers the scooter and rider), and charger with a bit of spare room. Having the ability to replace this for a larger/smaller option would be great, but allowing for alternate storage bins would be ideal. A taller bin would be offer more backrest and should be able to accommodate a backpack as large as a 65L bag would allow for seamless road trips (especially with the built in solar charging). Another option would be an child seat similar to those on bicycles.
10. Many people here have purchased material hand covers and body covers, since it gets cool here, and can be cold when raining/windy, the solutions locals use gets the jobs done but leaves room for modernization and aesthetic upgrades.
11. Roof coverings. Not many, but enough people here actually have make shift covering for their scooters for two main weather elements: sun and rain. Some have special umbrellas which attach the the handle bar and instead of a circle umbrella, there is a small extension allowing the second rider the to be covered. Others include a rectangle shape with four legs to attach to the main frame of the bike. In another case, solar panels could be affixed to the top of this and assist in constant charging while providing sun/rain protection. A strong enough cover could host additional storage options albeit with a low weight cap to keep centre of gravity low. It wouldn't hurt to have items such small tools, first air kit, hook for helmet and these kinds of items stored there.
12. Easily accessible, water-tight compartment with replaceable battery. Currently on my bike, to remove the battery requires unlocking the seat (providing access a tiny storage area), taking off a cover, manually disconnecting two heavy batteries and awkwardly trying to remove them. This could be replaced with a easy slide out battery option unlocked by a latch and a single standardized plug. This would allow for seamless battery swaps at stations and upgrading to batteries with high range. All bikes should be made to accommodate a >/=75km range battery, but come with 50km as standard.
13. Regenerative breaking. Anytime someone goes down a hill, the bike should free roll (if equivalent to riders' desired speed), and charge up the batteries, same with breaking. This is free energy and shouldn't be wasted.
14. Proper foot pedals/handles for the second rider.
15. A scooter share program where people can download the app, sign up and borrow a scooter for a period of time, this should be a cross between the bike share programs and car share programs.
16. Some variations are simply bicycles with a small motor and battery. Having pedals which could be easily attached would assist in the regenerative process mentioned already, and allow those looking for a little leg exercise still get some.
17. Decent set of speakers hidden from rain drops. Many people who ride bicycles have earphones in which is dangerous. Having some decent speakers would allow riders to hear the music, GPS directions and still be conscious of the ambient sounds around them.
I know the above is a lot to ask, it's not unreasonable though. Having these modifications would catapult this industry forward. The benefits would be numerous: significantly less traffic on the road meaning less pollution and congestion with more space available allowing for the influx of riders to freely navigate (in Tianjin scooter traffic is often moving quicker than vehicle traffic).
Whether someone chooses to purchase or share a scooter, not having the maintenance costs, fuel costs, upfront and monthly payment costs of a car while still having the mobility would highly incentivize riders and allow for more economic benefits. Riders would be able to save more, pay off debt or spend money on local businesses they can travel too.
The electric scooter is the perfect means of transportation for Millenials who often live in urban areas, make frequent small trips, want a modern environmentally conscious vehicle and not break the bank! The electric scooter accomplishes all of these things. Frankly, I'm surprised more urbanites don't use them.
On top of all of this, it's extremely fun riding the scooter! Having the wind blow in your face, feeling how quickly the scooter can accelerate and the all of this while completely silent and vibration is great!
If you haven't tried a scooter try and ride/drive one! You'll immediately be convinced!