There seems to be no end to the popularity of public car sharing services like Zipcar or car2go for folks (like me) who don’t want to bother with the cost of owning, fueling, insuring and parking a car in a big city that is ripe with public transportation options.
Car sharing allows individuals to tap into a fleet of conveniently located vehicles for a few hours or days at a flat rate. Now, that same idea is being applied to a simpler, greener and (we can confirm) more fun transportation option: electric scooters. Michael Keating, a Harvard Business School grad, founded San Francisco-based startup Scoot Networks as a way to provide a cheaper and greener way to get around. “I found it to be challenging to get around in cities,” Keating said in a recent interview. “Nothing has changed since the automobile.”
It’s a problem that countries outside the U.S. have tackled by using more two-wheeled vehicles –motorized and not — and by implementing bike sharing programs. Keating came up with the idea for Scoot Networks after looking at the Chinese market, which sells an estimated 10 million electric scooters a year. He bought a fleet of electric scooters from China and outfitted them with smartphone technology that allows them to be unlocked, ridden and shared by the masses.
The Scoot bike network is accessed through an iPhone application that shows users the location of scooters in their vicinity, unlocks the bike and allows the rider to use mapping navigation. The scooters are also wired to be used with Android devices, but the application is still in the works.
The scooters use a 60-volt battery and top out around 30 mph. That makes them unsuitable for traveling on freeways or longer distances, of course, but they’re perfect for popping across town or commuting up steep hills you’d rather not walk in business attire. After taking one of the Scoot bikes on a test ride, I can report that these are not only fun, they are handy and practical for short commutes around the city.