E-Scooters: Micro-Mobility Trend or Not – They Still Need to be Charged to Roll!

By Nina Heuser and David Martin

Recently I’m noticing them everywhere - they zoom past me in office corridors, trade show halls and city parks. I am not talking about stressed colleagues, but e-powered scooters, or e-scooters.

Soon they will be scurrying around all German cities, as they are now officially permitted on cycle paths and roads. On May 17th, 2019 the Federal Council of Germany adopted, as expected, a regulation for small e-vehicles (Elektrokleinstfahrzeugeverordnung (eKFV)) that permits the use of e-scooters with a speed of up to 20 km/h (approx. 12.4 mph). Many manufacturers have already been lined up ready and waiting in preparation.

Pros and Cons of E-Scooters

Like all e-vehicles, e-scooters are as environmentally friendly as the electricity used to charge them. One thing is for sure - they are very convenient, easily foldable, and very portable. That makes them ideal for that final stretch of a journey following an initial trip by car, bus or train (provided of course your e-scooter is allowed onboard). In congested cities e-scooters may become quite popular. Whether they will ease traffic congestion remains to be seen. The greatest disadvantage is their risk of accidents, not only for e-scooter riders but also for cyclists and pedestrians. The German Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer, somewhat curbed the initial e-scooter-buzz by prohibiting their use on pavements. Shared pavements and cycle paths may still hold potential for conflict and hazards.

E-scooters Are Already Popular in Other Countries

E-scooters are already part of the streetscape in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Denmark and Finland. Business concepts such as the company Bird, founded by the former Uber-Manager Travis Van der Zanden, are already inspiring others. Bird e-scooters can be rented and billed according to usage-time. At the end of the day, Bird employees collect the scooters and recharge them. Start-ups such as Lime, Scoot and Skip are entering the same market. In many US cities the distribution of these new vehicles initially was not regulated. Thus, many rental services sprung up rapidly. According to the media, e-scooters caused great chaos in San Francisco as they were carelessly left wherever the journey ended only to obstruct pavements and entrances.

In Germany, companies are also getting ready for the anticipated mobility-hype, including Tier and GoFlash. They aim to predominantly target professionals who do not want to ride a bicycle and are disinclined to use any of the alternative motor scooter sharing concepts.

This is Where We Come In

What does any of this have to do with Würth Elektronik? We are very interested in promoting e-mobility and have been a Formula-E technology partner for several years now. We support developers and start-ups, for example with our power electronics component expertise. In relation to e-scooters, and more precisely their charging stations, we have an important role to play with our wide range of wireless power products.

The new sign that indicates that e-scooters are permitted in traffic areas is clear but does not reflect the most likely method of recharging. Just like e-bikes, privately-owned e-scooters will probably run on rechargeable replacement batteries.

For e-scooter-rentals the most practical solution would be to simply place it in a designated bracket at a lending station and instantly start charging it without the need to plug it in anywhere. Mobile phone users may already be familiar with wireless charging and the same wireless-power-transfer-technology is also ideal for e-mobility and e-scooters. It is clean and does not add to pollution in cities. Furthermore, charging is not only convenient and fast, but also stylish and modern.

Würth Elektronik is highly experienced in wireless-power-transfer and has developed proven WPT technology for a broad range of e-mobility applications, starting from about 100 W for e-scooters to over 11 kW for electric vehicles. Once the battery for your e-scooter is charged, it should last for your average city commute and only takes a few hours to recharge ready for your ride home. This is not only great for you, but also opens up a host of opportunities for other e-scooter applications.

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