Get in the KNOW
on LA Startups & TechX
Lime Is Bringing Its New, More Eco-Friendly Scooters to LA
The first Lime electric scooters hit the streets of Los Angeles in June 2018, some nine months after rival e-scooter startup Bird first took flight in Santa Monica. In the years since, Lime has battled Bird and a wave of other micromobility operators for market dominance—seeking to transform the urban transportation landscape while facing losses, regulatory backlash and even destructive anti-scooter sentiment.
Now, Lime is upping the ante in the great e-scooter wars once again by bringing its latest e-scooter model—the Lime Gen4—to the streets of Los Angeles, with the goal of replacing all 7,000-plus vehicles in its L.A. fleet by this summer. Lime has already rolled out the Gen4 globally in markets from Denver to London.
The San Francisco-based company told dot.LA that it designed the Gen4 to be more eco- and user-friendly—with a swappable battery, bigger wheels, a lower center of gravity and swept-back handlebars akin to a bicycle.
“As of [the week of April 17], you'll start to see them in Hollywood, West Hollywood and in some of the Hills area,” said Alyssa Edelen, Lime’s general manager for the southwest region.
Lime's new Gen4 e-scooter features a swappable battery, bigger wheels, a lower center of gravity and swept-back handlebars.Image courtesy of Lime
The Next Generation
Originally a bike-sharing company, Lime launched its e-scooter fleet in 2017 with the Segway Ninebot, a popular choice for operators at the time. However, early e-scooters were not built for the harsh conditions of shared use. One 2018 study by Quartz of Bird scooters in Louisville, Ky., found that the vehicles lasted less than 29 days on average before breaking down or falling prey to vandalism or theft.
The next Lime generation to hit L.A. streets in 2018 was the Gen2.5, a hardier model built to last 18-to-24 months. Then last year, the company swapped out the Gen2.5 for Okai scooters inherited through its 2020 acquisition of Uber’s micromobility business, Jump. Instead of recycling the Jump scooters, Lime wanted to deploy them in select markets.
Now, Lime says that its latest model—designed and manufactured completely in-house—is built to last for up to five years. In comparison, competitor Bird’s latest model, the Bird Three, has an estimated shelf life of two years.
Lime didn’t share details on how much the company invested in R&D for the Gen4. The scooter was initially developed by Jump, with Lime continuing the work after acquiring the former Uber subsidiary.
How Eco-Friendly Are E-Scooters?
The lifespan of an e-scooter doesn’t only affect a company’s bottom line—it also has a significant impact on sustainability.
In a 2019 study conducted at North Carolina State University, researchers calculated the life-cycle emissions of shared e-scooters. The study found that although riding one was better for the environment than driving a car, it was not as green as riding an electric bike or even taking a gasoline-powered bus.
And that’s not just because of the energy required to charge e-scooters, which represented only 5% of their total emissions. According to the study, most of the greenhouse gas emissions from shared micromobility comes from manufacturing a device’s parts, as well as the logistics of collecting and charging the vehicles. In other words: the longer a scooter’s lifespan and the easier it is to charge it, the lower its carbon footprint will be
To address the environmental impact of charging scooters and returning them to the streets, Lime and other micromobility operators are now embracing models that feature swappable batteries. According to Lime, the Gen4’s swappable battery makes the charging process more streamlined and energy-efficient; vehicles no longer need to be transported to a warehouse for charging. Lime’s new Gen4 e-bike model is also using the same swappable battery.
While some competitors, like Bird and Superpedestrian, have called into question the environmental benefits of swappable batteries, the industry at large seems to be trending in their favor. Veo CEO Candice Xie told dot.LA earlier this year that the micromobility firm is using its Cosmo seated scooter to tow trailers filled with batteries that are swapped into its vehicles in Santa Monica.
“We don't need to collect all the devices back to the warehouse to charge and then roll [them] out again,” Xie said. “All we need to do is swap the battery on site, and that increases our efficiency and reduces our operations by 40-to-50% compared to other vendors.”
West Hollywood-based Wheels is testing out a similar strategy in Austin, Texas, where it’s using its own electric seated scooter to swap batteries and service its vehicles, with plans to implement this method in L.A. Meanwhile, a Lyft spokesperson said many of the company’s maintenance teams are using electric golf carts and e-cargo tricycles to swap batteries on its own micromobility vehicles.
Lime has yet to use electric vehicles in L.A. for charging and maintenance operations, but said it’s in the process of acquiring and implementing them.
Lime says the Gen4’s swappable battery makes the process of recharging its e-scooters more streamlined and energy-efficient.Image courtesy of Lime
The Adoption Issue
Lime’s more eco-friendly approach comes as Angelenos are increasingly turning to shared transit options to avoid record-high gas prices. As of mid-April, Lime had seen its ridership in L.A. grow “about 35%” in the preceding two-to-three weeks, Edelen said. The company’s Lime Access equity program, which provides discounted rides to underserved Angelenos, logged 12,000 rides in March, the highest number since its inception.
But despite the lofty environmental goals of micromobility companies—Lime is aiming to have a zero-emissions operations fleet by 2030—some experts note that their impact on the greater transportation sector is limited.
In a study released in February, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University examined the environmental impact of replacing short car trips with micromobility vehicles during peak travel hours. For context, in the U.S., almost 50% of car rides are three miles or less—a sweet spot for bicycles, e-bikes and scooters. Using the city of Seattle as a model and factoring in weather conditions, trip type and user demographics, the study found that only 18% of short car trips could be replaced, leading to just a 2% reduction in overall emissions.
Carnegie Mellon assistant professor Corey Harper, a co-author of the study, noted that most carbon emissions come from long-distance travel. “We have a lot more work to do if you really want to reduce emissions in our transportation sector,” Harper told dot.LA. “Because even if we were able to fulfill every single trip that could be done by bike or scooter, 98% of emissions would still be there.”
The study suggests that e-scooters have the most impact when combined with public transit as a first- and last-mile option. Choosing to take an e-scooter instead of driving a car has other benefits as well, such as reducing traffic congestion. Ultimately, Harper believes that for people to choose more eco-friendly transportation options, companies and cities have to make those modes more appealing to riders.
Lime is gambling that its redesigned e-scooter—with its bigger wheels, swept-back handlebars and improved suspension—will attract even more riders, and not just because it’s the more eco-friendly option.
In a promising sign, Edelen said that L.A. users are riding the Gen4 longer and rating it higher compared to the previous model.
“Ridership is up compared to last year and previous years,” she noted. “Comparing this model to our Okai, we are seeing close to double the utilization.”
- Can WeHo-Based Wheels Get More Underserved Angelenos to ... ›
- Move Slow and Fix Things: E-Scooter Startup Superpedestrian ... ›
- Here's How Bird Laid Off 406 People in Two Minutes - dot.LA ›
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
Tel Aviv-based Electreon specializes in wireless induction charging, similar to the technology that allows you to charge your cell phone on a wireless mat or dock without plugging it in. By embedding a system of coiled wires into the pavement, Electreon plans to turn the road itself into a charging station for vehicles—one that can be used even while cars are moving.
Founded in 2013, the company has already proven its technology can work via pilot programs in Sweden, Germany and Italy—as well as its homeland of Israel, where it’s a publicly traded company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. But on Tuesday, Electreon announced a partnership with Michigan public authorities, as well as private stakeholders like Ford Motor Company, to install a one-mile-long stretch of electrified road in Detroit—the first time such a system would be used in public roads in the U.S. The system is expected to be operational by next year.
Electreon, which opened its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles last month, is initially targeting fleet vehicles like taxis, buses and drayage trucks for its technology, but plans to eventually expand into the consumer EV market as well. Electric road systems would be especially attractive to fleet vehicles for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that they stop frequently. Time spent idling, especially in predictable locations, means it’s easier to know where to install electrified roads and make them cost-effective.
Stefan Tongur, Electreon’s L.A.-based vice president of business development, says the company’s induction charging technology will probably charge slower than the traditional plug-in station model. But if the pavement under every bus station was electrified, he told dot.LA, a small amount of charge would be added to the vehicle at every stop—meaning the bus would need to take fewer, if any, breaks to recharge its battery.
Image courtesy of Electreon
It’s easy to imagine similar use cases at ports, rail yards or airport taxi lanes, all of which could spell significant savings for companies that lose time and money when their electric fleet vehicles are plugged in and recharging. Many of these areas also fall under the purview of the private sector, which would make uptake and implementation easier, according to Tongur. He said Electreon is already eyeing a move into such spaces.
Electreon aims to have its wireless charging technology installed on public roads around the U.S. within “a couple of years,” Tongur added. While Detroit will host the pilot program, Los Angeles and New York will be the next targets.
“L.A. is obvious, right? It’s the Mecca of EVs,” he said. “You have air quality issues here; you have the port of L.A. and Long Beach; you have so much traffic. Moving to electrification is, I would say, a must.”
The goal of installing wireless charging for moving vehicles is “very courageous,” said Mehrdad Kazerani, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Kazerani noted that researchers at the university had developed a similar concept for the sprawling Trans-Canada Highway. “Of course, we did not pursue this idea, but it seems Electreon has made good progress along this line,” he said.
Kazerani added that wireless charging technology may also allow the EVs of the future to use considerably smaller batteries, which would make the cars lighter, more energy-efficient and less expensive. Smaller batteries would also mean less mining for battery materials and less waste when a battery reaches the end of its life.
“This is kind of an invitation to the U.S. market: to policymakers, state agencies, fleet owners and original equipment manufacturers,” Tongur said. “This is an opportunity to do things together—join us on this path and journey.”
David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.
Fintech startup Superjoi, which lets fans fund creators’ content projects, has raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding.
Superjoi raised the funding from fintech-focused investors including Ascension Ventures, QED Investors, Systema VC, Tomahawk and Modern Venture Partners. The round also included participation from senior leadership at e-commerce platform Shopify, fintech firm Revolut and Los Angeles-based live-in accelerator Launch House.
Based in West Hollywood, Superjoi’s platform allows creators to run Kickstarter-like campaigns to raise capital for projects, while giving fans the chance to suggest ideas for new content. Creators can also reward fans who chip in by giving them event tickets, merchandise or a personal video call. Later this year, Superjoi plans to help fans reap financial rewards, too—such as a share of advertising revenues generated from projects that they backed.
A screenshot from Superjoi's platform.
Major online platforms like Facebook and YouTube have increasingly monetized the relationship between creators and fans, targeting users with ads and sharing some of the revenues with creators. But Superjoi’s founders contend that fans have been completely cut out of the equation despite driving creators’ successes. In September, the startup began building a platform that would give fans a share of the financial upside, co-founder and CEO Chris Knight told dot.LA.
“Superjoi, as we position it, is liquidity with love,” Knight said. “The reason why we call it that is, for somebody who's creative, there's no better funding source for their creativity than the people who love them—and that’s their fans.”
Knight learned a lot about what he calls “superfans” after helping to build Fantom, a fan-focused smartwatch launched with England’s Manchester City Football Club. The Premier League team consults its fans on decisions relating to its stadium and sponsorships, he noted. “I see huge opportunities in the future for creators to actually have a deeper engagement with their audience and actually mobilize their audience to a new level,” Knight said.
From left: Superjoi co-founders Chris Knight, Piotr Wolanski and Soren Creutzburg Courtesy of Superjoi
Fans will initially fund projects on Superjoi by buying “supercoins,” an in-platform currency that is worth $1 each. While supercoins are not technically crypto tokens at this stage, the startup envisions letting fans invest in creators, earn a financial return and receive ownership in their content based on tokenization. Superjoi collects a 10% cut of a creator’s fundraising goal.
The platform plans to launch in mid-May with about 25 U.S.-based creators with larger audiences, and will onboard more creators on a waitlisted basis, Knight said. A full public launch is expected later this summer.
Superjoi, which has 14 employees, plans to use the new funds on growing its team, acquiring creators and marketing the platform.
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.