January 27, 2021 by Jennifer Sensiba
One of the biggest challenges for scooter companies so far has been getting along with local governments. Stray scooters, sometimes in unsightly piles or dangerous underfoot, low batteries, vandalism and other problems are causing some governments to avoid the problem altogether by banning shared scooters from the sidewalks. Neptune Scooters wants to get better there.
“After twenty years focusing on electric mobility, I have never seen such a great opportunity to drive sustainable transit on a large scale as cost-effective and energy-efficient scooter sharing,” said Forrest North, CEO and Founder of Neptune Scooters. “With Neptune Scooters, we can tackle micromobility’s greatest challenges for growth and truly deliver on the escooter’s promise: to find the most efficient way to get people moving their first and last mile.”
To address these challenges without taking up much space on the sidewalks, the company developed a modular multi-dock system that is long and thin. It’s 35 feet long but only two feet wide. This takes up 5x less space than bike share docks. The setup can be expanded with rails so that it can be extended in a busy area if necessary. When a driver finishes their trip, the software automatically ends the trip and issues a bill to the driver when they push it into the dock. It is then securely locked, charged and even disinfected with UV light.
Here is a quick video that shows how the dock works:
The scooter itself doesn’t do anything terribly interesting, but they worked the entire design through to make it tougher than the average scooter. It has two motors, a sturdy frame, hydraulic brakes and all the lighting is LED. It also has a large battery that can make a ton of long trips, so it’s far less likely that a driver will run into an insufficient battery when renting one that hasn’t been brought back to the dock.
One of the most important characteristics is performance. With two motors and a large battery, it can pull adults up steep hills rather than sinking into it like many existing shared scooters. Presumably it will be speed limited and not allow too much acceleration (for safety and compliance reasons), but having a power reserve, especially in places like San Francisco, makes climbing hills not only possible but also enjoyable.
Here is a short video that shows the features of the scooter:
As with other shared scooter companies, there are scooters that another driver left off a dock, so Neptune is a hybrid solution. When you finish a ride where there is no dock, you can use the scooter’s built-in lock to attach it to a bike rack or signpost for safety. To encourage more users to return it to the dock themselves, the company gives you a discount. If not, don’t worry, just pay the regular fees.
The entrepreneur in me wondered if someone could find stray scooters and bring them back to the dock for cash like Tom Hanks does in the terminal, but unfortunately it’s not about cash, so potential airport residents don’t go for Neptune’s dime for dinner. Shucks. Years of academic training wasted.
In an email from company representatives, they informed me that this would be announced on Wednesday at Micromobility World. The event will be 100% online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One part of the description of the event says: “Our transport systems have to be rebuilt in order to prioritize order over chaos, climate over pollution, small over large and people over machines. As more city dwellers turn to light electric vehicles to break free from the blockade, the social, cultural and economic future of our cities now depends on micromobility. The stake could hardly be higher. “
Neptune Scooters was founded by Forrest North, the founder of Plugshare. In the past, a lot of my articles on CleanTechnica relied on Plugshare information, and it’s basically the best EV charging app in many countries. In an email, a company official said, “Scooter stocks have exploded since the industry started in 2017 and will regain that momentum as the pandemic subsides. The “socially distant” sharing may even be a major benefit for the introduction of micromobility in the coming months. Forrest believes that the secret to truly scaling up green mobility requires an approach that addresses three main issues cities and administrators face: clutter, quality, and availability. “
This may sound like no big deal, but keep in mind that many improvements in micromobility have been gradual over the years. Firms like Ofo (with the yellow motorcycles) have learned the hard way that micromobility can bomb badly if they’re not done with a well-thought-out plan. Later entrants in the shared mobility market learned from their mistakes and did better.
It would be foolish to assume that we are at the height of possible micromobility. Businesses definitely make mistakes today, and both businesses themselves and new businesses will learn from the mistakes scooter and bike sharing companies make today. Small improvements, like a better dock, slightly better scooter, and design choices made to get along better with cities, add up to a potentially big difference.
More details will be available later the day after the event. So be sure to visit the company’s website, which is likely to have more information.
Here are a few more videos that explain why they believe they can make a difference:
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About the author
Jennifer Sensiba Jennifer Sensiba has been an efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer for many years. She grew up in a transmission business and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She enjoys exploring the US Southwest with her partner, children and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba Do you think I’ve been helpful in your understanding of Tesla, clean energy, etc? Feel free to use my Tesla reference code to get yourself (and me) some small benefits and discounts on your cars and solar products. https://www.tesla.com/referral/jennifer90562