Dubai: Electric scooter manufacturers are still waiting on a green signal from authorities before they launch UAE-wide operations. For now, they are testing market possibilities for this new-age mobility platform in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier this year, regulators banned electric scooters, forcing some companies that were already operational such as KIWIride, Qwikly, Tier, and Skoot Mobility to halt services. Authorities said the ban was until laws are in place to govern the new mode of transport.
Later, Abu Dhabi started allowing operators of e-scooters, but Dubai is yet to do so. The purchase and operation of a privately-owned e-scooter is permitted in Dubai, however.
Regulations aside, e-scooter operators still face challenges such as the one related to infrastructure. By operators’ admissions, most cities don’t have the right infrastructure to accommodate e-scooters, which go at speeds of up to of 20-km/h.
Try to ride an e-scooter in any city and you’ll quickly realise the scooter neither belongs on the road (where it’s too close to other cars and is going much slower than them), nor on the pavement (where it’s moving faster than pedestrians and can easily hit them).
“A bike lane is probably the natural way for a scooter,” said Jakub Olek, regional government relations director for Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Lime, one of the e-scooter brands hoping for mileage possibilities in the UAE. “We think there needs to be an incentive for the city to start thinking about infrastructure in a different way… and we think scooters can do that.”
Another challenge for operators is the high operating costs. Costs are still higher than revenues, translating into a tough path to profitability. But long-term, that is expected to change.
“It’s not a cheap business in terms of operations, but it’s also true that you can be better than competitors in managing the business,” said Olek.
Micro-mobility refers to a mode of transport that is provided by light vehicles such as bicycles and electric scooters. A note by Deloitte analysts in April said that the growing adoption of shared e-scooters and bicycles shows a real demand for single-occupant vehicles.
McKinsey & Company in January last year said stakeholders globally have invested more than $5.7 billion in micro-mobility start-ups since 2015, with more than 85 per cent targeting China.
Up and about in Abu Dhabi
In November, Lime started operating a fleet of scooters in Abu Dhabi, mainly around the Corniche area. It has 400 scooters in the city. The average scooter ride in Abu Dhabi is around 20 minutes, with 60 per cent of trips being under 10-km.
“Regulators in Abu Dhabi are open to innovation – we are in touch with them on a daily basis,” said Olek. “It’s very much like we’re building the shared mobility landscape together in the city.”