As electric scooters have proliferated in US and European cities, there has been a growth in critics pointing out that these battery-powered scooters are not that eco-friendly, as they tend to have a short life, and collecting them daily to drive them to depots for charging makes them far from carbon-neutral.
Germany’s Tier Mobility is taking steps to tackle the charging issue, announcing on Monday that it is the first scooter-share company to introduce swappable batteries, which it called “a real game changer in terms of sustainability” because it means they can now pick up batteries to charge them and bring back to the scooters using electric cargo bikes — normally they get loaded into vans and brought back to warehouses for daily charging.
Tier raised $60m in its latest funding round last week, highlighting that investors are still excited about micro-mobility startups. Its big US competitors Lime and Bird have raised $765m and $548m respectively, and also muscled into European cities this year.
“Swappable batteries are a real ecological game-changer for the entire e-scooter industry,” said Tier co-founder and CEO Lawrence Leuschner in a statement. “This is a huge step forward in our mission to change mobility for good and becoming fully carbon neutral as a company in the next 12 moNths.”
Two hundred of the new scooters, which also have bigger front wheels for wintertime, have been added to Tier’s fleet in Paris. It now has 1000 e-scooters on the streets of the French capital, and says the whole Paris fleet will be swappable-battery models by November, with a full European launch in the next few months.
“The brilliant thing about this new operation model is that we still keep our level of maintenance and service very high while it goes along with a system of relocating improperly parked scooters,” said Tier’s general manager for France Alexandre Souter. “I’d also like to emphasise that we won’t work with gig economy freelancers, but employ our people based on fair working conditions.”
Berlin-based Tier started operations in October 2018 and is present in 12 countries, and over 40 cities.
Co-founder Julian Blessin told Yahoo Finance UK in June this year that since batteries last longer than the scooter, using swappable batteries means they do not have to be discarded if the scooter frame breaks.