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Exclusive: Don’t be skittish about e-scooters – Commerce boosters, economical, and safer than cars

The advantages that e-scooters have over cars are so great, it's unthinkable that we are still riding on 4 wheels instead of 2

Circ currently claims it operates the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the region, completing over 500,000 km of rides in 2019 UAE rapidly embraced micro-mobility. Already over 100,000 people in Abu Dhabi have taken a ride with Circ For every 1 car with 1 passenger you can move 6 e-scooter riders in the same car lane, increasing passenger throughput 6X

Your writer was never a skater of any kind, on ice or on land. Just too clumsy and prone to accidents: Those that happen to others when I crash into them carrying a 220-pound collision force. 

But there’s something so appealing about e-scooters, from an environmental, economical and even safety aspect, though I will always be a threat, and so if you see me, stay away.   

Circ, the Middle East’s first regulator approved e-scooter operator, is rolling, announcing last Feb 23 it had partnered with RAK Transport Authority, RAK Tourism Development Authority and leading private real estate developers to provide e-scooters in Al Hamra, Al Marjan Island and Corniche Al Qawasim.  

Jaideep Dhanoa, Co-Founder and CEO said at the time: “Circ e-scooters (are)…bringing equity in transportation access for everyone and facilitating local commerce in the emirate.”

We contacted Mr. Dhanoa for more on this and we bring you this exclusive conversation here.

Read: Circ: 500,000km travelled on e-scooters in Abu Dhabi in 2019

Who is Jaideep and what is Circ?

Previously, Jaideep was a leader at Grab’s Ventures team where he founded and was the global head of Grab’s micro-mobility business, GrabWheels, leading a full-stack team in China and Southeast Asia. Jaideep also spent time as a member of the core leadership team at Careem as its Head of Growth & Strategy, based in Dubai.

Circ was the first licensed operator to launch in the Middle East in July 2019 and currently claims it operates the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the region, completing over 500,000 km of rides in 2019 and eliminating 112 tons of carbon emissions in the process.

Currently is operating in 12 countries and 40+ cities since launching in January 2019. “We are expanding to multiple GCC markets this quarter,” said Jaideep.

Circ is not alone. 

Just today, Arnab Mobility, the UAE’s first home-grown micro-mobility service provider launched 6 months ago, announced it entered into an exclusive partnership with Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel. The new deal is to provide on-demand e-scooter services to guests and residents from February 2020. Arnab Mobility e-scooters cost AED0.6 per minute to ride, with a one-off AED3 unlocking fee. 

Read Report: GCC cities can significantly gain from leveraging smart mobility solutions

Q&A

Circ global was recently acquired by Bird, so we started with that.

1. Bird’s Circ acquisition and adding to workforce in Abu Dhabi- What are immediate positive impacts on Circ UAE?

JD: With Bird’s acquisition of Circ we now have additional financial resources that strengthens our resolve to take a long term view on our investment in the UAE. We are also able to leverage the global experience and best practices Bird has accumulated around the world to adapt to the UAE market, along with the software and vehicle technology capabilities that Bird has been developing.

2. How is your partnership with Moovit going and is the mobility App helping generate more business?   

JD: We view micromobility as one piece of an efficient transportation network, the lubricant of a multi-modal future. Like the Moovit partnership, we are always exploring partnerships that support our vision for more sustainable and livable cities.

3. How do you adjust your model when other competition comes into the market? 

JD: Our competition today is the grossly inefficient and highly dangerous automobile sector. We welcome the support of other participants; there is tremendous work to be done to build awareness around the benefits of micro-mobility. To ensure that operators are approaching the market responsibly to safeguard rider safety and reliability requires high quality durable vehicles, extensive operations for recharging, rebalancing and maintenance, investments in customer education and comprehensive insurance coverage, among others.

Read: Half of UAE residents are likely to buy a self-driving car in the future

4. Does micro mobility with e-scooters really work? Is there market adoption? 

JD: Since Circ launched in Abu Dhabi this past summer, we have seen people in the UAE rapidly embrace micro-mobility. Already over 100,000 people in Abu Dhabi have taken a ride with Circ and this is growing on a daily basis. The biggest hurdle is the first ride, as most people have never ridden an electric scooter before. However, once someone has tried our service, they quickly grasp its disruptive potential over the status quo. Micro-mobility offers the quickest, most cost-efficient solution for short distance point-to-point trips. It’s also an enjoyable way to experience our cities, and one that takes cars off the road, improving congestion and pollution. Our growth is purely organic, through word of mouth. Also, E-scooters are just one form factor of micro-smobility and we are considering other types for the Middle East market. 

5. Are they safe to ride? 

When it comes to safety we should note that because scooters are new to our cities, there is high awareness on scooter accidents. However, I suggest we look at the accident rate, accident severity and the absolute accident volumes (link). Here we can see that riding a scooter is just as safe as riding a bicycle, and in fact much safer than riding a car.  

The largest risk and vulnerability to a scooter rider (and to pedestrians) is from someone driving a car at high speeds and not paying attention. If we can reduce the cars on the road with alternative modes of transport, we will definitely create a safer environment for our citizens and reduce the more than 1 million annual car-related deaths.  

Read: Will driverless cars ever become a reality?

6. What are your biggest challenges and how do you deal with them?

JD: There are two primary challenges and they are not unique to the UAE. 

The first one is regulations. Our transport laws were not created with electric scooters in mind. Our role is to leverage our global experience to surface best practices and share recommendations that ensure the long term success of micro-mobility with government partners as they draft responsible policies for this industry. 

The second and related challenge is around infrastructure. Today’s cities are built for cars. 30% of our cities’ land areas are dedicated to cars. On average there are 8 parking spots for every car on the road. This is a massive public subsidy and a very expensive one. On top of that, the car is incredibly inefficient. 70% of car trips are single passenger and half of all car trips are short distance. Our costs of transportation – vehicle, fuel, space, pollution – is to move the 2000 kg vehicle, not the 100 kg passenger. We need to change our mindset from how do we move the most cars to how do we efficiently move the most people in a multi-modal transport network. With shared e-scooters there is a step-change in efficiency. Firstly you move from a 30% efficient combustion engine to a 90% efficient electric motor that is green. Instead of a 2000 kg vehicle you have a < 20 kg vehicle (1% the mass). For every 1 car with 1 passenger you can move 6 e-scooter riders in the same car lane, increasing passenger throughput 6X on the same infrastructure. And for every 1 car parking spot, you can park 30 e-scooters. On top of that, the e-scooter is a shared asset so those 30 parked e-scooters are servicing ~100 passengers in a day vs the 1 passenger the idle parked car services. 

Finally, the e-scooter facilitates access to the most efficient mode of transport, public transit, as a convenient and affordable first and last mile solution that increases the encatchment area of public transit stations.  

Instead of dedicating 30% of land area to cars, why not start by dedicating 27% and then reallocate 3% for micromobility?