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Lime to enter the GCC market this weekend: Micro mobility rivalries heat up

Lime, the US micro mobility unicorn, is launching in Abu Dhabi, making this its first foray into the Middle East.

Lime's e-scooters will be made available during this weekend, in time for UAE National Day 300 e-scooters will be placed along the Corniche, at 150 points and in pairs Lime is charging AED 3 to unlock the scooter and AED 1 for every minute of riding

Lime, the micro mobility giant specializing in providing users with electric bikes and scooters, will finally make its MENA debut. 

Located in more than 120 cities worldwide, the company will be making its regional debut in Abu Dhabi, hoping to launch its e-scooters this weekend. It will be placing 300 e-scooters across the Corniche, placing them in pairs at 150 points along the 8km waterfront.

“Abu Dhabi is a great city for electric scooters and we’re really excited that it will be Lime’s first market in the GCC,” said Lime’s UAE general manager Mohamad Nsouli, who joined the company from Careem, The National notes

“We’re working together with the Abu Dhabi authorities to make the city even more connected and bring a fun, smart and convenient solution to get around.”

As for pricing, Lime is charging AED 3 to unlock the scooter and AED 1 for every minute of riding.

Read: How will you get to work tomorrow?

Solving the last mile issue
A few years ago, no one would have been wiser about the true offerings of micro mobility. While companies like Careem and Uber were busy popularizing the sharing economy in the region, micro mobility had seemed like an afterthought. Fuel was already pretty cheap in the GCC, and ride-hailing firms offered transportation for dirt-cheap fees that almost eliminated the need for micro mobility solutions, especially given the region’s predilection for convenience and comfort. After all, given the sweltering heat in the cities of the GCC, renting an e-scooter to get you around might not seem too enticing, especially when travel distances are already quite short in many countries in the region. 

Originally, micro mobility rose as a way to address the last-mile issue, but one has to question whether that problem is really that significant in the GCC. 

The last-mile issue pertains to distances travelers need to cover that are too short or economically not viable for a car ride but relatively long to walk, like the distance between the metro station and the office, or the bus station and home, for example. This was a very prevalent problem in big metropolitan locales, where extra factors such as traffic or expensive taxis led to a need for a new, cheaper and more concise transportation solution. This problem birthed solutions like Lime, Bird and Uber scooters.  

Since then, Lime has been locked into a fierce rivalry with its counterparts in countries like the US. Lime and Bird, which are micro mobility firms first and foremost, found great success, reaching unicorn status in a handful of years since launch. 

Read: Does micro mobility have a place in the GCC?

Rivalries heat up
Locally, we’ve had little movement in this field. Earlier this year, Careem announced that it had acquired Abu Dhabi bikeshare startup Cyacle, which would add a micromobility offering to their services. Launched in December 2014, Cyacle is a fully-automated docked bikeshare service currently operating in Abu Dhabi. Stations run 24-hours a day via an app, a touch screen kiosk and docking system that releases bikes using a ride code or a member key.

At the time, Careem had also announced that it was partnering with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to install 350 bike docking stations across the Emirates, where citizens would have access to 3,500 bicycles to share.

As for international companies, European e-mobility startup Circ beat Lime to it, launching its Middle Eastern HQ in the UAE this summer, while also bringing the region a new player in the micro mobility field. It deployed its bikes in Abu Dhabi, recently partnering with real estate management services provider Provis to make its e-scooters available across their communities. 

Another firm, Dubai-based Arnab Mobility, is also providing a similar service.

With micro mobility still in its early years regionally, it is too early to draw conclusions. After all, “the use of electric scooters remains controversial with many cities embracing them and others bringing in bans,” The National notes. 

The next months will truly tell whether companies like Lime will find their footing in this region. 

Read: One of Careem’s greatest challenges today: “Finding tech talents and keeping them in our region”