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Scooter sharing gets rolling in sweaty Singapore

Anyone who lives in Singapore has walked a short distance, only to find themselves sweating through their shirt.

Three local companies think electric scooter-sharing services could be an answer.

Customers join the service via an app, scan a QR code on the scooter and then ride away.

The businesses are betting that locals will opt for a scooter instead of braving the heat on foot.

Too hot to walk

Singapore has a very extensive public transport network, but walking the last few hundred metres through the equatorial heat and humidity can be very uncomfortable.

“Oftentimes there are no direct services, and walking is too hot,” said Kelvin Emmanuel Ng from PopScoot, which is one of three companies who are rolling out scooter-sharing services.

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore, daily average maximum temperatures are 31-33C all year round, and the minimum rarely drops below 23C.

This, in a nutshell, is why scooter-sharing companies think Singaporeans will use the service.

“Singapore is such a such a hot place, it’s summer all year around,” said Shakir Othman, from Telepod.

Bike sharing competition

Scooter-sharing operates in a similar manner to bike-sharing services, which have grown popular in Singapore over the last year.

Mr Ng said the two are not in direct competition, because scooter customers are seeking a more comfortable ride with less effort.

In fact, he said bike-sharing services would help, because Singaporeans are now familiar with the sharing model.

“In terms of education, they’ve done a lot of the legwork for us,” he said.

Dock shortage

Bikes have one major advantage: they aren’t electric and don’t need to be recharged, so they can be left anywhere.

In many parts of Singapore, it’s very common for residents to find share bikes left next to their apartment blocks.

Electric scooters, on the other hand, need to be taken to a recharging dock. At the moment, there aren’t very many of those.

Mr Othman said the next challenge was to expand the service and to make docks more accessible.

Telepod is currently trying to convince local businesses to host docks for their scooters.

Mr Othman said many cafes in Singapore’s central business district have been very positive about adding them, because customers would see a dock as an additional service.

Unique market

Singapore might be a better market for scooters than many other countries.

The heat gives people a reason to use them, and the government tends to be sympathetic to transport solutions that help keep cars off the road.

Low crime means that the companies are not too worried that someone might steal the scooters.

That wasn’t the case for one umbrella sharing company in China, which lost most of its 300,000 umbrellas to theft.

It’s one reason PopScoot is in no hurry to try its luck overseas.

“There is interest, for sure. The question is whether it is practical and when do we jump into that market,” said Mr Ng.

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