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  1. Interview
March 9, 2020

Ford puts a Spin on the micromobility market

Spin, the micromobility unit of Ford Motor, is expanding its footprint from 70 markets in the US to cities in Europe. The company will launch its first international fleet of dockless electric scooters in Cologne, Germany this spring. It is also applying for the upcoming Paris e-scooter share permit and exploring opportunities in the UK. To learn more about Spin’s roll out plans for Europe, we talked with its co-founder and president Euwyn Poon.

Spin, the micromobility unit of Ford Motor, is expanding its footprint from 70 markets in the US to cities in Europe. The company will launch its first international fleet of dockless electric scooters in Cologne, Germany this spring. It is also applying for the upcoming Paris e-scooter share permit and exploring opportunities in the UK. To learn more about Spin’s rollout plans for Europe, we talked with its co-founder and president Euwyn Poon.

Why is Spin joining the European market now?

After a successful year of building up our operations throughout the US in over 60 cities and 25 universities, Spin is now ready to take on the international market, using this knowledge to accelerate growth in a responsible way. In addition, from a regulatory standpoint, we feel the time is right. We’re seeing more and more European countries and cities adopting regulatory frameworks that bring certainty back to the marketplace. What we’re focused on is pursuing cities which ensure the long-term viability of the industry like safer infrastructure and parking solutions and where micromobility will help our partners meet their transportation goals.

What would you say makes Spin different from existing providers?

There are quite a few differentiators. First, we were the first to pioneer the modern “cap-based” permit system for regulating stationless micromobility. Secondly, we abide by our Partnership Promise, committing to never launch in cities without permission, put the safety of our riders first, scale responsibly and protect the data privacy of our users.

Safety plays a vital part in transportation and mobility; what is Spin doing to address this?

Safety is of utmost priority, from the durability tests that inform design changes to how we train our operations staff to servicing our vehicles on a regular basis. Even the smallest issue such as a broken bell on a scooter is repaired before deploying it back onto the street.

But what about making sure riders are safe?

In Germany, we are planning to host safety events to teach riders how to operate scooters in a safe and responsible way with the incentive of free helmets. We also educate our users through safe riding tutorials in the Spin app.

In the US, we already have plans to partner with cities and other groups to fund infrastructure projects such as street design changes. In Salt Lake City, Utah, we helped transform a dangerous intersection into a multimodal lane. We used coloured paint to make the pedestrian crossing more visible and added planters to guide cars to make a wider turn. We also put in barriers to separate bike and car lanes. We’ll be doing more of this in the cities where we operate.

Sustainability is equally important. How do Spin’s scooters fit with this ethos?

Similar to our approach in the US, we plan to explore partnerships with cities and private property owners to bring Spin Hubs – physical charging and parking stations for e-scooters – to European markets. This will reduce the number of miles travelled by the vehicles we use to collect, deploy and rebalance scooters, reduce scooter clutter and keep scooters orderly on the streets. We also partner with recycling companies and public sector departments to ensure batteries are safely and securely disposed of. 

Spin is always exploring more sustainable choices including the use of renewable energy to power our warehouses and swappable battery scooters.

And what about having scooters abandoned or lost? What are you doing to improve this?

The lifespan of a scooter averages about a year, but it depends on many factors such as usage and location. We are bringing our latest scooter to date, offering riders a safe, comfortable and robust scooter. At the end of the scooter’s lifecycle, we dismantle the hardware into spare parts, which are tested and reused for spares. If they can’t be used, we now strip these subassemblies down and use components that can be salvaged. The rest are properly recycled.

Why did you choose to launch in Cologne?

Cologne is in the heart of North Rhine Westphalia, the most populous region in Germany. Germany is a great market given the cities’ population density, bike infrastructure, and reliance on non-automotive transportation modes. Furthermore, Cologne seemed like a natural fit as Ford’s German headquarters is situated in Cologne.

Please explain a bit more about the relationship with Ford

In a pre-self-driving world, connected mobility alternatives like Spin offer attractive options for residents who want to make travelling through their city a little easier.

Ford Motor Company acquired Spin in November 2018 and made Spin the company’s micromobility unit. Spin runs as an independent subsidiary of Ford. Ford is evolving to become the most trusted mobility company. In a pre-self-driving world, connected mobility alternatives like Spin offer attractive options for residents who want to make travelling through their city a little easier. On the path to more integrated mobility strategies, micromobility – and more specifically, scooters – addresses an existing gap. Spin has made Ford a major player in the micromobility space, which will play a key role in its plan to better serve and help manage the flow of people and goods within urban areas.

With the backing of Ford, Spin is not dependent on financing from investors and has the ability to act as a long-term committed partner to cities and universities.

What are your next steps for Spin in the UK? Do you already have a team on the ground?

We’re currently hiring in Germany and our US team is working together with Ford’s international team and other advisors in the UK to develop and execute our plans for the UK market. We believe it’s only a matter of time before legislation legalising e-scooters will be passed there. As a new competitor in the international market and a micromobility leader in the US, we want to join the conversation and be considered as a potential contender for future opportunities. We’re also exploring to participate in pilot programmes in cities across the country.

Spin has focused on creating long-term partnerships with cities that align with their overall transportation goals. Having been instrumental in developing the first micro-mobility permit in the US, we have extensive experience in working closely with cities to realize the solution and programme that is right for their needs. Furthermore, having never launched without permission and made compliance a priority, Spin is positioned well to be a partner to the UK.

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