The COVID-19 pandemic is breathing new life into the electric scooter market and business models based on their rentals, a research firm says. 

The UK Government recently fast-tracked a permit to allow electric scooter rentals on public roads. The move forms part of a broader investigation into greener travel and overcrowding on public transport as the COVID-19 pandemic rages, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Before the pandemic struck, the scooter industry was facing strong financial headwinds. Last January, market leader Lime said it would lay off around 14% of its workforce (roughly 100 employees) and shutter operations in 12 markets as it seeks to become profitable this year. However, there is now a resurgence of interest in what is termed active travel (outdoor transport modes), including electric scooters, with the rental sector picked for year-long trials in the UK.

Calum MacRae, Automotive Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “For those returning to the office the car may not be an option due to access or parking restrictions, and, given the current situation, many do not feel entirely comfortable using public transport. Hence, it is not surprising that electric scooters and bikes are being seen as less risky for wary commuters. The pandemic is breathing new life into the sector. 

“While the benefits of shared scootering are clear, there are still some issues to address, including those for governments and insurers. Who is to blame if an accident causes injury to a pedestrian or damages property? Fast-tracked scooter pilots in our cities is of concern to safety campaigners too.

“However, interest in sustainable travel and in micro-mobility solutions for urban areas – including rentable electric scooters – has been given a shot in the arm by the COVID-19 pandemic. The year-long trials in British cities could give the scooter rental sector a major long-term boost.”

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