Car rental agency

Digital power boosts Taiwan’s scooter-sharing businesses

As Taiwan aims to reduce air pollution through greener transportation options, scooter-sharing companies are harnessing the power of the circular economy to maximize usage rates while seeking to transform user data into commercial information.

Scooters offer city dwellers a number of advantages – small, nimble and fast, they offer cyclists a convenient way to get around. But the air pollutant emissions from traditional gasoline-powered scooters and the high idling rates of Taiwan’s private scooters are creating unhealthy urban environments and crowded urban spaces.

The search for cleaner, greener, more space-efficient and flexible means of transport has prompted the introduction of low-emission alternatives, including scooter-sharing solutions. Such rental systems optimize utilization rates while reducing carbon emissions.

Residents of Taipei use scooter sharing services more than any other jurisdiction in the world. According to data from the Taipei City Government, the share of the population that accessed scooter-sharing services reached 22% in 2021, an increase of 5.4% from the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, some countries have yet to reach a 1% utilization rate.

“Taiwan is located on the commanding heights of the scooter-sharing economy,” says Jefferey Wu, founder and CEO of urban mobility technology and services startup WeMo Scooter. Taiwan’s success in this area could serve as a model for other countries, and Taiwanese companies now have the opportunity to act as exporters of scooter-sharing expertise and know-how.

Major scooter-sharing owners in Taiwan are leveraging digital power to accelerate the transition from gas-powered scooters to electric scooters. While some are building charging networks that cover almost every corner of the island, others are focusing on compiling big data to create a smart city ecosystem, expanding the business beyond just providing shared vehicles.

Founded in 2016, WeMo Scooter was the first company in Asia to offer scooter sharing services. It now operates more than 10,000 rental units in busy metropolitan areas around Taiwan. WeMo’s network uses the Kymco Candy electric scooter, which the company says is more reliable than alternative models.

Taiwan has the highest ratio of scooters per capita in the world – about six out of every 10 people in Taiwan own a scooter. But each unit is used less than 50 minutes per day on average. WeMo aims to increase this usage rate through its smart rental service.

Additionally, the startup seeks to exert positive social change through the collection of big data using Internet of Vehicles (IoV) technology. For example, it has installed PM 2.5 detectors on scooters to collect data on air pollution, which governments can use to improve air quality policies.

“WeMo is a digital-native company,” says Wu. “From the beginning, we have been transforming the traditional rental service and seeking to create new businesses through data collection.”

WeMo’s technology collects data on driver behavior, traffic conditions and road safety conditions. “By collecting rider data, we can get an idea of ​​our riders’ profiles, such as their age and where they have borrowed and returned our shared scooters,” says Wu. information about potential partnerships that can help the company personalize its customer experience.

The company also partners with government institutions to improve the quality of driving in Taiwanese cities. A project aims to optimize the driver’s experience by detecting bumpy roads with built-in sensors on the company’s scooters. “Roads in Taiwan are designed for four-wheeled vehicles,” says Wu. “In terms of road safety for scooters, there is still a long way to go.”

Major Taiwanese scooter makers Kymco and Gogoro have also entered the sharing market. Both companies have leveraged their extensive battery swapping networks and implemented digital upgrades to streamline the scooter sharing experience, adapt quickly to meet battery demand and provide riders with reliable and safe transportation options.

Kymco, Taiwan’s oldest and best-selling scooter brand, has traditionally specialized in fuel-powered motorcycles. In 2018, however, the company launched its first line of electric scooters under the Ionex brand and set out to build 2,000 charging stations in Taiwan by 2022.

The following year, Kymco partnered with the Kaohsiung city government on a scooter-sharing project called Ionex ATR (Automated Transport Rental). The project aims to solve the “last mile problem” in public transport – the challenge of moving commuters between transport hubs and their final destination – by offering on-site automated rental services near MRT stations. This collaboration illustrates the importance of scooter sharing in Kaohsiung’s sustainable mobility initiative.

Market newcomer Gogoro launched its first electric scooter model in 2015; its sleek design and enduring appeal helped the company quickly achieve market success, which it leveraged to launch its scooter-sharing business, GoShare, in 2019. The move is strategically in line with the Gogoro’s ambition to establish an end-to-end ecosystem that tightly integrates hardware and software solutions.

One of the main benefits of using GoShare is having access to Gogoro’s battery swapping network. To date, the company has built over 2,215 charging stations, called GoStations, across Taiwan and manages a total of over 930,000 batteries. The comprehensive network allows GoShare users to easily swap batteries at GoStations when their rental scooter runs out of power.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (left) poses with GoShare Director Henry Chiang (right) to promote the company’s launch in the southern city. Photo: ANC

Gogoro also uses AI and machine learning technology to optimize battery usage in its scooters. By analyzing data collected from the hundreds of thousands of batteries on its network, the company’s platform can predict how many batteries will be available during peak hours and even suggest the optimal time to swap batteries.

After building the largest battery-sharing network in Taiwan, Gogoro has exported its model overseas, tapping into the lucrative markets of Indonesia, India and China. In 2021, Goshare partnered with Gojek, Indonesia’s largest mobility platform, and started operating electric scooter and food delivery services in Jakarta.

a long way to go

Observers note that providing shared scooters and batteries and collecting data can create synergy for mobility companies while positively influencing society. Lower vehicle idling rates mean greater efficiency and lower carbon emissions. Additionally, as shared scooters are uniformly electric vehicles, they can play an important role in Taiwan’s goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

However, some say the government is not making an effective enough effort for a net-zero transformation of Taiwan’s mobility sector, saying too much emphasis has been placed on offering subsidies for the purchase of new vehicles.

As part of its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, the Taiwanese government has offered subsidies on consumer purchases of new electric scooters with the aim of replacing all older gasoline-powered models. Local governments also subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles, with Nantou County providing the highest subsidy amount of up to NT$23,000 (US$800).

WeMo’s Wu stresses the importance of going beyond subsidies to the purchase of new electric vehicles. “The government should also look at consumer behavior,” he says. It also highlights the benefits of cultivating players in the transportation ecosystem, including scooter-sharing and ride-sharing businesses.

The “rent instead of buy” program offered by companies like WeMo, GoShare and Kymco could be a more effective way to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce traffic. Another possible solution is the implementation of mobility as a service (MaaS), which integrates both public transport and private actors such as scooter sharing companies, ferries and taxis in a single platform. .

iRent, initially a car rental service introduced by Hotai Motor in 1999, is now the only company in Taiwan that simultaneously offers car sharing and scooter sharing services. Hotai Motor is Taiwan’s largest automobile company with a 32.5% market share and sells well-known brands such as Toyota and Lexus.

Of the three major scooter sharing companies, iRent has the most comprehensive coverage in Taiwan, operating in all six special municipalities on the island. Like WeMo, the company also uses Kymco electric scooters. iRent users can swap batteries at Kymco Ionex charging stations, which currently have 1,068 locations and are growing in number.

In 2020, Hotai merged its iRent Carshare unit with Hotai Connected, the company’s new MaaS arm. The division now offers taxi, car sharing, car rental, shuttle and delivery services. With a wide range of integrated services and a membership base of over one million, iRent plans to become a one-stop mobility platform.

Some local governments have already started implementing MaaS partnerships. Kaohsiung City has adopted the MaaS approach for MeNGo, a mobile app it launched in December 2019. MeNGo provides users with a transit pass that can be used for everything from city buses to car-sharing services. electric scooters, car rental and parking spaces. The app also includes real-time traffic information, a route planning interface, and payment mechanisms. In Taipei, company EasyCard has also rolled out a plan that offers discounts on iRent, WeMo and GoShare scooter-sharing services with its monthly transit pass. The solution could serve as an example to other cities of how the sharing economy can be incorporated into Taiwan’s green initiative and how public-private partnerships can be used to transform mobility.