Flywheel | March 27, 2022
Featuring the top 5 used vehicles of the week and exploring what it takes to transition retired shared vehicles into the secondary micromobility market.
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the market followed by an observation of trends emerging in the industry.
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This week’s featured vehicles are an escooter, two commuters, an electric mountain bike, and the “F-150 of micromobility.” The observation of the week explores what it takes to transition retired shared vehicles into the secondary micromobility market via a feature of King Scooters.
Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The Segway Ninebot ES4 is a powerhouse scooter that likely looks quite familiar to most readers. Used widely by shared dockless scooter services, the ES4 became popular with fleets due to its reliability and plentiful access to replacement parts inventory from its high-volume manufacturer Segway. The scooter features a 300W motor and a 374Wh battery, giving riders 28 miles of range at a max speed of 18.6mph. This listing is sold by King Scooters, a DC-based startup that refurbishes and resells old ES4s they acquired from Skip Scooters. King offers free delivery nationwide, white glove maintenance and theft-protection services in DC & LA, and a 30-day warranty. More on why King is an exceptional reseller can be found below in this edition’s observation of the week. Listing can be found here.
The Cowboy 4 is a Belgian class-1 ebike that competes with VanMoof for having most advanced software and other technology functionality in the ebike industry. Key features of the C4 include embedded crash detection, theft detection/tracking, and a smart companion app with navigation, ride analytics, and a digital key that is triggered when a rider’s smartphone is wirelessly docked to the handlebars. The powertrain consists of a custom designed 250W motor and a 360Wh battery pack that give riders a range of up to 43.5 miles at a max speed of 20 mph. This specific listing is actually a brand new vehicle that the seller is reselling, and is another case of a used ebike selling for even more than its original MSRP. Listing can be found here.
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL Expert is a class-1 electric mountain bike known for being ultra lightweight. The frame is made of carbon, making the Levo almost as light as its pedal bike equivalent (Stumpjumper). The motor is a custom 240W mid-drive, while the battery is a Specialized 320Wh pack fully integrated into the frame. Notable about this bike is the care the seller took to keep it in excellent and updated condition: the firmware was updated recently by a Specialized dealer and the motor was checked by a technician and was confirmed to be in great shape. There’s also 1-year of transferable warranty remaining on this vehicle. Listing can be found here.
This custom electric cargo bike takes the concept of “the F-150 of Micromobility” quite literally. Another example of delivery-tailored ebikes coming out of NYC, this vehicle is designed for larger package delivery and comes comes with a 72V 32A battery and a max speed of 50mph. While this is by no means an endorsement to purchase this vehicle given the lack of information on specs and the fact that it looks nowhere near reliable or safe enough to ride at 50mph, it’s an interesting showcase of the creative and utilitarian form factors ebikes can take to replace car trips beyond just commuting. Listing can be found here.
The VanMoof S2 is one of VanMoof’s previous generation commuters, and the sister bike of the VanMoof X2 Flywheel has featured in the past. The powertrain specs and software features of the S2 and X2 are the exact same: 250W front-wheel hub motor, 504Wh LG battery pack, automatic transmission, stealth-lock, anti-theft alarms/tracking, boost button, and the state-of-the-art firmware to hardware vertical integration that VanMoof is known for. The main difference lies in the S2’s larger wheelbase, making it more ergonomic for larger riders and slightly more comfortable on longer rides. In last week’s newsletter, we discussed how buying and selling a used VanMoof can be a magical experience when ownership of the vehicle is transferred through VanMoof. The seller of this listing makes specific mention offering to transfer the ownership of the S2 being sold, meaning that its warranty, remaining maintenance and theft protection subscriptions, and proof of ownership can be transferred upon purchase. Listing can be found here.
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Observation of the Week
Transitioning retired shared fleet vehicles into the secondary micromobility market
Shared micromobility fleets have high vehicle turnover, for reasons ranging from fleet refreshes to micromobility’s gradual shift towards owned and difficult unit economics putting shared fleets out of business. As such, a bulk of supply influx in the secondary micromobility market will be retired shared vehicles.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been great examples of shared vehicles transitioning to a second life upon retirement (anyone remember that mountain of Jump bikes in a landfill?). Ultimately, micromobility can’t live up to its carbon emissions reduction potential without finding an elegant solution to transition shared vehicles into the secondary market.
One company tackling this challenge is Washington DC-based King Scooters, founded by former Skip General Manager Rob McPherson. King buys old shared fleet vehicles, refurbishes them, and resells them with white glove aftermarket services.
One of the startup’s key insights is to focus on selling one specific vehicle model. King currently sells one model, the Ninebot Segway ES4, which they bought from Skip’s fleet after their acquisition by Helbiz. This singular vehicle focus comes with two key advantages:
Component Inventory: Given that all vehicles have the same components, sub-assemblies can easily be swapped from one vehicle to the other. For vehicles that didn’t meet initial quality standards, the components that can be reused are scrapped and used as replacement parts.
Streamlined Operations: Having one vehicle standardizes vehicle maintenance and reduces servicing times and costs. Additionally, since vehicle sub-assemblies are identical and King has plenty of replacement parts inventory, maintenance for King is a simple process of swapping out faulty modules with functioning ones.
In addition to focusing on a single model, King’s other key insight revolves around intelligent selection of the right vehicle. To King, the right vehicle is an OTS scooter that comes from a high-volume manufacturer. Not only does this guarantee replacement component supply in case they don’t already have inventory from the remainder of their fleet, but it also allows the company to erase custom shared fleet software and flash the vehicle firmware back to factory settings so that the vehicle is usable by an individual rider.
Shared vehicles obviously come with high mileage, and the degradation that comes with such usage is a significant concern for used vehicle buyers. Rob notes that the components of a shared scooter that see the most degradation are actually the joints and other high contact chassis parts. King replaces most of these parts in their refurbishment process. On the electronics side, the motor controllers typically incur lots of damage as well and and are replaced by King. Batteries also suffer some loss in capacity, which is why King only sells vehicles with battery packs that have less than 250 charge cycles and provides a detailed battery report to buyers. Vehicles that don’t have a battery pack that meets this spec are disassembled and added to their replacement parts inventory. King expects that these refurbishments will allow their retired shared scooters to have the same life as that of a used, personally owned scooter.
King sells vehicles D2C online, and currently offers white glove service in DC and LA. As they consider new form factors to expand into, the company’s first focus is to add a folding scooter to their offering. Ninebot Segway actually makes a sister folding scooter to the ES4 with interoperable underlying components. Given that King already has a significant inventory of these components from their fleet of used ES4s, they are looking into buying just the chassis of these sister scooters and fitting them with the components they already have. They eventually plan to add more shared scooter models and venture into shared ebikes. Buying best-selling vehicles directly from consumers from channels like Craigslist is another option King is considering. Rob states that this could be a viable option to grow a market after it has been seeded with a fleet of shared scooters.
I sincerely appreciate Rob taking the time to chat with me about what it takes to transition retired shared vehicles into viable, personally owned used scooters. You can learn more about King Scooters here.
That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next Sunday!
- Puneeth Meruva
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