Start-up aims to roll out public e-scooter sharing service

To reduce costs, Beam will pay users to charge and deploy its rental mobility devices

Users will have to pay $1 when they unlock each Beam e-scooter and 15 cents per minute after that. No deposit is required. PHOTO: BEAM

Singapore-based start-up Beam has raised US$6.4 million (S$8.8 million) to roll out its rental personal mobility devices (PMDs) here, with funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital India.

Beam's chief executive is Mr Alan Jiang, who previously headed ofo's South-east Asian operations and was formerly Uber's Indonesia country manager.

Users will have to pay $1 when they unlock each Beam e-scooter and 15 cents per minute after that. No deposit is required.

Beam's vice-president of corporate affairs Christopher Hilton - previously also with ofo - told The Straits Times the company could be deploying its e-scooters here within the next few weeks, though the initial launch will be "relatively small". He said: "We don't have a specific date yet because we want to make sure the consumer experience is a really finished one."

Under the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) mobility-device-sharing licensing framework, Beam would need approval from the authorities before introducing its e-scooters to the public.

Unlicensed operators can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to six months, with a further fine of $500 for each day it continues to operate after conviction.

The next round of applications for new bike and PMD-sharing operators will be in January next year. Other e-scooter sharing services operate here in partnership with property owners and within the boundaries of these properties, exempting them from these regulations.

Mr Hilton said Beam has reached out to the LTA, adding it wants "to work with the Government, to make sure there's a regulated space that makes sense for us".

He added the speed of Beam e-scooters would be capped at 15kmh for safety reasons. While the speed limit for PMDs is 25kmh on shared paths (park connectors and cycling paths), the current speed limit of 15kmh on footpaths will be cut to 10kmh early next year.

Beam will also pay people to charge and deploy its e-scooters, something practised by e-scooter sharing services Bird and Lime in the US. In May, The Atlantic magazine reported that users can get up to US$20 (S$28) for finding and charging each Bird e-scooter.

Mr Hilton said: "This allows us to maintain the scooters at an optimal level, without the overhead costs of a full-scale operations team."

However, Singapore University of Social Sciences urban transport expert Park Byung Joon is sceptical about whether such a model would work here. "It really depends on whether they are willing to pay enough money (to get people to charge the e-scooters)," he said, adding that relying on such freelancers would make Beam's operations "more complex".

On possible fire safety issues arising from people charging the devices at home, Mr Hilton said Beam will conduct training and issue chargers meant specifically for its devices. The e-scooters, manufactured by Segway-Ninebot, will also comply with the fire-safety standards introduced by the authorities here, he noted.

Beam, he added, expects to begin operations in Malaysia, Australia and South Korea "very soon".

The LTA said on Wednesday evening (Oct 24) that it has invited Beam for an engagement session to share their plans.

Interested companies are reminded that it is an offence to operate a device-sharing service at public places without a licence, the authority added.

Correction note: This story has been updated with a statement from LTA.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline Start-up aims to roll out public e-scooter sharing service. Subscribe