The ability to rent a BMW two-wheeler by the minute may not be too far off, at least that’s according to Head of the BMW Group.
Head of BMW confirms the Bavarian brand is looking into a rideshare-rental program for major metropolitan areas
BMW teamed up with European car rental company Sixt to start the “DriveNow” car sharing service in 2011, enabling residents of Munich, Germany, to rent vehicles by the minute. As of late 2017 the DriveNow fleet—which consists of vehicles built by BMW and its subsidiaries—had grown to over one million users in various European cities like Vienna, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Brussels, Milan, Helsinki, and Lisbon. With the huge success of DriveNow, it was only a matter of time before BMW started offering a two-wheeled version of its rideshare-rental service.
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A few months ago the BMW Group purchased Sixt’s 50 percent stake in DriveNow for a reported $256M. Because the BMW Group already owns motorcycle producing subsidiaries, it only makes sense for the corporate powerhouse to invest in a two-wheeled version if its DriveNow program.
BMW's C evolution scooter
Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW’s Head of Mini, Rolls-Royce, and motorcycle brands, has reportedly confirmed that the group is realistically exploring a scooter-rental service comparable to its current car-rental business.
“This is definitely an option,” Schwarzenbauer said. “But we haven’t found a solution for the second helmet yet. There’s the issue of sizing and then re-using helmets in the summer heat – it’s not ideal.”
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Bloomberg Technology reported that BMW will kick off a comparable business using two-wheelers beginning in May of 2018 in a handful of select European cities. Schwarzenbauer also verified that BMW is currently in the process of developing a second electric scooter model to join the same lineup as the C Evolution. The C evolution boasts 48 peak-horsepower, a range of 100 miles, and a top-speed of around 80-miles-per-hour. The eScooter being developed will reportedly be smaller, suggesting that the company aims to utilize it for both the urban markets. That would make it ideal for an upcoming scooter rental business.
In 2011 a San Francisco-based startup called Scoot Networks bought a fleet of around a dozen electric, short-range (25 miles) scooters and started renting them out for just a few bucks an hour. The scooters are parked at docking stations on the street and are started via the renter’s smartphone—which also serves as the instrumentation displaying miles-per-hour, battery, and GPS via an app and a phone dock/case on the dash. The Bay Area company raised over $750,000 in its first year, and according to CrunchBase has since received a total of 4.5M, allowing it to expand to more than 400 electric vehicle and 80 locations. One of the great draws the Scoot scooters have is, due to their limited power, only a class C license is required to rent, and the rental includes a helmet and hard luggage.
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Having grown up in San Francisco, I still have a lot of friends there and I’ve been surprised by how popular the scooter sharing service has become. Quite a few of my buddies regularly utilize the service despite otherwise not being interested or involved in motorcycles or riding in any capacity. As Scoot advertises, one can “Get almost anywhere in the city in 15 minutes for just $3” which is not only comparable in price to taking a bus or train, but it also allows users to bypass traffic via legally lane splitting. Plus it's considerably more fun than taking Muni or BART. Having said that the city of San Francisco is just seven-by-seven miles, and the company restricts service via geofencing to the city limits (plus riders must be 21+) so this business model is particularly useful in SF.
Some of the Scoot Network's scooters in downtown San Francisco.
BMW’s DriveNow program has already been emulated in North America by a 2016 startup called ReachNow, a rideshare-rental program in Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn with over 50,000 members. Based on ReachNow, DriveNow, and Scoot Networks—and the rider-to-rider rental services like Twisted Road and RidersShare—it’s pretty clear there is a huge market for this kind of service.
Photos courtesy of BMW Motorrad and Scoot Networks