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E-scooter resilience key to success in demanding Nordic climate

Ryde Technology’s CEO Tobias Balchen speaks to Zag about how the supplier-buyer relationship works with Segway-Ninebot.

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Segway-Ninebot has supplied more than 170 shared micromobility businesses globally. 

From Voi’s latest Voiager 5 e-scooter to Tier’s Gen-6, the micromobility solution provider has become a servicing beast for the industry. 

But how exactly does the supplier-buyer relationship work in the micromobility market? And why do so many operators favour Segway? 

Zag speaks with Tobias Balchen, CEO of Nordic e-scooter operator Ryde Technology, which has been a customer of Segway’s for about two years. 

Ryde operates over 25,000 e-scooters across 14 cities in Norway, Sweden and Finland and has been a profitable business since day one. 

Zag Daily: What drew you to Segway’s e-scooters in the first instance? 

TB: “The Nordics is a bitterly harsh environment for e-scooters. It can quickly drop below freezing so we really needed a robust product that is built to withstand these conditions and Segway’s scooter does just that. We originally launched with another vendor in 2019 but were looking to ramp up our growth and Segway was able to meet our demands.”

Zag Daily: What are the build requirements that make the e-scooters fit for the Nordic environment? 

TB: “Waterproofing is a key element to ensure parts don’t rust easily. All the critical components such as the dashboard and the motor in the back wheel have to be heavily protected from the environment. Some of these features we have had modified in-house by our maintenance team but we are constantly talking to Segway to further improve the product so it lasts longer. We’ve run the scooters for two full seasons now in the Nordic climate and there’s been very limited losses of that fleet so we estimate the majority of scooters will last upwards of five years.” 

Zag Daily: So do you start with an off-the-shelf product and then make hardware modifications? 

TB: “Yes exactly. We buy a customisable off-the-shelf Segway-Ninebot product, which we then make a range of modifications to starting with the branding. We put our signatory green colouring and logos on it to make it our scooter and then we make more advanced modifications. One example is the IoT module which is developed and built in-house. We make the module and ship it to Segway which then does the fastening. Managing the IoT gives us more control particularly with the engine output, but also changing the light settings and so on, which means we can quickly adapt features for different regulated markets. I think it’s this flexibility which is what makes this such a great partnership.” 

Zag Daily: Has Segway been able to support you with tenders?

TB: “Yes, a lot of the focus when submitting tenders is about safety. For example, having e-scooters with multiple brakes is a clear advantage – both on the front wheel, rear wheel and an engine brake. Then you need to have failsafe systems so if an error occurs with one of these brakes you can actually get self-reported alarms so you know there is an issue which means customers can no longer use the vehicle. Lighting and reflective stickers are also important so the rider can see in all conditions and be seen by others from all angles. Obviously we do a lot internally with quality inspections, repair work, environmental measures, user training and much more, but our e-scooter is the real backbone of our service and is an important part of how we win tenders. 

“I should say that having a robust e-scooter is one of the reasons why we are able to be a profitable company as the strong lifespan means you get all the payback time. If they were regularly breaking and stuck in our warehouse then you lose valuable rides. Also, when you do get rides the user has to ask themselves whether they had a good experience and did they feel safe and this creates a positive cycle. Then you have to consider the unit cost of each scooter and Segway has delivered on this too.” 

Zag Daily: Do you have any big plans for 2023 with Segway? 

TB: “We’re actually about to place another big order with Segway for a new batch of e-scooters which will set us up for good growth in the 2023 season. Our approach has always been to really integrate ourselves into each city, build strong relationships with local councils and get the riderships levels strong and consistent. With that strategy we will continue to build in existing cities, but have already laid plans for several new additions for next season – stay tuned!”