Tier’s charging stations could net a £7m windfall for London shops

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Tier wants to install 400 of its battery charging stations in London. A trial in Finland shows this could benefit businesses in the capital to the tune of £6.7m.

Here’s how it works. Tier’s model Four e-scooter is powered by a battery that riders can unplug and exchange for a freshly-juiced up unit. The batteries are slotted into a “powerbox”, which is essentially a big charger capable of swallowing four batteries at a time. For every battery that a rider swaps, they earn a free ride unlock and 15 free minutes of scooting. The batteries weigh 6kg each; while not featherweight, that’s still manageable for many users.

The charging pods themselves are situated in local businesses, such as shops, cafés and coffee houses. Tier provides them free of charge and covers the electricity bills. They measure 50cm in length, width and height.

That’s the theory. Now here’s the proof.

Over a six-week trial at a shop in Finland, an average of 16 riders a day popped into to swap batteries, spending an average of £2.85 in store at the same time (about the price of a coffee). Over a year, this could work out at £16,650 for that single location. Tier wants to install 400 of these units across London in support of an e-scooter trial there. Crunch the numbers and that could be as much as £6.7m in additional income heading the way of hard-pressed British businesses.

There are some caveats of course. Scooter ridership is unlikely to remain stable all year in this country. Not all areas will have the same sort of footfall or riders with the same sort of disposable income. A six-week trial is not indicative of behaviour over a full year. And the 400 figure is based on a number of factors, not least the size of the fleet Tier would be asked to deploy should it win a place on London’s trial.

Still, the benefits could be tremendous. Tier is essentially giving little shops the earning power of motorway service stations, without the middle-of-nowhere locations. Tier imposes no penalty if stores have to close unexpectedly (for example, due to Covid), making the charging pods out of bounds. And, while Tier would prefer to site the units at businesses open for at least 12 hours a day, the company will consider shorter opening hours and can even double up on charging units at a particularly busy location.

What’s the benefit for Tier? After all, the operator is a private business, not a charity. It’s simple, actually. Getting users to swap batteries means that Tier doesn’t have to. This reduces logistical complexity, improves up-time of scooters, and cuts carbon associated with travelling around to swap out batteries. This all makes for a leaner, more efficient and more profitable business. When it comes to providing a low-margin public service like transport, this gives Tier a fighting chance of a financially sustainable business model, which is good news for Londoners in the long-term.

Tier is inviting London businesses now to express interest in hosting the charging boxes.

Now, we’ll take an almond milk mocha with extra sprinkles to go with that battery, please.

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