Swiftmile will become the ‘gas station’ for electric bikes and scooters in Austin

Anyone who has tried to ride an electric scooter knows the likelihood of finding one with a charged battery is quite low. Swiftmile, which just landed a contract with the city of Austin, supplies cities and private operators with docks equipped to park and charge both scooters and e-bikes.

What Swiftmile offers serves as a win for operators, riders and cities alike. Operators can provide a better (charged) product to their customers, the likelihood of finding a charged scooter increases and cities can better control sidewalk clutter and issues pertaining to improper parking. Unfortunately, the downside falls on those relying on charging scooters to make extra income.

When Swiftmile deploys in Austin, the plan is to start with 10 stations, which comes out to about 80 parking slips. The company hopes to do this by the end of the year. Austin has become a major micromobility hub, with seven providers operating a total of 17,600 vehicles in the city. In fact, it’s become known as a place that many other cities look to for regulation.

“What we do with cities is we get permission from them, we get an encroachment permit and then it’s up to us to monetize off the scooter providers,” Swiftmile co-founder and CEO Colin Roche told TechCrunch. “What we do is put our system down and, you can think of it like a gas station in the middle of where all the scooters are. You don’t want a lot of people having to drive in to pick all these scooters up. I think that’s going to diminish more. If the asset is in the field right there, then you incentivize a rider to ride to the station with credit.”

From there, Swiftmile charges the operators by the minute, but not to exceed a certain amount, depending on the market. Initially, the docking system will be open to all operators in order to show them how it works and how beneficial it can be. After a certain period of time, Swiftmile will only charge its customers’ scooters.

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“Here’s the key piece,” Roche said. “Our system is really intelligent, so we have the ability to detect whose scooter it is. When it gets plugged in, we pulse the system and it tells us what kind of scooter it is.”

That makes it so a rider could still park any scooter there, but only Swiftmile customers will get their scooters charged.

In addition to Austin, Swiftmile has also launched a mobility hub in Berlin, and plans to deploy more. On the operator side, Swiftmile has partnered with Spin to create branded charging hubs exclusively for Spin scooters. In the U.S., Swiftmile has deployed more than 50 stations. In Austin, however, the charging hubs are vehicle agnostic and will mark Swiftmile’s first public system.

The same will go for Pittsburgh, where Swiftmile will deploy about 50 stations in early 2020. That’s all part of the Pittsburgh Micromobility Collective, which includes Spin, Zipcar, Ford Mobility, Waze and Swiftmile.

Swiftmile got its start as a bike-share operator for private companies, including Tesla and Google. To date, the company has raised a little more than $5 million from Sinai Ventures, Verizon Ventures and others. Additionally, Swiftmile just received a term sheet for a $12 million Series A round.

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