Revel pulls electric mopeds after failing to make a dent in Austin’s car culture

Shared electric moped startup Revel said Friday that it will shut down its service in Austin later this month.

The startup’s CEO and co-founder Frank Reig didn’t place the entire blame on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused ridership to fall across shared micromobility services as well as public transit, for the company’s decision. Instead, Reig cited the combination of Austin’s “deep-rooted” car culture, which has only become further engrained during COVID. The service will shut down in Austin on December 18.

“When Revel came to Austin we knew there would be challenges,” Reig wrote in the statement that was posted on Twitter. “In addition to having a less dense urban core than our other markets, the city’s deep-rooted car culture was proven difficult to penetrate, especially during COVID.”

“One thing we’ve learned is that Austin, unlike markets that have more robust public transportation infrastructure, is a city that is still very car-dependent, and we have found our electric mopeds do not thrive in a “car culture” environment,” a company spokesperson said in an email.

COVID was an additional contributing factor. The lack of visitors to the city who could rely on Revel instead of renting and garaging a car, and overall reduction in movement among those who work and live in Austin, exacerbated the market challenges.

Revel, founded in March 2018 by Frank Reig and Paul Suhey, started with a pilot program in Brooklyn and later expanded to Queens, the Bronx and sections of Manhattan. It has been on a fast-paced growth track thanks to the $27.6 million in capital raised October 2019 in a Series A round led by Ibex Investors. The equity round included newcomer Toyota AI Ventures and further investments from Blue Collective, Launch Capital and Maniv Mobility.

Revel expanded to Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C in its first 18 months of operation. In January, the company launched in Oakland and received a permit in July to operate in San Francisco.

Revel has had a challenging year, and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company voluntarily shut down operations in New York on July 28 after several of its users died in crashes. The company restarted its 3,000-strong fleet of mopeds in four boroughs after the city of New York approved its relaunch plan, which included several new features in its app aimed at increasing safety. Revel added training videos, tests and a helmet selfie feature that requires photographic evidence the user is wearing a helmet and a community reporting tool.