Although the initial reaction towards the launch of bike sharing in Malaysia was cautiously positive, the hype died down within months as more people felt that the bikes were more of a nuisance than a benefit.
I personally felt that bike-sharing was pretty cool as it did help with the last mile connectivity. Back in my uni days, I usually had to walk from my house to the train station which took me around 15 minutes. By the time I reached the train station, I’ll be soaked in sweat thanks to our weather. However, with bike sharing, it was convenient enough and it only took 5 minutes to reach the train station without sweating as much.
The problem was that the bikes weren’t well maintained and some of them didn’t even have seats. My complaints to oBike went unanswered, bikes were left everywhere, and some users even put locks on them so only they could take them.
One of the bike-sharing companies, ofo, ceased their operations in Malaysia last year. The Alibaba-backed company from Beijing first rolled into Melaka in 2017 with a fleet of 500 bicycles and left after more than a year in operations. Although oBike is still operating in Malaysia, they have minimsed their fleet size and are less present compared to before.
It may be the beginning of the end—oBike has announced that they have immediately ceased all operations in Singapore due to new regulations that forced bike-sharing companies to be licensed and to limit fleet sizes.
So it looked like the bike-sharing trend was dying down, but another sharing trend—e-scooter-sharing popped up. The trend started in Singapore in 2017 and has since gained a lot of attention with plenty of brands in the market.
One such brand, Neuron Mobility, has taken the first step in Malaysia to introduce the e-scooter sharing concept to us.
E-Scooter-Sharing Vs Bike-Sharing
Neuron Mobility will be launching its e-scooter sharing services in Cyberjaya as part of the company’s regional expansion plans. The launch in Cyberjaya makes it the fourth major Southeast Asian city to offer Neuron’s personal mobility service after Singapore, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai.
Neuron Mobility is run by two founders, Zachary Wang the CEO, and Harry Yu the CTO.
They will start deploying the e-scooters at key commercial spots in Cyberjaya as part of a pilot programme to assess feasibility and demand in the Multimedia Super Corridor of Malaysia.
However, will e-scooter-sharing really make it big since bike-sharing died down? Zachary mentioned that he is not worried as e-scooter sharing will be operated differently compared to bike-sharing as he believes bike-sharing was never properly operated.
“As we traveled through Malaysia, we met with many city councils and corporates who were involved in bike-share programs. Consistently the feedback that we have gotten was that people would just come into the place, put in a few hundred bicycles there and then just leave,” explained Zachary.
With that, it led to plenty cases of vandalism and the operators didn’t have a big enough team to manage it.
“For us we have a very different operation strategy. Just the fact that the e-scooter is electric powered, you need to either charge the battery or swap it. The battery needs to be constantly refreshed which is why we run a very high-touch operation, we actually touch our vehicles almost every day,” mentioned Zachary.
He also said that they won’t be dumping hundreds or thousands of e-scooters in an area as they will balance the utilisation versus the population and movement of people.
Scooting To Success
Neuron Mobility will begin with a few hundred scooters in the initial phase and it will be deployed in a few areas around KL and Cyberjaya.
Currently users are charged in two different ways; firstly is through the pay-as-you-go model, which charges users a standard price of RM3 and then RM0.30/min. This model is mostly used by first-time users who want to have a go at it or for leisure purpose.
On the other hand, Neuron Mobility also has a subscription based model where it is mainly used by commuters at a price of RM38 for 5 trips (up to 30 minutes each, valid for 1 week), RM68 for 1 day (unlimited trips for 1 day, each up to 4 hours) and RM98 for 30 days (5 trips maximum a day of up to 30 minutes each).
As for people who think that they can steal the e-scooter, Zachary has some news for you as they have spent quite some time into developing the technology and product.
One very important difference between an e-scooter and bicycle is that a bicycle itself is mechanical; one part is an electronic lock and another part is a bicycle, so a thief just needs to get rid of the lock, and the bicycle is theirs for the keeping. As for an e-scooter, it’s an entire communication control system in the scooter and it’s also custom-built.
“This is a proprietary custom-built vehicle, so when we use our IOT system to shut down the scooter, the controller is shut down and we can remotely switch on and off the scooter. Even if you’re stealing, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.
So far with the early pilot programme running, they have so far gotten more than a thousand to two thousand users on the platform. Neuron Mobility will be targeting to get somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 users during this pilot period.
“Since we just deployed in a few locations in the past few days, we are looking to ensure that the entire operation is smooth and able to run well,” added Zachary.
Malaysians looking forward to try their e-scooters can look forward to the expansion of their operations throughout KL in the next month or so.
Beyond Malaysia, the company has also set its sights on other major cities in the region. The launch comes on the heels of a partnership with Thailand’s Sansiri Public Company Limited, and follows a recent SGD5 million raised to expand their last mile connectivity services to Asia-Pacific’s biggest and most congested cities.