No scooters but Lime plans fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle — UPDATE: First, gas-powered

The Twizy is reportedly coming to the streets of Seattle thanks to Lime (Image: Renault)

If you miss the days of bumping around Capitol Hill in the first generation miniature Car2Go “Smart cars,” you are in luck.

Bike share company Lime is set to build on its fleet of electric bikes with a new fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle.

The Puget Sound Business Journal broke the news last week that the company has applied to enter the city’s car share market.

Backed by Uber and Google’s Alphabet, Lime plans to roll out some combination of 500 Fiat 500e and Renault Twizy vehicles in the city. UPDATE: Lime says its first cars in Seattle will be gas-powered:

In July, Lime hired Peter Dempster, who had overseen ReachNow’s launch in Seattle, to run its car-sharing business. Dempster said Lime hopes to shift its car-sharing fleets to electric vehicles, but said the logistics of charging the vehicles made electric cars unsustainable for now. Like bike- and scooter-sharing services, free-floating car-sharing services require operators to monitor the fleets and rebalance them, so that vehicles remain available in the areas where people are looking for them. For scooters, Lime has used both paid staff members, and “juicers,” people it pays a per-unit rate to charge and redeploy the vehicles.

Lime’s new entry in Seattle will put the company in floating car share competition with Car2Go and ReachNow. Both companies have tended toward providing larger, not necessarily hybrid or electric vehicles. Lime pricing is expected to be around $1 to start, then 40 cents a minute. The permit has not yet been approved.

Lime is already the largest provider of bike share rides in the city after introducing electric bikes to the market. The floating shares have been successful enough for City Hall to push for doubling the fleet though providers have dropped out and balked at the bid to increase operating permit costs and fees. A study showed that some of the biggest citizen pet peeves with the bikes — bad parking and blocking sidewalks — are somewhat overblown.

Lime has also introduced popular electric scooters in some markets — though not in Seattle where they are still illegal.

The Lime moves come as new data shows that driver networks like Uber and Lyft are, of course, hugely popular in Seattle — and probably contributing to the city’s clogged streets with around 40,000 rides a day starting in downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union, and  on Capitol Hill.

The Durkan administration, meanwhile, has championed electric cars in the city and doing more to increase their adoption. Seattle City Light plans to install 18 more DC Fast Chargers for electric vehicles at 10 to 15 curbside and off-street locations across the city including one near Capitol Hill Station.

Lime’s new hardware sounds like fun. Popular Mechanics calls the Renault Twizy — with an asterisk — the greatest electric car in the world praising its “bug-eyed headlights,” “scissor doors that open straight up,” zero trunk space, speeds of up to 30 MPH, and a 60+ mile range. Beep beep.


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11 thoughts on “No scooters but Lime plans fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle — UPDATE: First, gas-powered

  1. Nice to have more pollution-free ways to get around. Hope this doesn’t diminish their focus on maintaining their e-bikes though!

    • Lime and Bird have a few “approve testers” who are testing the scooters in case they are approved in Seattle. They aren’t open for rental for the general public, just the select few who are working with the company.

  2. Out of curiosity, does anybody know why the Lime electric scooters are illegal but personally-owned electric scooters, Solowheels and “hoverboards” aren’t? They seem like essentially the same thing (electric one-or-two wheeled vehicles with no pedals), so I’m not quite sure I understand what the rationale is for preventing the scooters being deployed.

      • @abledanger Bikes are legally allowed on sidewalks as long as riders give pedestrians the right of way. Some bike riders do so. Others don’t. And the same can be said of drivers on the roads. As far as the safety for the bicylists on sidewalks, that varies by sidewalk. Being on a sidewalk at 1st and Edgar Martinez is safer than being on 1st avenue and the sidewalks are wide enough to be able to avoid being too close to storefront doors. Being on the sidewalk on Broadway is less safe. But again, not illegal. As for hoverboards and other scooters on sidewalks, I in general see people going fast and coming out of nowhere but I’m sure it’s possible to be on those on the sidewalk and take a safer approach. However when someone is on one and in headphones and there are unpredictable hazards/trash on the sidewalk or dogs or other animals, it seems risky. But again, I think is legal if right of way is given to pedestrians. And if an accident happens, liability can be determined based on the individual situation.

    • It’s maybe just because they probably haven’t filed for a permit to offer them yet? So failing that, they’re not so much “illegal”, as they’re not yet approved? (which is just semantics, but a significant distinction).

    • As for the how, I think it isn’t the scooters so much as the business of opperating a scooter share that is illegal. As for thw why, scooters manage to be a menace opperateed by skilled users who invest in them and have learned fo use them, and I think there are legit concerns that the number of inexperienced users that will come with a ‘share’ program will increase risk without really increasing utility (like, why not just grab a bike share… or pick up a goodwill razer scooter for a few bucks) I am okay with letting other cities be the proving ground for scooters.

      By contrast, some micro e-vehicles will be pretty nice to have. Of course, parking will maybe be a challenge, but I can see it offering enough utility that I am willing to let Lime and the city hash it out.

  3. Very cool! I miss the Smart cars. Little roaming electric cars will be super-convenient for visiting the huge swaths of the city underserved by transit and plentifully paved with parking.