Melbourne-based Raine Scooters is making a mark in the electric “micro-mobility” market, taking on more established scooter startups Bird and Lime with what it say is an electric scooter the world has not seen before.
Although there are some legislative hurdles to be solved in some states of Australia, electric scooters are becoming more commonplace as commuters seek to escape traffic congestion and parking costs.
Borne from a desire to offer an Australian-designed agile and zero emissions solution for the first and last mile, entrepreneurs Michelle Mannering and James Murphy (who both previously worked at electric skateboard brand Baja Board – James co-founded of electric skate company) and smart lighting company LIFX co-founder Marc Alexander founded Raine Scooters in 2019.
Their first product, the Raine One, was offered via crowdfunding site Kickstarter in November, attracting incredible interest.
In just 43 minutes, the original $US50,000 ($A75,550) funding target was reached. By the end of the campaign, 482 backers had pledged $US438,430 ($A662,431), later boosted by an additional $US500,000 ($A755,500) from technology investment form BlackBird Ventures.
The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed Raine’s original delivery dates to mid-2020, but Raine CMO and “hackathon queen” Michelle Mannering says that it will be worth the short wait.
Speaking with The Driven, Mannering says that the design thinking behind the Raine One is geared towards why commuters are switching to micromobility in the first place.
A 2019 report from the University of Melbourne showed that in 2018, Australian commuters spent an average of 66 minutes a day travelling to work, but more than half lived within 10 kilometres of their place of work – suggesting that there is great opportunity for bikes and scooters.
“A couple of years ago we started thinking about what’s the next thing we want to do – at the time we had just finished working on electric skateboards” she says.
“We started noticing scooters are becoming more of a prominent thing – but at the time there was nowhere to get them in Australia.”
While bikes have established place in the micro-mobility landscape, scooters have the advantage of being able to be carried onto buses, folded up and put in boots or even stored under desks.
“We started looking at what is out there …. and what people are annoyed at when they’re commuting to work,” she says.
The team identified that people were dissatisfied not only with imported scooters coming onto the market – they weren’t durable, they didn’t go far before needing charging, and they didn’t go fast enough.
They also discovered that with regard to commuting in general, people were sick of not being able to get a seat on public transport, to feeling forced to use ride-share services such as Uber to get around short distances in the city, and being late to meetings.
“We even heard of people driving to the city because they can’t get a park at the train station,” she says.
“We thought, we can solve all these things with a fast and stylish scooter,” Mannering says. “A scooter is the fastest way to get around the city, it’s faster than everything.”
Landing on a fold-up design, made of lightweight aircraft grade materials to ensure durability, the Raine One can be carried easily onto trains and buses, or stored in the car boot if its necessary to drive – but allowing the option of parking further out of the city in cheaper carparks.
Tech specs are impressive for a scooter, too – the 500-600WH (watt hour) battery offers up to 40km range and a 5 hour charge time so it can be plugged in at the office, and its brushless flux drive – which offers a range of power outputs from 200W top 500W depending on regions as well as a “burst mode” – has a top speed of 50km/hr.
According to Mannering, the Raine team has leveraged its knowledge of electric motor and battery design to deliver a highly efficient scooter.
“Technology around electric motors and batteries has gotten so much better especially in the last 2-5 years and especially in last decade. This is a great time for scooters and any electric vehicles in general,” she says.
“We specced the batteries ourselves and designed the motors ourselves … how do you keep the motor cool? The cooler you can keep it, the more efficiency you can get out of it.”
Mannering thinks it’s only a matter of time before regulations shift to accommodate scooters – at the moment, Queensland is the only state that allows scooters with more than 200W power to be operated at speeds up to 25km/hr after it introduced new rules in 2018.
Other states such as Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and Northern Territory allow electric scooters to be used in public spaces at low speeds, while in NS, South Australia and Western Australia they are only legal on private property.
“At the end of the day if we want Australia and in particular cities to be seen as world leading smart cities, as happier, smart connected cities, they’re going to need to allow this kind of stuff,” says Mannering.
“They reduce congestion, increase mobility, people can commute much more easily.”
Is this the end game for Raine? Mannering says despite its high-tech pedigree – or rather because of it – don’t be fooled by the Raine One e-scooter.
“There’s more coming, keep an eye out – we are an electric vehicle company, not an electric scooter company,” she says.
The Raine One is available for pre-order from $1,607 for a limited time only.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Mannering was a founder of Baja Boards. She worked there but was not a founder.
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Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.