ASX-listed electric scooter maker Vmoto’s revenue jumped almost 20 per cent last year even before it signed a $13 million deal with Dutch rideshare and delivery company GreenMo – but Australia remains a marginal market for the Perth-based company.
Vmoto’s total unit sales for the year hit 23,547, up 18 per cent on last year. Of those, the majority were sold to rideshare or delivery companies in Europe, where there are strong incentives for companies to go electric, and a growing corporate culture of going emissions-free.
But Australia’s lack of any real EV incentives and customer engagement means its local sales are tiny – of the more than 23,000 units sold, fewer than 400 were in Australia.
The deal with Greenmo for 6,000 bikes – which prompted the share price to jump 21 per cent when it was announced last month – was the biggest deal Vmoto had ever signed, meaning the company has made a strong start to 2021.
Vmoto said its direct-to-consumer sales did not grow as much as they might have in 2020, thanks to the pandemic restrictions on movement.
The bikes are made in China, at a factory in the city of Nanjing, 300km inland along the Yangtze River from Shanghai. Competition for the Chinese market, though, is stiff, and last year Vmoto only sold just over 2,000 units in China. Blair Sergeant, one of Vmoto’s directors, said the Chinese market was not a main focus for Vmoto.
“China has more EVs on the roads than any other country in the world by a factor of 20 or 30, but it’s also insanely competitive. There’s no money in it for us. So China is not a market that we are pursuing.”
He said he believed electric scooters would eventually take off in Australia, with the booming delivery sector presenting a real opportunity.
“It will happen here. I don’t think there is any stopping that train – conversion to electric seems inevitable,” he said, adding he was “very, very keen” to see more done by governments to promote the market.
Lack of EV incentives are not the only obstacle. In Europe, Sergeant said rideshare services were “going berserk”. By “rideshare”, he means services that allow members to pick up a bike at one station, and drop it off at another spot somewhere else in town – akin to the so-called “Boris bikes” in London, or the now-defunct Melbourne Bike Share push bike scheme. Greenmo offers this service in a number of European cities, only with electric scooters rather than push bikes.
In NSW and Victoria, though, the law requires everyone who wants to ride even a 50CC scooter to have a motorbike licence. “That immediately rules out 85, 90 per cent of the population,” he said.
Sergeant said even heavily used bikes would rarely need to be charged overnight more than once every couple of days. He has his own bike, which he said he uses a couple of times a week, and only needs to charge about once a month.
Vmoto made a profit for 2020 of $3.7million, almost three times the 2019 figure.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.