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E-scooters put to the test

The e-scooter revolution has landed in Berlin. With Lime clocking up 1M rides in just 11 weeks, Circ extending its reach and Voi set to unveil a second model, we decided to put Berlin's e-scooter brands to the test.

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Photo courtesy of Lime Deutschland. Berliners clocked up 1M Lime rides in 11 weeks.

After their controversial introduction this summer, it seemed e-scooters would be nothing more than a quick fad – but not only are they still here, their numbers and usage is growing! With four brands competing for Berlin’s streets, which one should you go with? We decided to take them for a test drive to find out.

LIME: Sturdy scooting: The Californian mobility behemoth (bikes, e-bikes, carsharing), known to Berliners for their lemon-green hire bikes, is back, full e-steam. Within 11 weeks of their mid-June launch, Lime announced its Berlin e-scooters clocked up 1M rides – although they’re keeping quiet about how many scooters they actually have in the city. They’re not the prettiest of the bunch, but their wide boards make for sturdy driving and they come with a display showing the battery status and how fast you’re going. On the plus side, ‘limes’ are basically everywhere within the S-Bahn ring, recently expanding their reach also to Wedding, Pankow and Lichtenberg, in fact the brand is rapidly emerging as the market leader in Berlin, already partnering with Google Maps and seemingly flooding the streets with their fleet. The Lime app tells you the distance you’ve travelled and how many calories you’ve burnt (in our experience, a disappointing 0 calories for 15 minutes). But at a cost of €0.20 per minute on top of the €1 base rate, Lime is the most expensive option. The app also encourages you to sign up to become a “juicer”, in case you’d be tempted to make some cash charging the scooters overnight (up to €100 a day). Our verdict: All in all, with its Unicorn Capitalism creds (they hit the $1bn-mark last year) and un-stylish looks, Lime won’t increase your coolness factor, but its robustness and accessibility make it a sure bet for a quick emergency ride anywhere, any time. Price: €0.20/min. Fleet: they’re not sharing!

TIER The local ‘animal’: Scooting on home turf, Berlin start-up Tier (literally “animal”) was founded in 2018 by a collection of serial entrepreneurs behind startups like e-commerce outfit reBuy, road scooter company Coup and food delivery service Lieferando. Funding came from British venture capital investor Northzone and retired German Formula 1 race driver Nico Rosberg. Granted, Rosberg only bought 0.07 percent of the shares, but Tier likes to show him off in ads anyway (“World champion approved!”). By late August, 2300 e-scooter ‘animals’ were scattered around Berlin, making Tier the biggest provider in town – even though distribution seems to be focused in Mitte. While the scooters are made in China, and the company has branched out into a number of European countries, the local ethos shines through in the maintenance department: the charging, repairing and distribution are all handled by Tier employees. Unfortunately, this means that the scooters are mostly off the streets between 10pm and 7am – not an alternative late-night cab! Bonus points go to the sleek app, which provides pop-up instructions for anything from unlocking the scooter to parking (leave 2.4 metres sidewalk space for pedestrians, everyone!). Our verdict: a stylish option for the glocally-minded, but failing night-owls. Price: €0.15/min. Fleet: up to 2300.

CIRC Berlin ‘deluxe’: Formerly known as Flash, this is another Berlin-based venture founded by local start-up veteran Lukasz Gadowski (of Mister Spex and Lieferheld fame). In less than a year since launching, Circ has already put its Roller out in 12 European countries – and, since June 17, “more than 1000” are finally stationed in Berlin. Now they’ve expanded their Berlin reach to Weißensee, testing a €0.50 discount scheme for parking designated areas in the district. What makes these orange two-wheelers stand out are their convenient add-ons: a cup holder and smart phone mount so you can use your phone while on the roll (otherwise forbidden). As with Tier, the Chinese-made scooters are charged and maintained by the company’s own employees. The bulk of this happens at night, but operating hours are less rigid than with Tier, allowing you to scoot around the clock, or at least until you run out of battery – up to 45km. Our verdict: With only a small amount released into the wild, they might be hard to find, but if you’re looking for that little bit ‘extra’ for your 15 cents, Circ’s where it’s at. Price: €0.15/min. Fleet: 1000+.

VOI The sleek Scandinavian: At 6 million rides and with 500 employees spread across 32 cities in 10 countries, the Swedes are the leaders in the European market (and soon to be rolling out their e-bikes, too!). In Berlin they have a fleet of 1300, but aren’t as spread out as some of their competitors, with the scooters mostly available in Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, and parts of Kreuzberg and Schöneberg. Already with a second model in the works, the peach-coloured ‘Voiager 1’ is a sleek, light model that comes with a well-designed, easy-to-use app. As you’d expect from a European-wide venture, the app is available in a number of languages, which, aside from German and English, include Portuguese, Spanish, Danish and French. Once you’ve finished your ride, Voi – like Lime – encourages you to take a picture of the parked scooter, their way to make you take a look at where and how you’re leaving it behind. Our verdict: This is a simple, easy-to-use option, perfect for a short ‘voiage’ but within a limited scooting zone. Price: €0.20/min. Fleet: 1300.