Here’s everything you need to know in order to get started making money charging scooters. Fun fact: Did you know, as a scooter charger you can make $20-30 / hour? Read on to learn how…
Wait, What Are Electric Scooters?
Here’s the short story: Bird launched shared electric kick-scooters in Santa Monica in late 2017. These scooters took off and Bird raised > $500 million. The industry quickly took off and now there are dozens of companies renting scooters.
But there’s more to the story. Razor scooters started off as a toy. Bike sharing in China took off like crazy. These two trends combined leading to the scooter craze in the Americas and Europe.
Brief History of the Razor Scooter
In 2000, Razor pioneered the two wheel, compact, lightweight scooter. The Razor started out as a toy and sold millions of scooters to kids across the US.
Slowly, Razor and other companies started building bigger, sturdier scooters for adults to use. These adult scooters gained usage in cities and on company or university campuses.
Razor introduced electric motors to their scooters in 2003. A twisting throttle allowed the rider to go up to 15 miles per hour without pushing. But most of these electric scooters were still toys sold primarily to kids.
Shortly After: The Chinese Bikesharing Craze
In 2014, five bike geeks at Peking University in Beijing decided to rent out their bicycles to strangers. They started the company called “ofo”, allowing anyone to list a bike available for rental.
Ofo’s bike rental service caught on quickly and they pivoted to providing bikes for rental rather than having people rent out their own bikes.
Bike rentals have been done for a long time, but this was the first time you could rent a bike with just your phone. And it was cheap! For under $1 you could scan a bike, ride it, and then drop it off anywhere.
From just 2014 to 2017, ofo exploded to 10 million bicycles and more than $500 million in funding. But other competitors quickly sprang up. Mobike and Hellobike are both big players that have also raised $100s of millions.
A few entrepreneurs saw the bike sharing explosion of China and tried to apply that formula to the US. In fact, Lime and Spin both known for scooters now, started as bikesharing companies in the US.
While bike sharing began gaining traction in the US, it did not explode the same way that it did in China. The cheap, non-electric pedal bike was the perfect form factor for China, but it wasn’t working for the US.
Electric Scooters in Singapore, Bird Follows
In Summer of 2017, a new company called Telepod launched electric scooters in Singapore. But the scooters had docks and while they were popular they didn’t see explosive growth.
Come late 2017, Bird, founded by a former Lyft and Uber exec, launched electric scooters in Santa Monica. These took off similarly to bikes in China. Bird leveraged their high usage numbers to quickly raise $100s of millions of dollars.
Bird scooters are dockless, meaning that you can pick them up and drop them off wherever. You check the map to find a scooter near you, scan the QR code to unlock the scooter, and go. Rides cost $1 to start and then $0.15 per minute.
Everyone Has a Scooter Company
Most of the companies that were working on bike sharing in the US quickly pivoted to scooters.
Lime has nearly abandoned their pedal bike program and has raised $500m in the process. Spin ditched bikes and got acquired as a scooter company by Ford Motors. Even the original player, Razor got into the game and now offers scooter sharing in over 5 different cities.
In addition, new scooter companies quickly emerged. Skip, founded by ex-Boosted Boards founders, has raised over $180m. Voi based out of Stockholm has raised over $50m. Grin in Mexico over $70m. And there are many other companies in the wings — Tier, Grin, Yellow, Blue Duck, Go X, WeTrott, etc, etc.
Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft quickly saw that shared scooters and bikes were causing them to lose rides under a few miles. Why would you order an Uber when you can jump on a scooter for a couple bucks and get their faster?
So ridesharing companies also got into the scooter and bike game. Uber grabbed JUMP, an electric bikesharing company, for $200m. Lyft acquired Motivate, a docked bikeshare company, for $250m. And these ridesharing companies are now working on releasing their own scooter rental programs.
Where Are These Scooters Coming From?
In a word, China.
Bird and Telepod, the first two players in electric scooters, didn’t know how scooter rentals would work so they ordered consumer grade electric scooters. And when the industry started to catch on, companies didn’t want to wait for new industrial grade scooters to be developed.
So most of the scooters on the streets today are very similar to the original consumer scooters.
Ninebot, founded in 2012, supplies most of the scooters for the current scooter companies. Xiaomi, a major Chinese electronics company, financed Ninebot and helped them acquire the Segway brand. So when you see scooters from Xiaomi, Ninebot, or Segway, they are probably all coming from the same factories.
Other Chinese factories have started to pivot their production lines towards scooter production while companies already in the scooter business are working on growing their manufacturing capacity.
The industrial grade rental scooter is a new product so we are still seeing early stage product development. Scooter companies like to boast about their custom hardware but most of them are just ordering whatever they can from their Chinese suppliers.
How Does Scooter Charging Work?
The electric scooters are powered by batteries in the scooter. These lithium ion batteries resemble the batteries in your phone or laptop.
As riders zoom around the city during the day, the battery in the scooter gets depleted. When the battery starts to get low, the scooters are hard to get up hills and don’t accelerate as quickly from a stop.
Riders don’t want to ride a scooter with a dead battery. While a non-electric scooter is light enough to ride without power, the added motor and batteries make electric scooters hard to ride without an assist from the motor.
So when the battery in the scooters drops below a certain percentage, the scooter companies do not allow riders to rent them anymore. They now need someone to collect the scooters, charge them up, and put them back on the streets.
Who Picks Up the Scooters?
Different companies run their charging operations differently. Bird and Lime are the two biggest players and they rely on a contract workforce to pick up scooters. Skip is also using contract chargers.
You can apply to be a charger in the Bird, Lime or Skip apps. Once you are approved, the scooter company will ship you charging cables. Right now, the same charging cables work on almost all scooters.
As a charger, you will see scooters on the map that need to be picked up, charged, and re-deployed along with how much you will get paid to pick up each scooter.
Other companies use variations of an employee model where they pay workers hourly to charge scooters. These scooters are often charged at warehouses rented by the companies.
There are pros and cons to both the employee and contractor models. At Scooter Map, we believe that a hybrid model will work best and we are working with scooter companies to help them set up their contract charger programs.
How Do I Make Money Charging Scooters?
OK, that was a lot of background. You’ve heard of people making serious money charging scooters. But, how do you get involved?
Requirements to be a Scooter Charger
The beauty of charging scooters as a contractor is that it’s really easy to get started. You don’t even need a car or driver’s license.
Here are the mandatory requirements:
- Somewhere You Can Charge Scooters — A large garage with power outlets is ideal, but some people charge in their living room. Scooters plug into the normal plugs in your house and charge just as a laptop does.
- Ability to Work in Your Country — In the US, you will need to fill out a 1099 employee form with your Social Security Number and other personal information.
- Bank Account for Payment — Scooter companies will need your bank account or debit card information to pay you for charging scooters.
- Some Free Time — For most people, charging scooters is not a full time job. The best time to pick up scooters is in the evening after they have been ridden all day. You will then need to charge them overnight and deploy them in the morning.
Here are suggested requirements:
- A Large Car, Preferably a Van or a Truck — While a lot of chargers work on foot, you will be able to pick up more scooters and make more money with a car. But don’t use too nice of a car as the scooters will definitely cause some wear and tear.
- A Friend to Work With — When picking up scooters, it’s helpful to divide the work. “I’ll drive and you can hop out and pickup scooters.” Chargers often like to work in pairs.
Scooter Companies in Your City
Now we need to figure out which scooter companies are in your city. If you are in a downtown, you’ve probably seen them on the streets. Otherwise you can check out Scooter Map to see which companies have scooters in your town or in neighboring towns.
The three primary companies to check are Bird, Lime and Skip.
If scooters aren’t in your city yet, that probably means the city government doesn’t want them. Scooter companies are expanding quickly and want to be everywhere. So you can ring up your city council and let them know that you’d love to see scooters in your city.
Apply to Be a Charger
For most scooter companies, you will apply to be a charger from within their app.
Here are our guides to applying to be a charger:
Increase Your Chances of Being Approved
Not everyone gets approved as a scooter charger. In some markets, a scooter company may think they have enough chargers for the time being, so they will put a pause on accepting new chargers. Other times, your application could just be lost in the chaos.
Here are factors that will increase your chances:
- Fill Out the Application Correctly and Legibly — This is necessary for all success in business. Take the time to make sure you are putting down the correct information. And take care with spelling. You want to come off as a professional.
- Have a Car — Scooter companies want their chargers to be able to charge a lot of scooters. Having a car means you will be able to quickly pick up a lot of scooters and even grab scooters taken outside the city.
- Live Near the Scooters — The majority of scooters will be clustered in one area. Scooter companies like chargers that live near where the scooters are used. It also makes it easier for you to pick up and deploy scooters.
- Apply Early — When scooters are new to a city, the scooter companies will be trying to get chargers as quickly as possible. If you wait, there may be enough chargers and the scooter companies won’t be approving chargers as quickly.
- Follow Up With the Company — When you apply to be a charger, your application will be sent to some system. You’ll be lucky if it is processed quickly. But you can increase your chances by politely following up with support and checking, demonstrating your excitement and professionalism.
- Already Having Charging Cords — Most scooters use the same standard cords to charge. If you already have charging cords, you are ready to start immediately.
How Long Does It Take to be Approved?
It can take anywhere from one day to six weeks to be approved. There is not a hard and fast rule. We have seen different applications from the same city get approved at different times. So just because you apply before someone does not mean that you will be approved before them.
Check out the above section for what you can do to increase your chances of getting approved. These factors will also help you get approved faster.
Unfortunately, none of us at Scooter Map can check on or expedite your application. So contact the scooter company directly, not Scooter Map :).
Get Your Charging Cables
Once you are approved as a charger, you will be sent charging cables by the company. Usually the company will send you 3 or 4 cables to start with.
These charging cables will allow you to plug scooters into your wall to charge them.
If you want to charge more scooters than you have charging cables, you will have to charge up one scooter and then use the cable on a new scooter. This gets annoying quickly since you will have to wake up to swap out your charging cables.
Scooter companies often will give you discounted charging cables after you’ve been charging for a while. But you can also buy extra charging cables in our store.
We recommend starting off light to start with. You don’t need anything more than charging cables to get started. Start out with 3 or 4 scooters and see how it goes.
As you start to ramp up the number of scooters you charge in a night, you can buy things to help you make more money and to keep you safe. These include reflective gear, gloves, wagons for scooters, flashlights and more.
You can check out our store for charger gear.
Find and Pick Up Scooters
Once you are approved as a charger and have charging cables, you can start making money charging scooters!
To find scooters to pick up, you can look at the charger map the company provides you or you can look at Scooter Map.
Scooter Map provides tools to help you figure out what scooters to try and pick up. We calculate a likelihood score for each scooter that indicates how likely a scooter is where it says it is on the map. You can use the Filter tab to only show scooters that are likely to be there.
Where to Look
Scooters are used over the course of the day by riders. Once the battery is below a certain percentage, the scooter can’t be rented anymore. So it sits in the same place it was dropped off until a charger picks it up.
That means places that riders are using the scooters are also going to be places where the scooters are going to be left for charging.
To get an idea of where riders are using scooters, you can look at the rider mode in the scooter company app. Or in Scooter Map, you can toggle to Rider Mode in the Filter tab.
PROTIP: It’s much easier to look for scooters in neighborhoods that you are familiar with. This means that you will spend less time navigating and more time finding scooters and making money.
When to Look
Scooters are released at the beginning of the day with full charge. Over the course of the day the battery is used. The scooter companies will make the scooters available to charge once the battery is below a certain percentage.
Most scooters will become available to be charged in the evening. Bird makes most of their scooters available to charge at 9pm local time, even if the scooter still has charge in the battery.
PROTIP: Scooter Map allows you to track locations to get notifications when scooters pop up on the map as available. This means you can make money without checking the apps all day.
What Happens When You Find a Scooter
When you find a scooter, you will need to scan that scooter using the scooter company app. You will open the scooter company app, go to charger mode, open the camera and scan the QR code on the scooter. You should scan the scooter before moving it or putting it in your car.
The companies want to see that a scooter is scanned before it is moved. If you put the scooter in your car before scanning it you could risk the scooter’s theft detection algorithm going off which can prevent scanning the scooter in or cause an alarm to sound.
Now that you’ve scanned the scooter, you should see a success message and it should be in your inventory / task list in the scooter company app. You will now need to take the scooter home and charge it.
Scooters can be 20-45 pounds depending on the company and model. So it can be a workout getting scooters back home to charge. Be prepared for some lifting.
PROTIP: It is much easier to charge with a buddy. That way one person can stay in the car and the other person can hop out and pick up scooters.
What Are All These $20 Scooters?
On the scooter company apps, you will see a lot of scooters that have a high bounty. This is often because the scooters haven’t been seen in a while and are probably lost or stolen. It is a bad idea to spend your time going after only $20 scooters because they will be very hard to find.
In Scooter Map, we have added a likelihood score that predicts how likely a scooter is to be where it says it is. You can filter the map based off of the likelihood score to ensure that you are not hunting ghosts.
What’s Going On With “Hoarders”?
If you check out any charging groups or forums, you will see people complain about hoarders. Hoarders take scooters without scanning them in the hopes that the scooter bounty goes up over time. If the scooter bounty goes up, the hoarder will scan in the scooters and make more money per scooter.
Scooter companies are working hard to crack down against hoarders. But hoarders are still a problem for scooter companies and scooter chargers alike.
In Scooter Map, you can see scooters that have been marked as hoarded on the map. Avoid areas with reports of hoarded scooters so that you don’t waste your time looking for missing scooters.
Charging Scooters at Home
You will charge the scooters at home. When you get home, you should make sure that all of the scooters are still scanned in on your inventory / task list in the scooter app. Scooters that you have not scanned will still be shown on the map for chargers. You don’t want another charger coming to your house thinking that there are scooters available to be picked up!
Now you can plug the scooters into the wall and let them charge overnight.
You should be able to see the charge of the scooter in the scooter company app. Most scooter companies require scooters to be at or above 95% before deploying the next day.
How Long Does It Take to Charge a Scooter?
Charging a scooter from 0 to 100% usually takes about 3-4 hours.
Make sure the light on the charger battery is green to know the scooter is finished charging. The app will show it as 100% up to an hour before it is truly done. If the scooter isn’t charged completely, it will quickly drop to below the 95% required battery charge when you unplug the charger and you might not get 100% payment.
How Much Does it Cost to Charge?
Anywhere from $0.01 to $0.10 to charge a scooter. We see an average of around $0.05 per scooter.
Deploying Scooters in the Morning
After charging your scooters, you will need to deploy the scooters in the morning so that riders can rent the now fully charged scooters.
Lime gives you 8 hours after picking up a scooter to drop it off. Bird usually has a release time of ~9am. If you drop off after the cutoff time, you will not get the full payout for your scooter. And if you continuously drop off late, you could risk being kicked off the platform.
Deploying scooters on time will improve your performance metrics that the scooter companies are tracking. This could lead to them providing you discounts on more scooters or raising the cap on the number of scooters you are allowed to charge.
Where Do You Dropoff Scooters?
Can you just dropoff scooters wherever you want? Unfortunately not.
The scooter companies use chargers to rebalance their fleet. The scooter companies have figured out where scooters are ridden the most, so they want to move them back to those areas. If you live in the deep burbs and put a scooter in front of your house, it might not get one ride all day!
So the scooter companies want you to place the scooters at locations that have the most riders. Bird calls these areas Nests. Limes calls them Hubs.
Reserving Dropoff Locations
For Bird and Lime, you will have to reserve dropoff points as they become available. The scooter companies want you to drop off scooters where there are riders, but they don’t want everyone to drop off scooters in the same place.
Most dropoff locations will allow for 2-4 scooters to be dropped off. In dense parts of the cities, there can be dropoff locations every block.
You will need to reserve the dropoff location in order to dropoff your scooters there. You can reserve a dropoff location for 30 minutes before it goes back onto the map for other chargers to see and reserve.
Actually Dropping Off Scooters
Now that you’ve reserved dropoff locations, you can now head out and leave your scooters there. Make sure that you get to the location before your reservation expires.
You will put out the scooters. The apps will have instructions about how to place the scooters. Take care to make sure that scooters that won’t be in the way of pedestrians or cars. Where would you want scooters to be if they were in your neighborhood?
After putting out the scooters, the scooter company app will ask for a photo of the scooters to determine that you have placed the scooters correctly. Make sure that you take the picture from far enough away that you can see the scooters and their surroundings. The scooter companies could use this photo to say you placed the scooters improperly and dock your pay.
PROTIP: We recommend taking a few extra photos of each dropoff and saving them to your phone. This will be immensely helpful if you need to dispute any reduced payments or non-payments.