7 Tips for Profitable Vehicle Sharing

Jonathan Calmus

March 31, 2020

How to start a shared Mobility Business

Free-Floating, shared e-scooters / bikes and shared vehicles is an incredibly attractive business. It’s fun, it’s noble and it’s useful. But many new operators get lost in the logistics as opposed to focussing on the customer experience. The state and look of the vehicle in addition to accessibility is the primary driver of usage and stronger brand loyalty.

We’ve organized a list of the highest impact activities that lead to consistent network usage. Logistics can get 

So here are the highest impact lessons we learned across the globe.

1) A Clean, Sanitary and Mechanical Smooth Vehicle

Since the best marketing and ride acquisition is your vehicle itself it becomes crucial to make sure they are always in tip top shape. Clean, organized and no sounds or squeeks. You can achieve this by taking a few simple actions at the end of each day or rental depending on your model. 

  • Wipe it down – A clean vehicle is an attractive vehicle. Especially now that people are more public health conscious it is important to present something that gives them the confidence to ride safe. Use a disinfectant on the main touch points where the vehicle comes in contact with a rider or renter. Places like handlebars, door handles, steering wheels, brakes, etc. Everyone likes clean and nice looking things and shared vehicles are no exception. 
  • Visible and readable QR codes and/or Instructions – If you’re using a scan to unlock interfaces for your shared vehicles you need to make certain that QR codes are always available and readable. Simply put if a rider cannot scan the QR or read the vehicle ID you will not only lose a ride but they won’t be able to easily report the issue. 

2) Daily or per usage inspections (depending on your sharing model)

This is pretty self explanatory. Make sure that the vehicles people are using are safe and functional. At Cosmic we use up to a 21 point inspection depending on the vehicle. We check things like brakes, noises, batteries, bells to ensure that riders are safe while they ride. 

3) Preventative maintenance

A huge cost savings measure is to address potential mechanical or electronics failures before they fail. It means tracking maintenance histories and making sure you have enough spare parts on hand and the tools to execute. Since everything is tied to vehicle lifespan value and network uptime, elongating the life of parts and full vehicles is not only cost effective but much better for the environment. 

4) Responsive in-field logistics

Consumerism and mobility are extremely dynamic and so is the demand. There can be seasonality, events and festivals, time of day/week/month, holidays and weather that impact your rentability and profitability. Couple that with the variable of theft and potential tech issues and it can represent a model in which you need to be accounting for a ton of variables sometimes out of your control.

At Cosmic we train and work with our partners to implement a system for anti-theft and demand based distribution. Using real time communications and a stack of monitoring tools like Cosmic Command Center we are able to do things like route a First Responder on a motorcycle to intercept a potential theft or vandalism or dispatch more vehicles to a specific zone with increased demand. 

The faster your team communicates the faster you can respond to the demand and needs that ultimately lead to your profits or losses. 

5) Real time communications

One of the most valuable characteristics of high performing fleets is making sure you are communicating with all team members and stake-holders faster than your demand. In the case of station based or kiosk based shared vehicles it’s important to have strong customer support that resolves mechanical and payment issues. The faster someone rides and turns over to make that vehicle available the more you earn. Obviously for networks like monthly rentals turn over isn’t most important. 

With free floating fleets or fleets that require daily in-field logistics and maintenance it is incredibly important to apply real time comm to your team in addition to riders. Below are the tools we use in Cosmic free floating operations.

  • Zello – Imagine Whatsapp and a walkie talkie had a baby. That’s what Zello is. To coordinate a team of 2 to 100 needs a strong focus on getting issues resolved at the speed of light. You can create chat rooms for different groups and all real time walkie talkie audio is saved for playback in the chat or group. When you mix Zello with First Responders, distribution, monitoring and maintenance the effects are powerful, efficient and cost effective. 
  • Cosmic Partner App – This is the heart and soul of Cosmic’s operations because it represents the connective highway between the delivery of our shared vehicle fleets. We worked with our operations partners and interviewed the in field logistics personal and modeled workflow based tasks and fleet statuses. Without this there was too much opportunity for human failure and our costs increased tremendously. Scooters would be distributed but they would be left in transit mode and riders wouldn’t be able to see them on the map or use them by scanning the QR code until someone analyzed the cause and changed the state. Without a strong in field app to organize your team, fleet inventory and the necessary actions and tasks you burn through tons of money on inefficient use of your team and assets. 
  • Command Center – This is what we call our dashboard because it’s where tasks, network monitoring and customer service route the real time logistics requirements to the in-field team like first responders or distribution. 

6) Leverage Behavioral Data

You don’t need to be a data scientist to make some usage and behavioral correlations. At Cosmic one of our most powerful data visualizations is heat maps associated with time. Demand generation and accessibility are the backbone of any shared vehicle fleet using any mode of rentals or on demand. The better we can track where our potential riders and customers are and when they are there, the more we are able to ensure our usage and rental rates remain at a point of profitability. 

7) Focus on lean ops with small teams and light / electric logistics vehicles

This is probably the most underestimated aspect of running a shared vehicle fleet. Since for most of 2019 the growth seemed unwavering and exponential, many shared vehicle operators started to use global growth strategies within their local markets. One of the greatest powers local partners and operators have is their sensitivity to their specific market. Just because a mega-corporation decides a specific strategy does not mean it needs to be mimicked. In fact it’s one of those tried and true moments where you put the blinders on, keep your head down and focus. 

Lean ops means you are conscious of the team, structure and vehicles necessary to achieve your ambitions. In the case of free-floating scooters, bikes and e-bikes many companies had started with a crowdsourced approach like Bird’s Flyer Program or Lime’s Juicer program. It reduces fixed costs and employment and HR administration but it leads to fleet inefficiencies. If a freelancer who is responsible to charge and deploy the fleet dailly needs to skip a day or two or more, part of your vehicles are unavailable. 

Over time this approach became a hybrid of crowdsourcing, in house logistics and logistics contractors. 

Our recommendation is to model your logistics execution based on the needs of the communities you are servicing and the capacity of your budgets and city or geographic restrictions. Some of our partners structure their operations with electric cargo bikes and motorcycles. Other partners have rigged up 2 level distribution trucks to maximize capacity and reduce size, footprint and agility. The magic of local partners is their perspective on the conditions of the market and their creativity to solve those challenges. 

Many times distributed warehouses simplify logistics and reduce costs too. Suppose you were managing a fleet of 150 e-bikes and scooters around a 10km (6 miles+/-) radius, you could make partnerships with 2 or 3 other local businesses looking to offset their costs and have extra space available. This means your distribution to the high usage zones is faster and your cost and commitment is reduced over a traditional lease for a single space able to handle your operations and fleet. 

For other modes of rental such as parking zones, station based or kiosk shared vehicles the logic still applies. The most consistent and recurring costs are those of logistics so the more that you emphasize the optimization of the process of maintaining, fueling or charging and making sure those vehicles are available for use the more profit you can rely on to help grow your fleet and income. 

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Leverage your assets and understanding of your market. Each rental and usage mode coupled with vehicle type and community requires a unique take on operations. It can be a little intimidating at times because you need to account for so many things. At Cosmic we focus on the shared knowledge and experience of our operating partners to consistently train and update our operations implementations to make sure our partners can build on the successes of others and hit profitability faster. 

For our vehicle owners that don’t do the operations themselves, they know they can trust the logistics and management of their asset with highly skilled and trained logistics. 

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