Smove, a green vehicle sharing service, set to unleash fleet of electric bicycles
September 19, 2012 by Terence LEE
By October this year, if you happen to be at One-North, Singapore’s technology nerve center, don’t be surprised to see people zipping about on environmentally-friendly electric bicycles. Working hard to make this happen is Clean Mobility Singapore, the company behind Smove, an electric vehicle sharing service.
For now though, the fleet of bicycles are stored in the company’s office at Block 71. Bicycle parts lie around, mixed with electrical components, soldering machines, and circuit boards. The office resembles a cross between a workshop and a high-tech startup haunt.
Currently, the company is testing a rack of 3 bicycles in an empty plot of land behind the building. Kinks will need to be ironed out, and more racks installed at various locations before the public can use it.
The bicycles will be the third mode of transport Smove is introducing. It launched a car sharing service barely over a month ago, following by a shuttle option — essentially a reserve-only taxi service. Servicing customers are 6 white Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars marked with the Smove logo. Some of them are plugged into charging stations at the parking lots in front of Block 71. More charging stations have been placed at Pixel Building, Biopolis, Insead, and Fusionopolis.
Smove has already creating a mini buzz among early adopters and tech enthusiasts working in the area.
“We know a developer who drives the car out for supper and then drives back to his office to continue working late into the night,” said Tom Lokenvitz, founder and director of Smove. Working alongside him is co-founder Asher Devang, who handles technology development.
To start using the vehicles, users must register an account via the website. While the sign-up process is made as painless as possible, users must still demonstrate that they can handle a car by producing their driver’s license. While no license is necessary for the bicycle rental service, users will still need to show that they are proficient at riding a bicycle.
We rode on one of the cars today to get a feel of the experience. Overall, we found the process seamless, from making a reservation to taking over the car and returning it to the original charging station. Some familiarization is needed, but it’s not a big impediment.
The rental fares are designed to be straightforward. There’s a registration fee of SGD 39, and a 39 cents usage fee per minute for the cars. The shuttle service carries an additional SGD 3 charge, while the bicycle rental will be available at 10 cents per minute.
Bills are only charged on a monthly basis to aid convenience. They can log on to the website at anytime to find out what’s their usage and how much they’ll charged.
According to Tom, Smove’s rates are competitive with other car sharing services in Singapore like Car Club, Whizz Car, and Honda’s Kah Share. While Smove’s per use cost may be higher, it has a lower registration cost and no monthly fee. Its simple pricing structure is a bonus.
The rising prominence of more traditional car sharing services in Singapore could indicate that the market is ready for a service like Smove. Singapore also faces the unique situation of persistently high car ownership costs that will not likely abate. Demand will continue to exist for mobility schemes that cost less than full car ownership but offers more flexibility than public transport.
So, Smove’s user base could grow significantly as it adds more charging stations and vehicles across the island, which also has the effect of making the service more useful and attractive to commuters.
But there lies the challenge. Adding more charging stations means negotiations will have to be made with each landowner. Besides costing time and money to set up, each station will also have to connect to an electrical supply. Existing car sharing services don’t face this constraint, since petrol stations are readily available.
The service could face legal constraints too. For instance, ICA mandates that motor vehicles must have a fuel tank that’s at least 3/4 full to cross into Malaysia. Electric vehicles, naturally, would be bound by this regulation.
Overcoming hurdles like these will be critical to Smove’s success.
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE