Bird is a Santa Monica-based company founded in September 2017. It has grown to have a brand image for being the largest company in the electric scooter rental industry in the United States. At first, Bird mainly focused on expanding its services and making sure it became a dominant player in the industry. Its tactic was very effective as it is hardly possible to walk the streets of Santa Monica today and not see Bird scooters for rent.
The Bird co-founder and CEO, Vander Zanden, used to be an executive director at Uber and Lyft. He brought many quirky marketing techniques to Bird, which were responsible for part of the company’s success in growth throughout the community. The brand currently works in more than 100 cities across the globe and is said to be the fastest company to have reached $1 billion at the time.
The company’s first move in spreading the idea of a more ecologically friendly substitute to cars was by developing rental services. Towards the end of 2018, Bird started heavily investing in electric scooter and application designs. One of the most prominent vehicles produced by the company was Bird Zero, specially designed for shared use and mass production. According to Vander Zanden, 75% of the company’s rental vehicle ‘fleet’ was composed of that specific model.
With the new design in the market, Bird decided to raise its scooter rental price. Based on statistics in the QUARTS business newsroom, the original price to unlock a chosen scooter was at first $1 and charged $0.15 per minute for riding it. At the beginning of 2019, Bird changed the price per minute to $0.33 for some cities. This shift in price and market focus was not in Bird alone, some of its competitors that also offer scooter rentals followed and increased their fees, particularly Lyft, Lime, and Jump (which is owned by Uber).
Bird does not just provide alternatives to existing methods of travel in the cities but also creates a counterbalancing measure to the pollutive vehicles on the streets today. The company designs electric scooters, which improves the way people navigate around the city and introduces a new lifestyle that would positively affect the city landscape.
Bird places the needs of the community first, which is why numerous research on product safety is conducted before creating an agreement with any given city, as is clearly stated in the Bird Safety Report of April 2019. The vehicles are designed to be slick and durable, which helps improve a city’s mobility and save people the trouble of waiting in traffic or looking for free parking spots to fit their car.
Bird saw substantial success in its rental services and raised its business worth $2 billion. Recently, the company decided to shift its focus to producing customized electric scooters and providing existing and prospective customers with the option of buying a personal vehicle. So far, the company has three primary vehicles on sale Bird Cruiser, Bird One, and Bird Two.
Bird One is a custom-designed electric scooter, first presented on May 8, 2019. Bird One is designed to be durable enough to survive continuous use and wear in different climates and weather conditions. The company assures that the new model will last 4 times longer than existing vehicles in its rental ‘fleet.’
Here are some of the impressive features of Bird One:
- The scooter has a 474 Wh battery, which allows it to run non-stop up to 30 miles (or 48 km). The company claims that this range is twice as far as any of its previous electric scooters.
- It can easily reach up to 18 mph (or 29 km/h) in the shortest time.
- The scooter has no cables exposed that could get in the way when riding, and all internal structures are hidden under the sleek body.
- There is improved LED lighting for riding in the dark, providing 30-40 lumens.
- It has a built-in GPS that will help the owner track and find the scooter, which is an especially useful anti-theft feature.
- The scooter is equipped with a mechanical rear drum brake, which is more responsive, easy to access, and effective in use.
- There are servicing panels and 9-inch, semi-solid tubeless, pneumatic wheels that can never get flat (since there is no gas in them!) and allow the user to ride on rocky roads without a second thought.
- Bird One weighs 38.6 lb (or 17.5 kg) as it has a steel-reinforced aluminum body. Thanks to the metallic structure, the scooter can carry a weight of 220 lb (or 100 kg).
- Based on the information provided in the manual, the battery takes up to 12 hours to fully charge.
- The Bird application that links to both rental services and your personal Bird One is available in both the iOS and Android play stores.
- The scooter can also be paired to your smartphone using Bluetooth and cellular connections.
- The body of the vehicle is specially coated and is splash and IP34 water-resistant.
- The scooter is equipped with a digital lock that can be easily accessed using Bird’s application.
- Bird One is customizable with one of three available colors: “dove white,” “jet black,” and “electric rose.”
Another important aspect worth considering is the warranty provided for Bird One.
The warranty of the product generally states for 1 year, which is only applicable to the vehicle body:
- Deck lid (metal components)
- Main body
- Down tube
- Front-Wheel and Hub Motor
- Front Fork and Neck Assembly
- Rear Fork Assembly
- Brake Cable
- Charge Port
There are further details revealed in the document which are worth noting: the warranty for other components is only 180 days.
- Power Control Module
- Battery Pack
- Battery Charger
- Electronic Throttle mechanism
- Electronic Brake mechanism
The warranty for components that can be subject to wear is 90 days, which is understandable since the company would not want to pay for cut tires during the course of the product’s life. Here is the list of such components:
- The deck lid (rubber components)
- Handlebar Grips
- Front tire
- Rear tire
- Front Fender
- Rear Fender
- Front Decorative Strips
- Rear Decorative Strips
- Front Fork Cover / Trim
- Reflective Stickers
- Charge Port Cover
- Bird One is more efficient in its battery usage than its predecessor, Bird Zero. It takes around the same amount of time to charge but lasts longer.
- The application has a map that shows all Birds in the area around you. A bonus feature that comes in handy is that when you zoom in on a specific area, more details appear. The map is not limited to showing sidewalks and buildings but also information about each Bird available, for example, each scooter’s battery charge at the time being.
- Other application features are also easy to use. It takes a moment to unlock a Bird scooter to rent as all you need to do is point your phone camera on the scooter’s QR code.
- If you have issues with your Bird One, then you can take it or even mail it to a Bird service center in either North America or Europe.
- If your Bird One is stolen, then the company’s “bird hunter” system can track it down.
- According to Bird’s Refund Policy, “Bird will provide a shipping label and will cover the cost of shipping for domestic returns in the U.S.”
- A real drawback of Bird One is the choice of wheel design. Airless tires may seem like the best solution against getting a flat tire, but the quality of the ride suffers compared to using air-filled wheels. The scooter’s tires may work well on smooth ground and roads, but if the pavement is cracked or there are stones or snow, then the ride will be very rough, whereas air-filled tires have much more agility and can work on most surfaces.
- Bird One has no lock-to mechanism, which is considered to be more effective in preventing vandalism and also making sure scooters do not get in the way of the sidewalks.
- The lighting on Bird One is quite weak, much like a flashlight, which is barely enough to see objects directly in front or let others know that you are on the sidewalk or road.
- Some of the warranty exclusions are logical and applicable to most products, but in section 4.5 of the document, it mentions that the warranty does not work if the scooter is further damaged from “improper packaging or mishandling during shipment to the warranty-service provider.”
- On the Bird website, there is a clear warning sign stating that the product “can expose you to chemicals including chromium, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” For those who are not familiar with the term, Proposition 65 is a legal obligation for all businesses to provide information and warnings on possible exposures to harmful chemicals, from a product, that could cause cancer or reproductive difficulties.
Based on the popularity of Bird One across the 100 partnering cities, and the 4.9 ratings on the App Store, the electric scooter is bound to be a success for the company. The design is considered to be top-notch, and Bird recently announced that they will stop using the NineBot ES2 electric scooters as a part of their rental service and will introduce the Bird One scooter as a staple of their regular shared fleet.
If you look at reviews of electric vehicle enthusiasts, like Micah Toll, then you will learn that Bird One’s design is less effective compared to similar products. For example, the Wide Wheel electric scooter is said to have very ergonomic and agile airless tires that work smoother than those of Bird One. So, there is an alternative that has an optimized design, four times the motor power, and is sold at a price lower than that of Bird One.
Most of the negative reviews are complaints about the significantly high price, which is keeping people from buying Bird One. It pushes both existing and potential customers from using Bird’s products and leads them into the hands of substitute brands. One such lost client posted “I’m a huge Bird fan and love this, but even though this has some new updated features, I wonder why someone would spend almost $1000 more when you can get the current Bird model from Xiaomi for about $460.”
Yet another issue is, if the scooter is expected to last a long time, then the warranty could be a little longer; instead, it is just one year long. This detail makes some customers skeptical of the brand, which is voiced on many review platforms.
Bird is a moderately new but rapidly growing company with a steady reputation for producing high-quality electric scooters and providing satisfactory services. Thus far, there were little to no complaints regarding the way Bird One operates, and most customers were happy with the design, which makes it a valid option. It is also important to keep in mind the design flaws and consider whether or not Bird One is appropriate for your area of residence.
Most people surveyed agreed that there should be some more ecologically friendly alternative to using cars. According to Bird, around 220 billion car trips are made each year, and 40% of those trips are under 3 miles long (a relatively short distance). Data showed that 8/10 believe car traffic and pollution are a problem, and 70% want new transportation options.
How is Bird planning on fighting these problems?
Firstly, the more people use electric scooters, the fewer cars will be on the city streets and congestion will be lifted.
Secondly, Bird scooters are powered by electricity, which makes them more environmentally friendly than fuel-based vehicles, helping reduce pollution and improving air quality.
Thirdly, they are easily accessible, no need to wait for public transport or traffic lights. Fourthly, they reimagine space. Bird eliminates the need to endlessly search for car parking, which causes traffic on already crowded streets. One traditional car parking spot can fit 10 scooters!
If you are interested in a tangible example of how Bird impacts a city, then you don’t need to look further than Washington D.C. In only around a year of operating in the city, Bird products and services already became widely used and provided its residents with a compact and comfortable alternative to using cars or crammed public transport.
According to one of Bird’s blog posts, 50% of those who use Bird’s rental services find the electric scooters very handy for routine travels to and from work. Of course, those who live further away from work or their desired destination may find it challenging to ride the entire way, which is why 29% of Bird customers report that the scooters serve as a means to connect them to public transport like the D.C. bus or metro.
Considering the size of the city, road congestion is a significant issue. Improvements in public transport networks have helped decrease traffic as people had better travel alternatives. Bird’s presence in D.C. created an even more efficient way of moving around the city as 23% of the company’s rental rides act as a replacement for car and taxi trips.
Evidently, Bird has proven to have a positive impact on people’s travel choices and, keeping in mind its popularity, the company also contributed to D.C.’s local economy. Bird’s electric scooters improved mobility, which means people were more likely to explore their neighborhoods and visit places that may have been difficult to access otherwise. Data showed that 48% of Bird product and service users often visited a local business in the city, and 77% of those riders said that they were more inclined to go to that particular business because of Bird.
There are, of course, alternatives to purchasing Bird One. One of the main ones is the monthly rental deal, which has unlimited rides, the flexibility of schedule, free delivery of a personal Bird, and a Bluetooth lock. You can stop thinking about parking and traffic by using rental, but the only drawback is the online waiting list before starting.
If you are a business that wants to promote environmental awareness or to make sure your workers reach the office on time, then there is the option of managing your fleet. Bird provides electric scooters specifically designed for shared mobility and branded for your company. You will also have separate mobile access for your fleet.
In exchange for the fleet and services, Bird will charge a set service fee on every scooter ride. The company provides materials and ongoing service support for operators in 125 markets around the world.
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