Is Scooter Charging Worth the Hassle?

With the proliferation of electric-scooters start-ups like Bird and Lime, an interesting national conversation has started up. The devices provide a helpful transportation alternative for people traveling short distances, thus clearing up some traffic. On the other hand, they tend to get strewn about city streets, as well as cause a plethora of safety concerns. Like them or not, these scooters seem to be here to stay. One overlooked element of these companies, however, is how the devices get charged overnight. And the reality of that world might surprise readers.

What Happens When a Bird Dies

Bird and Lime both rely on independent contractors to gather up the vast quantity of scooters and charge their batteries every night. Other companies, the Uber-owned Jump, have full-time employees performing this task. Bird and Lime have yet to go that route, however, and offer up the task of charging the scooters as a kind of side hustle. They offer a base pay of $3-$5 per scooter charged, but there are several variables at play. If the scooter is completely dead, Bird can pay up to $20 per scooter. The freelancer has to pile up scooters in their car, drive them home, and charge them overnight. Bird sends out three charging stations for approved contractors, and you’re able to get more of them if you prove yourself to be a valuable employee. The electricity fee to charge these scooters is fairly negligible, but it’s another cost that the freelancer has to eat themselves.

Is it Worth the Hassle?

All of the above information sounds well and good, but it’s not that simple. The scooters can be somewhat difficult to find, as riders often discard them in dark alleys and bushes. And since there are lots of other chargers on their routes as well, you could drive to a scooter only to watch it get picked up by another employee. Lime has been recently testing a feature which allows chargers to reserve a scooter while they’re en route to it, but the feature is yet to be widespread. There have also been reports of people hoarding the scooters for personal use, and even criminals using them to lure people into unsafe situations. A recent CNBC report followed a charger on his typical route. He could fit about five scooters in his car, and then they went back home to charge them. It was about a $25 haul for an hour’s worth of work. While that’s a good rate, it’s important to keep in mind that the scooters take 5 hours to charge. So realistically you’d only be making roughly $25 a day.

With enough effort, however, one could certainly make a living off of the charging game. That same CNBC story featured a man who charges about 40 scooters in his garage per day, making roughly $1500 per week. But that money doesn’t come without the grind of hunting down the scooters, fending off other hungry freelancers, and the physical labor of hauling the 30-pound scooters around. It’s a thankless job, but it could be a good short-term source of income to pay off a debt. There are certainly some easier ways to make that extra income, which you can find here.