Electric scooters are set to be the future of urban mobility, Chinese tech CEO says


Yan Li, co-founder and chief executive officer of Niu Technologies.

Paul Miller | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As many cities are trying to boost environmentally friendly public transit systems, one Chinese tech CEO says smart electric scooters may be the new future of urban mobility.

Due to congestion in many cities, cars tend to travel at about 15 kilometers per hour, on average, while moving room in subways during rush hour is very limited in places like Beijing, according to Yan Li, CEO of Niu Technologies.

“When we look at urban mobility, when we look at the data, actually, most people travel individually in the city,” he told CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal on Wednesday in Hong Kong. “We look at the best transportation mechanism for them and cars are, obviously, not a good solution.”

The Nasdaq-listed Chinese tech company makes electric two-wheelers that are powered by lithium-ion batteries and provide real-time telemetry data on an app, including location, vehicle status, riding history and power statistics. The company’s products are sit-down motor scooters in the style popularized by Piaggio’s Vespa, as opposed to motorized stand-up push scooters increasingly popular in cities like San Francisco.

Li claimed that people in cities tend to travel distances that are roughly about 10 kilometers, which, he said, makes his sort of electric scooters a better alternative to cars.

In recent years, countries around the world have pushed for a greater adoption of electric vehicles, with China adopting various policies and subsidies.

A May report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that the global stock of electric two-wheelers was about 260 million by the end of 2018. A majority of them were in China, according to the agency.

“With sales in tens of millions per year, the Chinese market for electric two-wheelers is hundreds of times larger than anywhere else in the world,” the report said.

Li said Niu, through Mar. 31, 2019, sold more than 710,000 electric scooters globally and all of its users clocked in around 3 billion kilometers in riding distance. The company collects around 85 terabytes of riding data to study how people use its devices, including the way they charge their batteries.

Traders, meanwhile, are not wholly optimistic about the company: Its share prices are down more than 14% so far this year.

For his part, Li said the decline in the stock depended on various situations including market conditions as well as the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China.

“It’s always difficult to talk about the share price. From our perspective, being a public company, we know we have a responsibility to create value for our shareholders,” he said.

“We’re addressing people’s fundamental needs, which is urban mobility,” Li added. “People in the city need a better device to commute.”