Inside the business of the gig economy’s nightly scooter scavenger hunts

Micro-mobility companies have created a new gig-economy niche, but, as it turns out, the system for charging dead scooters and e-bikes is far from perfect.


October 29, 2019

ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images

People in cargo vans have been burning rubber every night, picking up dead micro-mobility vehicles (scooters, e-bikes, etc.) and charging them so they’re ready to rip the next day. Lime calls these freelance contractors “juicers” — and to that we say, well-played, Lime. Well-played.  

Some juicers have reported earning up to $50 an hour. But, as The New York Times illustrates, the system has flaws — for both the contractors trying to make ends meet and the companies deploying them.

Get juiced 

Lime pays its juicers $3 to $10 per each scooter collected, rejuiced, and returned to the wild. While that seems like chump change in isolation, some scooter scavengers can make up to $160 a day — but it’s not always easy.

With over 37k scooters and e-bikes in Los Angeles alone, drivers are often met with critical-thinking obstacles (a dead scooter’s behind a locked gate, what you do?), hoarders (cheaters who collect scooters before they’re posted in the app), and repairs (AKA an extra trip to a “fix-it location”) that eat into their livelihood. Because, especially in this case, time is money. 

It’s also tricky for companies to employ juicers. Recent research found that companies were generating $2.43 per mile in revenue in 2019 but spending $2.55 per mile to keep the scooters running.

Then there’s the environmental contradiction…

A big reason for this whole scooter assault is to cut down on carbon emissions. But a recent study found that the average juicer drives between half a mile and 2.5 miles per scooter — accounting for 40% of a scoot’s total carbon footprint.

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.