Your local bike shop won’t carry them. Amazon has too many of them. And the ones from the sharing services keep breaking down. Where are you supposed to go to find a decent electric bike or scooter?
How about RidePanda, the new online marketplace for battery-powered two-wheelers? The site, which just came out of stealth last week, aims to become a “one-stop shop” for electric micromobility. Each e-bike, e-scooter, and e-moped is hand-picked, tested, and rated based on its components. There are add-ons, like financing, warranties, and assembly assistance. And with bike and scooter sales booming amid the pandemic, RidePanda’s timing may be extremely fortuitous.
RidePanda is the brainchild of two veterans of the scooter wars: Chinmay Malaviya, who used to work at Lime, is the CEO; and Charlie Depman, a former employee at Bird and Scoot, is the chief technology officer. They’ve seen up close how people use (and abuse) shared scooters, and they want to bring that experience to the world of personal ownership.
Most consumers shop for electric bikes and scooters by searching on Amazon, or typing “best e-bike” into Google and scrolling through endless blogs and review sites. Or maybe they read reviews on sites like The Verge. RidePanda wants to help make that process a little easier.
“We’ve come up with this vetting system to help us filter through those thousands of options,” Depman said, “and we use the vetting system to rate our vehicles across performance, safety, sustainability, durability, and repairability.”
RidePanda offers ratings based on the core components, like the motor, battery, brakes, frame, and others. Customers can take a short quiz, with questions about their height, weight, and riding habits, to get a handful of results best suited to their lifestyle.
Many of the bike and scooter companies featured on RidePanda sell their products directly to consumers, mostly through their own websites and often with a variety of added extras, like assembly instructions and accessories. But RidePanda assumes most people aren’t savvy enough to know which sites to visit, and will need an expert voice to make recommendations. That, along with financing options and service bundles, helps justify RidePanda as a middleman between customers and these direct-to-consumer companies.
“They are competing in a wild, wild West,” Malaviya said. “Every day there is a new Kickstarter campaign. Why is my product better? They’re all tooting their own horn … What we do is say, ‘Hey, these are the best ones.’”
It remains to be seen whether RidePanda can establish itself as a trusted brand in the micromobility marketplace. Shipping e-bikes and scooters through the mail to customers is a fraught business, as VanMoof’s top executives recently admitted in an interview with The Verge. The Dutch brand has been plagued with delivery issues, with many customers reporting scuffs and damage on their bikes that occurred during shipping.
RidePanda contracts with bike maintenance vendors that travel to a customer’s house and help with any assembly or repair issues that may come up. But those services cost extra and are only available in a handful of cities. The site also will tell customers up front how long it will take to deliver a bike or scooter before they make a purchase.
Electric vehicles can be more difficult to maintain and repair than nonmotorized bikes and scooters. But RidePanda’s founders don’t see themselves in competition with traditional, human-powered vehicles; they see e-bikes and scooters as alternatives to car ownership.
“E-bikes can be hard for a consumer,” Malaviya said, “but cars are even harder.”