A signature feature of Lime is its huge war chest.

MORE: Lime hits million-ride milestone in NZ, boss open to e-scooter tax

It's a mark of the San Francisco-based company's deep pockets that it currently has 1000 e-scooters on the streets of Auckland, plus another 1000 in reserve in a Kingsland warehouse - just in case the council agrees to expand the number allowed under its trial licence, to enable a push into outer suburbs.

It's also putting a couple of million into safety events, PR and government lobbying.

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By contrast, home-grown rival Onzo and Australia's Wave are both sitting out the trial period (which expires March 31), wanting to see how Lime fares before committing funds to local e-scooter rollouts.

Expect the disparity in resources to continue, for Lime has a US$400 million ($593m) raise under way at a US$2 billion valuation.

Existing major investors Google Ventures and Uber are expected to tip in more funds, with Bain Capital set to come onboard as a new backer, according to Recode, an online technology and deal-tracking site.

Lime chief executive and co-founder Toby Sun during his Auckland visit last week. Photo / Doug Sherring.
Lime chief executive and co-founder Toby Sun during his Auckland visit last week. Photo / Doug Sherring.

Lime has circulated documents to investors about raising capital in two tranches (one US$100m, the second US$300m) but a Wall Street Journal report says Uber is also considering a bid to buy Lime outright. Neither company would comment.

Lime has so far raised US$455m in three rounds of funding, easily the largest of which was the US$335m effort last July supported by Google Ventures and Uber.

Does Lime make money?

A Wall Street Journal report estimates Lime and its rivals typically make US$20 revenue a day for each scooter, "suggesting significant profit potential given they cost about US$500 apiece".

However, it also notes that e-scooters have a hard life, and the cost of repairs and maintenance is not known.

Lime is also under political and regulatory pressure over safety issues around the world - including here where a per-ride fee or "Lime levy" is emerging as a likely condition of a permanent trading licence.

Both Lime and Auckland council are talking about a per-ride levy primarily going into a fund for new or upgraded cycleways - but Lime is also open to a slice of it going to ACC. That would help appease the e-scooter company's critics, but also put pressure on its path to profitability if it becomes a common template (the two-year-old Lime is now in more than 100 cities, still trying to negotiate its way on to the streets of New York, Sydney and elsewhere).

A split Lime, snapped by Aucklander Tony O'Brien. Photo: Tony O'Brien / Facebook.
A split Lime, snapped by Aucklander Tony O'Brien. Photo: Tony O'Brien / Facebook.

Uber's self-driving scooters

As well as pouring in millions, Uber formed a software partnership with Lime and bought Jump (a rival to Lime on the US west coast) for around US$200m.

An Uber NZ manager told the Herald it's all part of the company's "new modalities" strategy, which would also be labelled "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" as Uber looks for ways to beat inner city congestion and recapture revenue from people who have started to take short trips on e-scooters or e-bikes rather than via an Uber car.

As ever, Uber is not doing things by halves. A report this morning says the company is hiring engineers to develop electric scooters and bicycles which can drive themselves around cities in order to reach customers and charging points.