After five months enjoying Auckland streets to itself, Lime e-scooters now have a rival.

Wave officially joined the city's e-scooter trial today with a powhiri at Te Puea Memorial Marae in Māngere.

Wave scooters will be on Auckland streets from Wednesday morning - with 285 initially.

It will cost $1 upfront, then 30 cents a minute, to ride a Wave, founder and managing director Albert Hoeft says.

Advertisement

That matches Lime's pricing.

Meanwhile, bike-sharing operator Onzo has just added a 20c/minute scooter button to its app, hinting that its long-promised e-scooter launch could be close - and undercut its rivals. Onzo already has permission to join Auckland's e-scooter trial.

Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says Wave will be trialling speed limited areas.

"Wave will be restricting its scooters to 15km/h on Queen Street, and in the Wynyard Quarter and Viaduct Basin areas.

"This is a good opportunity for us to test slower speeds in areas with lots of people walking," he says.

Wave's 15km speed limit is voluntary, Hoeft said. Its scooters have a top speed of 25km/h (Lime is 27km/h on the flat).

The limit will be enforced with GPS technology that will cap its scooters' speed in the restricted areas.

Wave recently secured a permit with Auckland Council to operate 1000 scooters (the same number as Lime) in Auckland city central and outer suburbs, and initially put 500 scooters on the city's streets.

Advertisement

Although tiny, Wave has jump-started its operation by licensing a scooter design, technology and app from US e-scooter giant Bird, which is valued around the US$2 billion mark, putting it neck-and-neck with Lime. There were two managers from Bird on-hand for today's launch, which represents its first foray into licensing.

Wave launched this morning at Te Puea Memorial Marae in Māngere. Photo / Chris Keall
Wave launched this morning at Te Puea Memorial Marae in Māngere. Photo / Chris Keall

There are now three trial e-scooter operators licensed for Auckland: the San Francisco-based multinational Lime, which enjoys hundreds of millions in backing from key investors Uber and Google; the Brisbane-registered Wave - which bills itself as Australia's first scooter-sharing startup and lists 10 employees on its LinkedIn page - and local contender Onzo, which is yet to say if or when it will put scooters on streets to complement its bikes.

The home-grown Onzo has just added a scooter button to its app - indicating its launch could be close, and undercut rivals.
The home-grown Onzo has just added a scooter button to its app - indicating its launch could be close, and undercut rivals.

Hoeft had no immediate comment on any plans to expand beyond Auckland. He said although his company had been founded across the Tasman, Auckland was its first city and he considered it a Kiwi company.

The Auckland e-scooter trial was initially due to wrap up on January 10 but was extended until March 31.

The tiny Wave has jumpstarted its launch by licensing hardware and software from US e-scooter giant Bird, which shares signage on its scooters. Photo / Chris Keall.
The tiny Wave has jumpstarted its launch by licensing hardware and software from US e-scooter giant Bird, which shares signage on its scooters. Photo / Chris Keall.

Councilor Chris Darby, who heads Auckland Council's planning committee that will be influential in deciding the fate of the trial, was bullish about Wave's entry.

"We asked Wave to pass the stringent safety tests recently asked of Lime, and have been assured they came through with flying colours," he told the Herald this morning.

"No doubt Lime riders will be keen to climb aboard a Wave scooter, compare their ride and share views. I'm picking the only difference will be how wide the smiles are."

At the Wave launch today. Photo/Chris Keall.
At the Wave launch today. Photo/Chris Keall.

At the end of the trial, the council and Auckland Transport will discuss whether any operator should be granted a permanent mobile trading license - and if so with what conditions.

Conditions such as a speed limit in some or all areas, compulsory helmets or moving e-scooters from footpaths (where they're currently legal) to cycleways (where they're currently not) will require law changes at the national level. Twyford has indicated he's open to tweaks.

Wave e-scooters. Photo / Supplied.
Wave e-scooters. Photo / Supplied.

On March 8, ACC said it had received 1486 electric scooter claims, costing it $739,184.

Councillor Darby has raised the idea of a per-ride levy for e-scooters, which he suggests could be a multiple of 5c.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Lime co-founder and chief executive Toby Sun said he was open to the e-scooter tax - as long as it was earmarked for new and upgraded cycleways. He was also open to some of the levy going to ACC.

Lime e-scooters were recently pulled from Auckland and Zurich streets, and to a wave of bad publicity in the US, after being hit by a braking issue that caused 31 injuries locally.

After a week's absence, Limes returned to Auckland on March 1, with a new requirement to report safety issues within 48 hours.

Ellison said that similar problems have not been reported with Wave scooters.

"Wave has also assured us that its model of scooter, which is used in other countries, has had no reports of brakes locking, or any other known issues," Ellison said.

"It has also provided assurance that it will recall its fleet immediately if any malfunctions occur, until these issues are addressed."