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How Lime leveraged sustainability to achieve profitability

Many doubted there was a path to profitability for shared micromobility. However, we are where we are today because of our focus on sustainability, not despite it.

Andrew Savage, Head of Sustainability at Lime, authored this post

When we achieved a fully profitable year in 2022 with $466M in annual revenue and 33 percent annual growth, it wasn’t just a major milestone for our young company. It was a validation that our sustainability agenda is good for business.

Central to Lime’s mission is enabling a carbon-free future of transportation. Moving people around a decarbonized world is critical if we’re going to prevent the worst of climate change. And we believe micromobility can lead the transportation sector toward net zero mobility – grounded in part by the extreme efficiency of using a light vehicle paired with a small electric motor to help a person move from A to B.

Tied to our ambitious goal, we have long agreed internally we wouldn’t have an enduring sustainability impact without achieving long-term financial sustainability. We needed to exist to have an impact.

An all EV operations fleet in Austin, Texas

Until now, many doubted there was a path to profitability for shared micromobility. This is an industry where legacy bike operators initially required annual government subsidies to exist. Later, abundant venture capital fueled the sector, including our own hyper-growth. And on the environmental front, when our early vehicles lasted only a few months, many also doubted there was a path to sustainability for shared e-scooters and e-bikes.

Last year we alleviated both doubts. In fact, we are where we are today because of our focus on sustainability, not despite it.

Several core sustainability initiatives significantly improved our profits:

  • We invested in longer-lasting vehicles with modular parts. We developed an in-house engineering team that designs custom vehicles to withstand the rigors of the sharing economy. They've developed modular vehicles prioritizing repair, reuse, and longevity, driving our vehicle life span from a few months in early 2018 to over five years and 25,000km+ today.
  • We modified our fleet and operations to swap batteries on the street. Rather than deploying fleets of vans and trucks to retrieve and recharge e-scooters or e-bikes, we introduced swappable batteries. In a single trip, we can quickly replace a vehicle's depleted battery with a fully charged one, enabling the use of smaller operations vehicles and cutting our operations travel by more than 50 percent.
  • We introduced larger batteries that travel farther on a single charge. Lime recently introduced a battery that is twice the size of our previous batteries, enabling longer range, half the operational requirements, and more up-time for our riders so they can avoid higher emitting car trips and other polluting forms of transportation.
  • We searched for efficiencies across the business. In the face of higher transportation costs last year, we redesigned how we ship vehicles from our manufacturer to markets. Now twice the number of Lime vehicles fit on a single pallet, cutting logistics impacts and costs in half. Additionally, reducing the speed at which the status light flashes on our vehicles saves 6.6% in energy consumption while reducing battery swaps. And our operations team's aggressive shift to electric vans reduces the total cost of ownership while cutting emissions.
Lime's operations team repairing vehicles in Madrid, Spain

As a result of our sustained efforts, in just two years, from 2019 to 2021, we reduced the carbon impact of our rides by 58%. Tied to that improvement, a recent report by Fraunhofer ISI, a leading German research institute, found our e-scooter service has an average net impact savings of 26.4g of carbon dioxide for each kilometer ridden, and our e-bikes save 10.3g per kilometer when accounting for the entire life cycle impacts of our service and the alternative modes of travel our riders would have otherwise take.

While we have a long way to go to reach our ambitious mission and aggressive carbon goals, we've shown financial and environmental sustainability go hand-in-hand in our path toward enduring climate impact.

Andrew Savage was on Lime's founding team and is the company's vice president of sustainability.

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