The next time you open Lime’s smartphone app, you may see a new type of vehicle that isn’t an electric scooter. The San Francisco-based company announced today that it is integrating Wheels, a shared electric bike startup, into its app so customers can rent an e-bike from Wheels as easily as they would a scooter from Lime.
Lime plans to add more shared mobility services to its app in the coming months as it seeks to become both a provider and platform for all two-wheeled electric transport. The “ultimate goal,” a spokesperson said, is to own “all light electric vehicle trips under 5 miles.” It’s an ambitious one, especially considering that shared electric bike and scooter companies are still struggling to turn a profit as COVID-19 upends supply chains and the transportation section globally.
Wheels’ e-bikes will be available in Lime’s app starting this winter in four cities: Austin, Miami, Seattle, and Berlin. To rent a Wheels bike, Lime customers will scan the QR code on the handlebar, just as they would a scooter. Nearby vehicles will appear on the map along with pricing information automatically. Wheels vehicles will also continue to be available for use on the Wheels app.
Wheels is a Los Angeles-based startup that rents electric bikes in over a dozen cities. Its electric-powered vehicle falls somewhere in between a bike and scooter, with no pedals, a seat, small but thick wheels, and a distinctive, low-step frame. Since it was founded in 2019, the company has raised nearly $100 million in venture capital to fund the expansion of its rentable e-bike service. Its latest round was last October and was led by DBL Partners, an early investor in Tesla. The company went through a round of layoffs in February and lost its vice president for operations.
Lime said the partnership is not a prelude to an acquisition. The company says that by bringing other companies onto its app, Lime can offer convenience and reliability to its customers. The idea is to expand Lime’s user base and retain existing customers by offering more options with less app-switching. On the business side, the company says it’s not entertaining any acquisitions right now.
Wheels won’t be the first e-bikes to be featured on Lime’s app. Lime started out as a bike-share company, called LimeBike, before pivoting to scooters in 2018. That same year, Uber invested over $300 million in Lime in a deal that included integrating Lime’s scooters in Uber’s app. Earlier this year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uber sold its money-losing bike-share division, Jump, to Lime in exchange for a $170 million investment. Uber then scrapped tens of thousands of the bright-red Jump bikes; the remaining bikes began appearing on Lime’s app starting in May.