E-mobility

E-scooters and more: what does micro-mobility really cost?

INFORMATION
| By Andrea Auer |
Source: iStock.com / PatriciaEnciso

A profusion of providers, prices and billing and rental systems: the sharing landscape for bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters is not exactly transparent. Comparis has analyzed the options available in the ten largest Swiss cities based on two trip types.

What are the different types of rental systems?

Pedal bike, e-bike and e-scooter companies offer three different types of rental system. The following table provides an overview: Rental systems of shared mobility providers

System

Description

How do I find my vehicle?

Company

Station-based round-trip

Vehicle must be returned to the same station from which it was rented.

Online or by app

Scoobox

Station-based one-way

Vehicle must be collected at one station but can be returned to another.

Online or by app

Publibike, Nextbike, Velospot, Genèveroule

Free-floating

Vehicle can be rented from and returned to any location.

By app

Bird, Circ, Tier, Pick-e-Bike, Smide, Voi

Providers of fast e-bikes (up to 35 km/h) and e-scooters tend to use the free-floating system. Only Scoobox in Basel (e-scooter) requires you to return the scooter to the station where you collected it. This company is therefore only suitable for round trips. Traditional bicycles are usually also rented out using the station-based system. However, they can be hired from and returned to different stations.

Our tip: at first glance, the free-floating system may seem more flexible. However, there are other aspects to consider when comparing it with the station-based system. Certain companies may not have many vehicles in your city, so you could end up spending more time looking for a scooter or bike. Before registering, think about whether you have noticed a sufficient number of vehicles from this company in your city.

Electric scooters: how much do providers charge?

Five providers of electric scooter are currently operating to varying degrees in the cities of Basel, St. Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich. For a 7-minute trip (approx. 1.5 kilometres), Voi charges 2.75 francs. Tier and Circ charge 3.45 francs for this trip length – 70 centimes more than the cheapest company. Bird customers pay the most, having to shell out 4.15 francs. The following table shows the basic tariffs and prices for two trip types.

Overview of prices charged by e-scooter companies in Swiss cities

Company

Rental system

Basic tariff

Short trip price *

Medium trip price **

Monthly subscription

Annual subscription

City

Bird

Free-floating

CHF 1 to unlock
+ CHF 0.45 / per min. or part min.

CHF 2.80

CHF 4.15

No

No

Winterthur, Zurich


Tier

Free-floating

CHF 1 to unlock
+ CHF 0.35 / per completed min.

CHF 2.40

CHF 3.45

No

No

Basel, Winterthur, Zurich

Circ

Free-floating

CHF 1 to unlock

+ CHF 0.35 / min.

CHF 2.40

CHF 3.45

No

No

Basel, Winterthur, Zurich

Voi

Free-floating

CHF 1 to unlock
+ CHF 0.25 / min.

CHF 2.00

CHF 2.75

No

No

Winterthur, St. Gallen

Scoobox

Station-based round-trip:

CHF 3.00 / 30 min.

CHF 3.00

CHF 3.00

No

No

Basel

If you are a frequent e-scooter rider, it may be worth buying a machine of your own.

Compare e-scooter prices now

What billing models do e-scooter companies use?

The billing models used vary as much as the prices. With e-scooter company Tier, you pay for every completed minute. Bird, on the other hand, charges you the full minute rate for every minute or part thereof.

This means that a trip lasting exactly four minutes will cost 2.80 francs with Bird. If it takes one second longer, you’ll have to pay 3.25 francs. Meanwhile, Tier charges 2.40 francs for a journey time of up to 4 minutes 59 seconds. With Circ and Voi, you pay for the actual duration of the rental. Yet another model is used by Scoobox, a station-based e-scooter company operating in Basel. Scoobox charges 3 francs for 30 minutes.

Important: if you rent from Bird, the most expensive provider, you must upload a balance of at least 10 francs to the app beforehand. The other companies just require you to register your credit card then off you go. The amount owed is charged directly to your card at the end of the ride.

How much does it cost to rent an e-bike?

E-bikes are available in five of the ten largest cities in Switzerland: Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lugano and Zurich. If you go for a “fast” e-bike with a maximum speed of 35 kilometres per hour with pedal assist, you’ll usually get a good deal. Smide and Pick-e-Bike charge 1.75 francs for a 7-minute journey.

Publibike also offers electric bicycles, but with a maximum speed of 25 kilometres an hour (including pedal assist), these bikes give you a slower ride. What’s more, a medium trip on an electric Publibike will set you back 4.5 francs, making it slightly more expensive than its competitors. It's only worth switching from a “fast” e-bike to to a Publibike vehicle for longer journeys – more than 18 minutes.

Overview of prices charged by e-bike companies in Swiss cities

Company

Rental system

Basic tariff

Short trip price *

Medium trip price **

Monthly subscription

Annual subscription

City

Smide

Free-floating

CHF 0.25 / min.

CHF 1.00

CHF 1.75

Yes

Yes

Bern, Zurich

Publibike e-bike

Station-based one-way

CHF 4.50 / 30 min.
(from 31st min.
+ CHF 0.10 / min.)

CHF 4.50

CHF 4.50

Yes
Yes

Bern, Lausanne, Lugano, Zurich

Pick-e-Bike

Free-floating

CHF 0.25 / min

CHF 1.00

CHF 1.75

No

No

Basel

How much does it cost to rent a pedal bike?

The different cities offer equally different bike sharing options. While Publibike operates in Bern, Lausanne, Lugano and Zurich, you can rent Nextbike bicycles in Lucerne, and Velospot bicycles are available in Biel and Geneva. A new option in Geneva is the app-based rental system from Genèveroule, which is available between April and October.

With Publibike, you pay 3 francs for the first 30 minutes if you don't have a subscription. From the 31st minute, you are charged 5 centimes per minute. Nextbike bills by the hour. Users without a subscription pay 2 francs per hour. In Lucerne, the Nextbike service is available to residents of the city free of charge.

Genèveroule (service provided via the Donkey Republic app) rents bikes to all customers for a period of four hours free of charge. However, with only 11 stations, flexibility in getting from A to B is somewhat limited. Velospot doesn't currently offer any hourly rates, just day passes for 10 francs, which makes it an expensive choice for short trips. The following table provides an overview of prices and systems:

Cost of bicycle hire in Swiss cities

Company Rental system Basic tariff Short trip price * Medium trip price ** Monthly subscription Annual subscription City
Publibike bicycle
Station-based one-way
CHF 3.00 / 30 min (+ CHF 0.05 / min)
CHF 3.00
CHF 3.00
Yes
Yes
Bern, Lausanne, Lugano, Zurich
Nextbike
Station-based one-way
CHF 2.00 / hour
CHF 2.00
CHF 2.00
No
Yes
Lucerne
Velospot
Station-based one-way
CHF 10 / 24h
CHF 10.00
CHF 10.00
No
Yes
Biel, Geneva
Genèveroule (Donkey Republic)
Station-based one-way
Free (from +4h CHF 2 / hour)
Free
Free
No
No
Geneva

When is it worth buying a subscription?

Some bicycle and e-bike providers offer monthly and/or annual subscriptions for their customers. Exceptions are Pick-e-Bike in Basel and Genèveroule in Geneva. A monthly subscription (CHF 9) for a Publibike city bike is worth taking out if you make as few as three journeys per month, while the annual subscription (CHF 60) pays off for 20 journeys or more per year. A monthly subscription (CHF 29) for a Publibike e-bike is worth taking out if you make seven journeys per month, while the annual subscription (CHF 290) pays off for 65 journeys or more per year.

Nextbike's pricing concept is somewhat more complex. An annual subscription costs 50 francs per year and includes two rentals per day for 60 minutes each. This means that a Nextbike annual subscription is worth your while after a minimum of 13 days up to a maximum of 26 days, depending on usage. The former figure applies to two rentals per day, the latter to one.

For e-bike provider Smide, our calculations show that if the vehicle is used on a daily basis, a 44-franc monthly subscription pays off after a journey time of just one and a half minutes or so. If you do not use the e-bike every day and only to travel to work and back, for example, a monthly subscription makes sense from 10 minutes per day (for 18 working days per month).

There are currently no subscriptions available for e-scooters.

Our tip for those who like life in the fast lane: as a Smide subscriber, you can unlock a maximum speed of 45 kilometres per hour. Just don’t forget to wear a helmet! This is in fact compulsory if you are travelling at a speed of over 25 kilometres per hour.

* typical short trip 700m or 4 min. journey time; ** medium trip 1500m or 7 min. journey time. Analysis dated: August 2019