Every night, Max Rastelli follows his GPS up and down the hills of Halifax, scouring the city for discarded electric scooters in a sort of daily treasure hunt. Once found, the owner of HFX e-Scooters loads the devices into his van, takes them back to his shipping container on the harbour and charges them before redeploying them for the next morning’s commute.
As e-scooter companies Bird and Lime fight for a foothold in Canada’s biggest cities, Rastelli has partnered with a Chinese scooter giant to launch his own business in the Maritime city. He’s been operating a fleet of about 30 e-scooters since July 2019. The business is a pilot project with Segway—now owned by Beijing-based vehicle manufacturer Ninebot—through which the company provides Rastelli with e-scooters and manages an app to arrange rentals and process payments.
The business is small, but thriving. Rastelli said he turned a profit within four months of launching, thanks to Segway covering most of his capital costs, and he plans to double or triple his fleet this spring. “There’s money to be made,” said Rastelli. “It’s solving a problem and it’s fun as hell.” But hanging over his success is the possibility his fleet might not make it to its first full season on the roads. Neither the city nor province has passed regulations letting e-scooters in public spaces, and while Rastelli says the lack of legislation gives him a bye, his more patient prospective competitors suggest he risks being banned from the market.