Scooter not enough for you? You could rent an electric moped in Oakland ‘very soon’

OAKLAND — If you love zipping around Oakland on an electric scooter, but want something with a little more power, keep your eye out for sleek black and baby blue mopeds that could soon show up on the city’s streets.

Revel, a New York-based tech startup that rents Vespa-like electric motorcycles to riders through a smartphone app, has applied for a permit to bring its vehicles to Oakland.

And the city anticipates its mopeds could arrive “very soon,” said Sean Maher, a spokesman for Oakland’s Department of Public Works and Transportation.

The electric mopeds carry two passengers and have a top speed of 30 miles per hour, which means they can keep up with cars and are driven in standard traffic lanes, rather than the bike lanes where scooters are supposed to travel.

They are rented much like their scooter cousins: In New York, Revel riders use the company’s app to unlock a moped for $1, then pay 25 cents per minute to ride. Unlike scooters, which often wind up stashed in neat rows or sprawled in piles on city sidewalks, Revel’s scooters must be legally parked, like cars.

The expansion was first reported by the tech news site The Information, which reported the company is considering bringing 1,000 of its mopeds to Oakland, and obtained records showing the company is also in talks with officials in Berkeley and Alameda.

Asked about the report, Kenneth Baer, a Revel spokesman, declined to spell out more concrete plans for when the service could launch or how many vehicles it’s planning to deploy in Oakland.

“Revel works closely with city officials wherever we go, and we applied for an operating permit in Oakland after discussing with the city how our vehicles could help residents — across all neighborhoods — get around,” Baer said. “We do not have anything to announce at this time.”

Revel already operates in New York, Miami, Austin and Washington, D.C. It launched in Brooklyn before quickly expanding to other neighborhoods, according to TechCrunch. Each moped has an estimated three-year lifespan and a 50-mile range per charge.

A similar company offers rentable mopeds across the bay. Scoot, which launched in 2011, operates about 500 mopeds in San Francisco, as well as smaller standing scooters. Unlike Revel, Scoot charges $4 to unlock a scooter, but users get the first 15 minutes free. After that they pay 10 cents per minute.

According to its website, Revel requires drivers to be licensed and 21 or older. The company also requires users watch an instructional video or attend an in-person safety class before riding. The company offers free lessons for its riders.

Scoot allows one passenger at a time, but Revel lets users bring a friend for an extra $1. Both moped companies offer helmets in the scooters’ storage case for riders to use.

Oakland is likely not the only city on Revel’s sights: the company plans to be in “about 10 cities by mid-2020,” according to TechCrunch.

They would be the latest tech-backed option to get around in Oakland, where thousands of scooters — green ones from Lime, black ones from Bird, blue ones from Skip and white ones from Gruv — have become a common sight in the two years since they appeared seemingly overnight.

The scooters have prompted some complaints from pedestrians about reckless riders and careless parking. But transportation groups have praised the scooters as a form of micro-mobility that people can use instead of cars for short trips.

Leonardo Castañeda contributed to this report

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