The most affordable form of personal transport in Canberra?
Yes it's personal e-scooter ownership. And no, it's not even close.
So the Riot ACT recently published an article titled ‘Is it worth owning a car in Canberra?’ which opens with the excellent point that:
Owning a car involves a significant capital outlay for its purchase price – whether it be new or used – and then there are the thousands of dollars spent every year to register, insure and maintain the vehicle, all while most cars sit parked for 90 per cent of the time.
Unless you are a parent ferrying multiple children around the city, or you use your car for work, your expensive piece of capital just sits idle.
The article then sets out to compare the cost operating a car against other forms of transport (also good), but then it’s all downhill from there because the only two other forms of transport which it considers to be viable alternatives to personal car ownership are… car rideshare companies options like uber, and e-scooter hire companies Neuron and Beam. Spoiler alert, everything ends up being as expensive or more expensive than owning a car, estimated at $16,000 (car), $15,000 (e-scooter hire) or $21,000 (rideshare) per year for people not living in the inner suburbs.
I’m going to make the not so bold claim that you couldn’t have picked two more expensive alternatives to personal car ownership if you tried. Public transport, cycling, or relocation to reduce your commute and car dependence all fail to get a look in.
Which by the way, is really bad, because these alternatives are a lot cheaper than the 15,000-21,000 AUD per year in operating costs that the Riot ACT article identified. Taking from the parameters of that article, that the average Canberran travels 35kms a day that revolves around two or so big commuting trips a day, then public transport will cost you around $3,000 dollars per year.
No doubt there would also be some cyclists reading this who would also be thinking to themselves how little money it costs to cycle, particularly if you’re not fussed with getting a new or flash bike. I’d posit too that an underappreciated option is to simply move within walking distance of work and other amenities. $16,000 is more than my rental costs per year living in a newish apartment in Kingston with connections to everything.
But let’s say that we stay within the bounds of the article. Public transport isn’t on demand and doesn’t work for everyone. Cycling is physical exertion that not everybody is capable of, or necessarily wants to do every morning. Not everyone wants to be told to move homes as a solution to their transport dilemma.
So let’s just compare e-scooters to e-scooters then. Because for some reason that boggles the mind, the analysis considered the price of personal car ownership and car based rideshare, but not personal e-scooter ownership against scooter rental.
First up, the operating costs of an e-scooter are so low that they’re a rounding error. There’s no rego, no parking, no fuel costs, the things are almost completely maintenance free, and a full charge of a particularly high capacity long range commuter scooter like my Ninebot Max G30 costs less than 15 cents,1 which means in a particularly busy month my operating costs are still in the gold coin range.
So with that we move to capital costs, which is more good news. Because commuter e-scooters range from the very affordable to the absurdly affordable. If your commute is particularly short, you can pick up good low range light models like the basic Xiaomi 1S for somewhere in the $500 to $800 range (these things always seem to be on sale somewhere).
If you need some longer range or a bit more battery power due to either having a longer commute or being a bigger person then I’d recommend my own scooter, the Ninebot Max G30, which usually costs you somewhere in the $1,000-1,200 range. Segway claims you can get up to 64kms on a single charge out of this, but if you’re a largish man like me who is aggressive with the throttle you’ll get substantially less, although still enough to get you where you want to go.
Between these two options is the G30L, a lighter, cheaper, more powerful version of the G30 that trades battery capacity. You can buy it at Costco Canberra right now for $850. Actually all for all three of these scooters you can walk into a shop, walk out with a scooter, and then scoot home.
And that’s it, you’re done. They work straight out of the box, can be charged anywhere from a regular powerpoint, have app support for riding statistics, and can be folded up to be taken on public transport or put in the back of someone’s car, allowing you to essentially free style whatever mode of transport you want. I usually use the light rail for the civic to gungahlin leg of journeys for instance.
Sure there are disadvantages. You’re limited to 25kmphs (although these scooters have better performance than their heavier hire scooter cousins). Unlike hire scooters, you need to actually park them somewhere. Commuter scooters probably don’t have the longevity of cars, or high quality bikes, but then again, replacing them every few years is a very affordable ask.
And importantly, this is a fraction of the cost of regularly using e-scooter hire services. If you’re using them regularly for commuting purposes, you should probably look at getting your own.
If you’re wondering what the most cost effective form of point to point transport that doesn’t use your own muscles is, well that’s going to be an e-scooter that you own yourself. There’s no competition, which is why private scooters are becoming a more common sight around Canberra.