Charging e-scooters has never been a particularly lucrative side hustle. But the rates are only getting worse, in Portland and worldwide.
Most of Portland's e-scooter fleets are charged by freelancers who sign up through an app, then roam the city after dark, scooping up scooters to deliver to the company's warehouse or charge in their own home. Lime, one of the biggest companies with a fleet in Portland, refers to its chargers as "juicers."
When Lime first launched in Portland, the lowest rate was $5 per scooter, and $7 payouts were common. Now, the bottom rate for juicers has dipped to $2.
A spokesperson from Lime told WW that contractor pay in Portland ranges from $2-$6 per task, and that juicers can check rates before accepting a task.
"Lime regularly makes minor adjustments across a range of business inputs in every market we operate, all with the goal of providing our riders a reliable, affordable and convenient transportation option," the company said in a statement. "Of course, every market is different and we scale Juicer pay to reflect local conditions."
Rates for charging Bird scooters have also dropped in several cities. But Lime in particular has faced backlash for the practice. Last week, Oakland juicers called for a strike when the company dropped the base rate from $5 to $3.30.
Elsewhere, Lime has eliminated juicing all together. In Paris, the company slowly decreased the per-scooter payout from 20 to 5 euros, then announced in September that it was canceling the program. Instead, the company will use third-party companies to manage contractors, similar to Amazon's delivery model.
Despite valuations in the billions, e-scooter companies have struggled to turn a profit, and the long-term viability of companies like Lime and Bird has been questioned. Last month, Lime pulled out of 12 cities around the globe and laid off around 100 employees.
And last week, Shared, which specialized in seated scooters, announced it was withdrawing from Portland's pilot program "due to extreme difficulty in further fundraising."
Lime is one of two companies that has participated in both of Portland's e-scooter pilot programs. With its second pilot program, which began last spring and has been extended to the end of 2020, Portland Bureau of Transportation hopes to address issues that arose during the first trial, like rider safety, riding on sidewalks and illegal parking.