The fast-growing electronic scooter company Lime has decided to immediately remove one of the company’s brands from every city across the globe after determining the scooters could break apart while in use.
The decision to suddenly pull the scooters off the streets arrived several weeks after the company said the same model occasionally breaks apart “when subjected to repeated abuse.”
But on Friday — in response to questions from The Washington Post about the scooters breaking apart under the strains of normal riding conditions — Lime said it was “looking into reports that scooters manufactured by Okai may break and are working cooperatively with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the relevant authorities internationally to get to the bottom of this.”
The Herald is checking to see whether Auckland and Christchurch are affected by the recall.
Okai is a Chinese manufacturer that makes scooters and other products.
Nobody could be reached at an email address or a telephone number listed on its website — or at a telephone number provided by Lime.
Lime said it would decommission all Okai scooters in use across its fleets, but company officials said it was difficult to determine the precise number of scooters affected by the recall and declined to provide an estimate.
They also declined to reveal how many U.S. cities possess the devices.
Riders in cities around the US regularly report on social media that they’ve seen Lime scooters broken in half, often where the baseboard meets the stem.
“Safety is Lime’s highest priority,” the company said in a statement.
“The vast majority of Lime’s fleet is manufactured by other companies and decommissioned Okai scooters are being replaced with newer, more advanced scooters considered best in class for safety. We don’t anticipate any real service disruptions.”
The mass removal arrives several weeks after Lime acknowledged it pulled thousands of its scooters off US streets this summer after discovering a small number of them may have been carrying batteries with the potential to catch fire.
Those scooters were made by the mobility company Segway, which pushed back against Lime’s claims that a manufacturing defect made the scooters vulnerable to catching fire.
Some Lime employees, riders and other affiliated individuals say they worry the company may not have moved fast enough to address concerns about the scooters breaking apart.
A Lime independent contractor who charges the scooters overnight, known as a juicer, provided copies of emails showing he’d warned the company about the problem of scooters breaking as early as September.
The juicer, a man in his 40s named “Ted,” asked that his last name not be used for fear of retribution.
He said a few weeks after he began working for Lime in July, he began noticing cracks in the baseboards and broken Limes on the street. He estimated he found baseboard cracks in about 20 percent of the scooters he picked up to charge.
Eventually, he highlighted the issue in a lengthy Reddit post that included multiple photos of broken scooters.
In an email dated Sept. 8 addressed to Lime support, Ted warned Lime about four scooters with “cracks on the underside of the deck,” which he labeled “a systematic issue.”
He included photos and identification codes for each device. Ted also asked about his payments for recharging the devices.
A Lime employee responded to his email, but did not address the defective scooters.
“Thanks for your email and our apologies for the challenge,” the employee wrote, referencing a separate question about payment. “I have submitted your payment to Finance; please allow four to seven days for it to post. The payment will show as a ‘bonus’. We appreciate your patience and understanding.”
The message prompted Ted to respond with another plea for safety.
“I hope the Lime team takes the issue of the cracking scooter decks seriously,” he wrote.
“I have dropped off 3 scooters now at the warehouse that were cracked completely in half, and 4 more that had started to crack.
“All of them have cracked in the same location.”
“I believe this is a design flaw that is beginning to surface,” he added.
Ted said Lime never responded. Lime declined to comment on his account.
A Lime mechanic in California, who is responsible for helping service the devices, said employees at his warehouse performing day-to-day maintenance on the company’s scooters have identified scooters at risk of cracking over the past several months. This employee said managers did not aggressively follow up on those concerns.
The mechanic spoke on the condition of anonymity and did not want to identify the city where he works in fear of revealing his identity.
The mechanic — who said employees monitored how long scooters remained functional after being deployed on city streets — said cracks could develop in the baseboard within days of the devices being placed on the streets.
The mechanic provided video that shows employees performing tests in which Lime scooters break after a few small hops. Later recounting the tests on the company’s Slack messaging system, another mechanic noted to a manager that the device can snap even when the rider weighs as little as 145 pounds, according to images of the discussions provided to The Post.
“I would suggest that these are unsafe for public use,” the other mechanic wrote.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone is severely injured . . . if not here, somewhere else.”
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