Operations: Full Time Maintenance Staff vs Part Time Chargers

10th April 2019

In this article we’ll break down the costs associated with using in-house/full time staff versus using contract/part time employees to keep a fleet charged and operational.

Initially, some of the larger scooter companies utilized contract workers, frequently called “Chargers” or “Juicers,” to maintain their fleet. These individuals worked their own hours and would collect discharged scooters on a fee basis. These fees, termed “bounties,” would vary based on a number of factors, including ease of finding the unit, location, battery level, etc.

Over time, it was determined that not all of these workers were reliable in maintaining a complex fleet of electric vehicles. While large scooter sharing companies have always maintained some full time operational staff, there has recently been more of a push toward even greater number of full time employees as the benefits vastly outweigh the upfront cost.

CHARGER MODEL

In the following section we’ll break down the costs associated with contracting Chargers.  Let’s calculate with 100% of a fleet requiring charging on any given day.

The following chart has as breakdown of the fleet into various percentages based on the bounties for charging, with a heavier weight placed on the lower end of the spectrum. This range is based on the factors detailed in the introduction section of this article.

For example, let’s assume 50% of the fleet will receive a $5.00 bounty, with only 5% of the fleet taking a $20.00 bounty.

Parameters:

Fleet Size: Fleet of 200 scooters

Bounty Range: $5-20 (some companies have since lowered their minimum to $3.00, but we’ll maintain at $5.00 for the sake of consistency[1])

$5 bounty - 50% of fleet
$10 bounty - 35% of fleet
$15 bounty - 10% of fleet
$20 bounty - 5% of fleet

Cost breakdown using bounties of weighted distribution:

Total daily cost: $500 + $700 + $300 + $200 = $1,700

This means that utilizing bounties to address your charging needs would equate to about $1,700 in daily costs for a fleet of 200 scooters. At a usage estimate of four rides per scooter/day at an average of $3.65 per ride, this would mean that 58% of gross revenue would go to paying part time Chargers.

Due to the fact that bounties increase over time, it is likely that Chargers will prioritize collecting scooters with higher bounties. For that reason, let’s compare if the split between bounties was an equal distribution:

Cost breakdown using bounties of equal distribution:

Total daily cost: $250 + $500 + $750 + $1,000 = $2,500

These figures would account for over 85% of gross revenue prior to fixed costs.

OTHER MODELS

Prospective operators may be interested in utilizing a hybrid system – a mixture of chargers and full-time staff or may use 100% full time maintenance staff. Prior to generating a breakdown of such a system, let’s define the parameters:

100% Full Time Model

Assumptions:

Hours of operation: 7:00am – 7:00pm = 12 hours
Employee Shifts: 5:00am–1:00pm and 1:00pm–9:00pm
Hourly wage: $15.00

We’ll assume that one employee is capable of handling 50 scooters per 8 hour shift. That means four employees per 8 hour shift.

200 scooters / 50 per employee = 4 employees
Total hours billed: 4 employees * 8 hours * 2 shifts = 64 daily hours
Individual daily wage: $15 * 8 hours = $120
Total daily cost: $120 * 8 employees = $960

Hybrid Model

In the following chart, costs are based on a hybrid system, with various percentages of the fleet charging being allocated to Chargers. The remainder will be assumed to be charged by the in-house staff.  For example: “75%” would indicate that three quarters of the fleet is charged by Chargers and 25% is charged by full time staff.

From a purely cost perspective, the benefit of using full-time employees is clear.  We haven’t even discussed the non-monetary issues related to using part time Chargers. Large scooter companies have seen rampant fraud with their use of Chargers, as some individuals hold scooters “hostage” in their homes to increase a bounty before redeeming it themselves. [2] Additionally, there are safety concerns related to having individuals compete with each other to charge a scooter. There have been documented issues related to Chargers being involved in fights or inadvertently starting fires. [3], [4]

Providing your operations and maintenance team with full time salaries and benefits will also surely improve morale in your company and community and in-turn increase the life-span of your fleet.

More and more of the large scooter companies are moving toward utilizing full-time staff exclusively. [5] As shared micromobility evolves and the independent/franchisee operator becomes more common, it is best for the prospective operator to get ahead of the curve and plan on utilizing their own full-time staff.

[1] https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2018/sep/24/stringers-sbird-lowers-bounty-price-3/#

[2] http://fortune.com/2018/05/20/bird-hunting-scooter-charging/).

[3] https://bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/competition-heats-up-among-people-getting-paid-to-charge-bird-scooter-batteries

[4] https://electrek.co/2018/10/31/lime-electric-scooter-fire/

[5] https://www.wired.com/story/spin-scooter-share-gig-economy-employees/