Founded in 2014, Niu Technologies has created a new market category – smart two-wheeled vehicles – to redefine urban mobility with its core team from BMW, Microsoft, Intel, Huawei, McKinsey, KKR Capstone, and Bain Capital whom are all committed to change urban commuting globally. Niu Technologies currently designs, manufactures and sells high-performance smart e-scooters, and it has a streamlined product portfolio consisting of three series, N, M and U, with multiple models and specifications for direct to consumer, delivery, and sharing markets.
We talked to NIU’s CEO Li Yan about the rapid growth the company has seen since it’s launch in 2015 and the future plans of the Shanghai-based e-scooter manufacturer.
Niu has come quite a long way – from the launch of the company back in 2015 to the recently completed IPO. Could you walk us through these last few years and highlight some milestones that you have reached along the way?
In just three and a half years, we’ve gone from a Chinese start-up to a NASDAQ listed global company. Our product portfolio now consists of 6 different smart electric scooters, all purpose-built for different markets which all embody our multi-award winning signature design. In 2015, we launched our first product, the N-Series, then M-Series in 2016, U-Series in 2017, and NGT, M+, and UM in 2018. Our NIU community have clocked over 1.8 billion kilometers together, which equals going to Mars thirty-three times, all achieved on two wheels. As a lifestyle brand and technology company, we are proud to call ourselves the world’s leading provider of smart urban mobility solutions.
What is your position in the markets that you address?
We are the leading provider of lithium-ion battery-powered e-scooters worldwide. In China, we are clearly the No. 1 provider in terms of market share in this segment according to the survey of China Insight Consultancy. In the European market, we are also the leading provider. We now have established relationships with 215 city partners and 642 franchised stores in China, as well as relationships with 20 distributors overseas across 25 countries. We use an omnichannel retail model, integrating the offline and online channels, to sell our products and provide services.
There are quite a few e-scooter manufacturers on the various markets, how are your scooters differing from other products available on the market – what does make them better than others?
Our e-scooters are not just electric scooters, but they are smart electric scooters. This means our scooters are connected to a cloud platform which keeps your scooter connected. The data collected is completely anonymized, but it has allowed us to continually improve our products, while enabling smart-features to improve our fans’ riding experiences. For example, all NIU scooters are equipped with anti-theft functions for both the battery and the scooter. Users will receive real-time updates if an unauthorized movement is detected by the scooter. We’ve enabled ‘Over The Air’ updates (OTA) which, just like Tesla, allows users to download patches and new software to upgrade the scooter’s performance, for example conserving the battery’s lifespan and improve the motor’s performance, all via your NIU App. In terms of power train solutions, we use lithium-ion batteries with a self-developed battery management system, while our competitors in China are still on the lead acid battery power solution. Finally, we collaborated with industry experts Bosch, Panasonic, and Vodafone to build scooters that outclass our competitors.
How many scooters have been sold? What’s the ratio of private and commercial customers?
The number of e-scooters sold reached 120, 961 in the third quarter of 2018, and accumulatively over 550,000 scooters sold globally since incorporation of the company. The vast majority of our products are sold to private customers.
As eMove360° Europe 2018 – International Trade Fair for Mobility 4.0 – electric – connected – autonomus has shown, e-scooters will play a key role in urban last mile delivery. Is this something that you specifically address?
We are not just a scooter company, but a smart mobility solutions company. We are optimistic that e-scooters will be vital as the demands for last mile delivery grow. Now we have business partners that buy our scooters in fleets for sharing businesses—this is happening in Europe. We are very happy to assist them with design modifications that can enable their businesses to flourish. We are finalizing plans for our NIU Cargo fleet system which will focus on urban last mile
delivery, and we will look for opportunities to commercialize it in the near future
Fleet managers, a large group of our trade fair visitors, frequently request management solutions to be able to monitor every vehicle of their fleet. Do you offer respective solutions or are your vehicles ready to connect with some of the solutions that are available on the market?
Great question! We’ve built a scooter specifically for sharing that makes life easier for both the customer and fleet manager. Our built-in cloud ECU, telematics, versatile API capabilities, and unrivaled security allow NIU scooters to adapt to various markets or cities for free-float scooter sharing. We have successfully supported 6 scooter sharing schemes in cities around the world including Mexico City, Madrid, Vienna, Toulouse, Antwerpen, and are piloting a number of projects. Additionally, our software is already optimized to work with the best fleet management programs in the industry.
BMW has just presented their autonomous motocycle – is this something that you are developing, too? What would be the use case?
We are continuing to develop technologies in order to make urban transport more efficient and more enjoyable. We target mass premium market with affordable products offerings. We are actively evaluating the trend of new technologies and incorporating them to our product design when we think the time is ready.
In our Charging & Energy Conference at the eMove360° Europe 2018, various types of charging have been discussed – inductive charging, conductive charging, fast charging, battery swapping. What is the most efficient way to charge your e-scooters – and what will be the technology of the future here?
We believe the future is electric, and it’s important to realize that different markets worldwide have different requirements when it comes to charging their scooters. At the moment, many cities haven’t built the necessary charging infrastructure to fully support e-scooters. We purposely designed all our scooters to have removable, portable batteries allowing users to charge their e-scooters more conveniently at home or in offices to better fit around their lifestyles.
Thank you very much for your time and the interview.