- Mobility company Lime is shuttering its car-sharing program, LimePod, as first reported by GeekWire. The service only operated in Seattle, where it launched last November.
- Lime is reportedly shuttering the program because it struggled to find a partner to help convert the LimePod fleet to electric vehicles. The program will stop accepting new users next month and will completely fold by Dec. 31.
- LimePod is the second car-sharing service in Seattle to shutter this year, following ReachNow's closure in July.
To shut down a high-profile, large-scale pilot program — which the company reportedly said was gaining momentum with users — in less than a year of operation is a fairly unexpected move.
While a Lime spokesperson told GeekWire the lack of an electric fleet partner is the reason for shutting down the program, it is still rather curious. Such programs generally take a year or more to gain real traction and turn a profit.
Lime's bike-sharing program in Seattle does not appear to be in danger despite the LimePod news, however. Lime will also likely apply to operate scooters in Seattle when the city's anticipated pilot launches next year.
There's some speculation that the company wanted to end its experimental project early to focus on this core business, especially as the scooter pilot gets closer to reality. Lime is among the mobility companies that launched in many markets quickly but quietly shifted from less promising ventures, such as bike-sharing, to the popular mobility mode of scooter-sharing, so a shift from car-sharing to scooter-sharing wouldn't be out of the question.
Car-sharing can be a capital-intensive, competitive and difficult venture. Investment in the vehicles alone is challenging, while maintenance, liability and fuel add to the financial pressure. Thus far, it's unclear what will happen to the fleet of LimePod vehicles after the car-sharing program officially ends.
Beyond the business model, difficulties could lie in the test market. Seattle frequently is viewed as a favorable testbed for new and emerging mobility concepts, but Seattle leaders are increasingly pushing citizens to be environmentally conscious and reduce vehicle trips, perhaps making a car-centric program less desirable than it would be in other markets.
Seattle's original bike-share program also failed. But after tweaking the program, subsequent iterations such as dockless programs have fared better. Lime has not released any statements denouncing car-sharing or declaring itself permanently out of that business. The company could choose to reopen the door in the future, whether that's in Seattle or other cities.