Niu (小牛 in Chinese) has announced the launch of a new line of electric scooters: the U series. Short for “Ultra lite,” the U1 is designed for a broad market. Whereas the N and M series are for enthusiasts, the U series references the electric bicycles seen on many of China’s streets. The U series is set to appeal to a variety of users and, indeed, solves a big pain point for any bicycle rider: how to carry your stuff from place to place.
China has increasingly become a place for cars. For many, however, bikes and their electric counterparts are the main modes of transportation, with many not even owning a car. With no car, storage capacity becomes an important consideration when purchasing the next vehicle. U1 solves this neatly by allowing users to add on as much or as little storage racks as they like. In fact, with 30 bracket mounts and an open modular accessory system, the U1 offers a degree of customization never seen before for China’s e-scooters.
Beyond aesthetics, user problems and cool features, the U1 also solves a legal problem: compliance with China’s fragmented regulations.
“Based on national standards and the position of our own product line, we decided to design an ultra lite scooter and introduce more innovative features, so we create a platform that makes more product requirements and thinking come true,” said Token Hu, founder of Niu. “We hope everyone could enjoy the fun of science and technology urban travel.”
Sharing some similarities with federal systems (such as the US and Australia), China’s central government usually allows provinces and municipalities to determine the details when it comes to certain types of regulations. In the case of electric scooters, Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, for example, has more e-scooters than cars, but the regulations around getting registered are unclear. Shanghai, on the other hand, has strict rules that do not allow e-scooters and e-bikes into certain areas of the city. From the size and weight to the pedals and labeling, the U1 was designed to meet all national standards so that users, no matter where they live, can get properly registered and licensed.
According to Li Yan, COO of the company, they expect to sell 300,000 U1 units within 12 months of the launch.
Literally driven by data
Niu isn’t just an e-scooter company; they are also an IoT and big data company. With onboard GPS and other sensors and processors, Niu collects data about every aspect of the bike: from location and velocity to battery levels and health. At the event, Li Yan also revealed some interesting facts about Niu riders (affectionately called 牛油 in Chinese, a play on 友 meaning “friend”).
From their analysis, a Niu bike was ridden on China’s top 10 most congested road almost 14,000 times, saving each rider an estimated 6 days of travel.
He also showed how different cities have widely different paces of life.
The last 6km problem
While Mobike and ofo are duking it out for dominance over the last mile, Niu has few competitors of the same caliber in the last 6 kilometers. Certainly, there is a bevy of electric scooter makers, but many of them are specifically for the low-end Chinese market. Niu is riding the consumption upgrade trend where Chinese consumers, especially young and middle class, want higher quality products (both in use and design) and are willing to pay for it.
While the U1 is certainly targeting more than just middle-class millennials, you can be certain that many in that demographic will be buying one, if not for themselves, then for their parents or grandparents.
Similar to previous models, the U1 will come in different versions with different top speeds, battey capacities, and prices.