Uber sends thousands of electric bikes and scooters to the scrapheap after Lime deal

Key Points
  • Footage of the red Jump bikes being scrapped at a North Carolina recycling plant emerged on social media. 
  • Bike enthusiasts said it was "hard to watch" and suggested that Uber could have donated them to charities.
  • Uber sold its Jump division to mobility start-up Lime earlier this month but Lime did not want the older vehicles. 
Uber's electric rental bikes in Rome, Italy.
Gennaro Leonardi | Pacific Press | LightRocket via Getty Images

Uber is scrapping thousands of electric bikes and scooters worth millions of dollars after selling its Jump unit to mobility start-up Lime earlier this month. 

The firm said it decided to "recycle" the older models that Lime didn't want after concluding that it would be too complicated to give them away due to the maintenance and technical support that they need. 

Footage of the distinctive red Jump e-bikes being destroyed at a North Carolina recycling center was shared on social media on Wednesday by user Cris Moffitt, angering bike enthusiasts around the world.

Emily Eros, who recently salvaged an old bike of her own, said on Twitter that the footage was "hard to watch."

Companies which offer e-bike and e-scooter sharing — including Uber — have talked up their green credentials, saying their fleets are more environmentally friendly. This escapade, however, is likely to undermine those claims, especially as it comes at a time when the world is more reliant than ever on alternative forms of transport. 

Uber acquired Jump for around $200 million in April 2018 and in December it promised to double down on its investment in electric bikes and scooters in 2020.

Earlier this month, Uber led a $170 million investment into Lime. Under the deal, Uber is transferring the Jump division to Lime.

Uber was keen to point out that while many bikes and scooters are being scrapped, "tens of thousands" of newer models are in the process of being transferred to Lime. 

"As part of our recent deal, Lime took possession of tens of thousands of new model Jump bikes and scooters," an Uber spokesperson said.

"We explored donating the remaining, older-model bikes, but given many significant issues — including maintenance, liability, safety concerns, and a lack of consumer-grade charging equipment — we decided the best approach was to responsibly recycle them."

A Lime spokesperson said: "As part of the Jump acquisition, we took possession of tens of thousands of e-bikes — including the spare parts and tools to fix them — and have already begun to deploy them.

"We have not recycled any of the Jump e-bikes in our fleet and are committed to scaling and operating them during this critical time. Once the transaction officially closes, we plan to work with Uber to find sustainable ways to donate and re-use any remaining e-bikes in their inventory."

Jump e-bikes and e-scooters in Europe are not affected as the deal between Uber and Lime is yet to close on the continent.