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Meet the scooter winning the "scooter wars"

The Xiaomi Mi scooter. Photo: Xiaomi.

The "scooter wars” are raging in San Francisco (and other cities), but one scooter is emerging victorious: the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter, used by several of the startups.

Why it matters: For now, these scooter companies have found a reliable vehicle in the Xiaomi product — but as this war heats up, they may find that designing and manufacturing their own scooters will help differentiate them.

Though it sports the Xiaomi brand, the Mi electric scooter is actually designed by Ninebot, which was founded in 2012 in Beijing by Wang Ye and Lufeng Gao.

The Segway connection: In 2015, the same year Ninebot raised $80 million from investors like Sequoia China and Xiaomi, among others, it also merged with Segway—yes, that Segway company. Which means Segway just might become part of the future of transportation after all.

  • The prior year, Ninebot was one of the companies Segway sued for patent infringement. Since then, the two companies have kept their individual brands while also sharing resources. Ninebot has also worked closely with Xiaomi on certain projects, including the Mi scooter.
  • Ye was inspired by the popularity of electric scooters he observed in Southern Europe in 2011, according to a Xiaomi blog post.

The Xiaomi Mi scooter was created for personal use, but it’s quickly become the model of choice for a number of electric scooter-sharing startups.

  • The list of companies using the Mi includes Spin, Blue Ducks and Bird. (Although Bird won't confirm its use of the Xiaomi scooter, sources outside the company have identified the vehicle.) All these companies have customized their scooters, adding GPS-enabled tracking devices and integrating their own mobile apps, among other tweaks. LimeBike has designed its own scooter, while Waybots uses a scooter by Minimotors.
  • "The fact that scooter-sharing companies consider it ideal for their use case and have purchased it for that purpose is testament to the quality of Mi Electric Scooter,” a Xiaomi spokesperson told Axios.
  • "We wanted to make sure we had the best possible riding machine," Spin co-founder and president Euwyn Poon said in a statement to Axios. "Xiaomi is one of the best manufacturers in the world and they've spent over a decade developing electric mobility devices, so we knew they'd be a good partner for us."
  • The scooter was first unveiled in late 2016, and the company has released at least one other version in addition to the classic Mi model.
  • The Mi weighs 27 lbs., can go about 18.6 miles on a single battery charge, and supports up to 220 lbs. payload. It can also be tracked via Bluetooth using Xiaomi's Mi app.
  • In the U.S., Amazon is the official seller of the Xiaomi Mi scooter, and it retails for $499.

Bottom line: Some of these startups are considering designing and manufacturing their own hardware, but for the time being, Xiaomi's Mi scooter is helping them get in the game fast.