It was several months into the 1st lockdown, in July 2020, when the demand for socially distanced modes of transport in the towns and cities was recognised by the UK government. In response to this increasing demand, the ban on e-scooters was lifted and trials were set up to enable e-scooters to be rented to UK driving license holders.
This new mode of transport in the city and urban areas was embraced which lead to other city councils around the country looking to set up e-scooter trials for their constituents.
In September this year, the Swedish based e-scooter company Voi was handed an exclusive contract to rent e-scooters in the West Midlands of the UK. Providing a new way to travel to the 5.9 million residents across Birmingham, Coventry, Kenilworth, Sandwell (West Bromwich), Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton, and Warwickshire.
Voi have proven themselves as a reliable company in the UK as they have already been running the e-scooter and e-bike rental trials in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and Northamptonshire.
All users of Voi's e-scooters have been asked to provide feedback on their experience of using the services, and it is hoped with all the positive feedback gathered it will enable a wider roll-out of these types of services to the general public.
With other counties now having been given the green light to set up their own 12 month e-scooter trials other e-scooter startups are currently working hard to win the additional lucrative contracts across the UK before Voi do.
Although it looks like their experience will be hard to beat.
- Voi currently operates in over 45 cities across 11 countries in Europe.
- They aim for the highest safety standards operating beyond the government recommended guidelines on age limits, insurance, and rider verification.
- Following all health and safety regulations, they aim to prevent the spread of covid-19 with Shieldex copper-tape to the handlebars of the e-scooters, which kills 99.98% of coronavirus on contact and having all e-scooters disinfected every 24 hours.
Those up to the challenge include:
An Irish based startup Zipp Mobility is currently in talks with a number of councils to secure e-scooter licences.
They started on university campuses around Ireland and primarily aimed to sidestep some of the issues that other e-scooter rental companies have already faced, such as the challenges of using the gig economy, poor unit economics, and parked scooters posing a hazard for pedestrians.
In June this year, they secured €300K seed funding led by a London-based VC and private angel investors. This amongst other things has enabled them to expand their team to target the UK e-scooter market.
They fight the spread of covid-19 and other viruses by using nano-septic handlebar wraps, which they state reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by 99.98%.
A German startup, and current European micro-mobility leader TIER mobility currently operates in 84 cities in 10 countries.
Although only running in the UK in York at the moment (launched Oct 2020), in November this year they worked in partnership with the AA's DriverTech to create the first e-scooter theory test which riders will be encouraged to take.
The test will be accompanied by TIER’s Ride Safe School, a bespoke e-learning platform co-designed with AA’s DriveTech to educate people around e-scooter safety and responsible use.
Riders are incentivised to sign up to the online school - where they can complete safety modules, watch video demonstrations featuring AA President Edmund King and take the test - by being offered a free ride on one of TIER’s e-scooters.
Fred Jones, General Manager, UK and Ireland, said: “The safety of our riders and the wider community is our number one priority and we’re very proud to have introduced the most comprehensive e-scooter safety programme on the market.
Working with the AA and their DriveTech team, we have raised the standards for responsible e-scooter use while continuing to promote it as an easy, sustainable way of getting from A to B.”
And to add to this, earlier this year, TIER unveiled plans for a pan-European energy network, with battery charging and swapping stations (Swapspots) installed across cities.
Users will be able to easily swap depleted vehicle batteries for charged ones at a network of charging stations hosted by local businesses such as cafes and convenience stores.
Currently up and running in Tampere, Finland with 1000 e-scooters and 50 Swapspots, they plan to roll-out this technology across all of their operations by the end of 2021, and it is their vision that in time their charging network will not just service e-scooters, but other vehicles too.
Los Angeles, USA based Wheels markets itself as the safest and most accessible form of micro transportation. A scooter with Self Sanitising Handlebars and a seat which enables a broader demographic of individuals to use it.
Chief legal officer Todd Maron says “It takes a fair amount of time to get comfortable on a stand-up scooter because it requires balancing, it’s not something most people have done in their lives. But everyone has sat on a bike so actually sitting on a Wheels is more instinctual for people.”
It's also said you are 66 times less likely to get injuries using it than a traditional scooter.
Singapore-based Neuron Mobility, where you can find its scooters across countries such as Australia and New Zealand is also looking to startup in the UK. It would be the first European entry for the company, but it thinks it can handle the UK’s regulations following its success in Australia (one of the most regulated markets for scooters), where it is now the leading rental e-scooter company and micro-mobility technology developer one of the most regulated markets for scooters.
Their latest N3 e-scooters and EB-1 e-bikes are equipped with a range of world-first safety features and pioneering innovations.
The big cities in the UK will benefit the most from the availability of e-scooters and other forms of micro-mobility services such as e-bikes and shared bikes.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns people have seen how pleasant it is without the busy traffic where they live and work. Replacing fuelled transport with these smaller electrically-propelled vehicles will help with the fight against congestion and pollution, and help us work towards a better environment.