With Europe now being the epicentre of coronavirus cases, the lives of people living here and also in the UK has come to a halt. Majority of the population is self-isolating, people are working from home, the once-bustling city centres now look like ghost towns, whether it’s Italy, Spain, France, or Great Britain. And social distancing has now become the new cool.
In these strange times, urban transportation companies are suffering a lot. While the ride-hailing apps like Uber and Bolt are facing a huge impact, one more category which has been taken by a blow is the e-scooters companies.
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Uber-backed e-scooter tech company Lime has already started winding down and pausing their services temporarily in several European cities to reflect public health guidance. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
On their blog post, they posted a message saying, “The COVID-19 virus is an unprecedented challenge faced by cities and communities around the world. Like you, we are worried about the cities we love and call home, the people we serve, and our colleagues on the ground. Loving cities means protecting them too. For now, we’re pausing Lime service to help people stay put and stay safe.”
The California-based Lime is not the only e-scooter rental service provider in Europe, which has shut down its services temporarily. Another US-based e-scooter company Bird has also announced to withdraw its services in the EU and UK temporarily.
Bird EMEA spokesperson informed Silicon Canals, “We have also decided to pause our service in Europe.”
Their founder and CEO, Travis VanderZanden said in an official press statement, “The COVID-19 pandemic is undeniably affecting countless lives on a global scale. Our decision to temporarily pause our service in Europe is very fluid as the response to and recommendations regarding COVID-19 evolves. It is in line with voluntary, as well as mandatory measures set by local governments for businesses. We will continue our close dialogue with local officials in each of the cities we provide our service and will again offer our safe, clean transportation alternative as soon as possible. Until then, we wish everyone an abundance of health and well being.”
While US companies like Lime and Bird called the decision to pause the operations of their e-scooter fleets, what about the European e-scooter companies? What steps are they taking to reduce the risk of spreading the virus? Or to meet the challenges related to the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for answers, we reached out and spoke to some of the hottest e-scooter rental companies in the continent right now, including — felyx, Step Mobility, Voi, Tier and Wind Mobility.
Helping the restaurants deliver!
Quinten Selhorst, CEO & co-founder at felyx says, “Firstly, within felyx we pay a lot of attention to hygiene and safety. For example, all e-scooters that drive at 45 km/h are equipped with hair nets that can be worn underneath the helmet. Also, both the e-scooter and the helmets are regularly cleaned and disinfected. We also encourage our customers to drive with hand gloves and touch the e-scooters as little as possible with their bare hands.”
“Secondly, now we have launched our felyx delivery accounts for catering establishments that have been affected by COVID-19. We made a large part of our 1,300 e-scooters available to the small business owners, who are currently suffering from the coronavirus crisis.”
“Normally our e-scooters cannot be used commercially, but we have found a quick solution to make an exception. Restaurants and stores that normally don’t deliver at homes can now use felyx e-scooters at a significantly reduced rate so that they can continue their business. In this way, the costs are limited for entrepreneurs (per delivery about €2.50 with the first 10 km free). felyx hopes to be able to help small entrepreneurs during these rough times.”
The Dutch electric scooter startup offers shared electric scooters on a ride basis for €0.30 per minute. With the app, users can find all the e-scooters in the area and make a reservation. Founded in 2016 by Maarten Poot and Quinten Selhorst, the Amsterdam-based startup has secured €3.4 million funding in 2018 and around €10 million in 2019.
Stockholm-based e-scooter startup Voi Technology is also helping alleviate the significant pressure on the restaurant industry since the past few weeks. Especially those who are losing bookings while struggling to keep up with the increased demand for home deliveries.
On the company blog, they said, “Over the last week, we have set up collaborations with local restaurants in several Nordic cities – such as Broms in Stockholm and Munchies in Oslo – where restaurant workers are using Voi scooters to deliver food to people’s homes.”
Kristina Nilsson, VP Communications, VOI, says, “E-scooters are being used in Stockholm, Oslo and Finland to deliver food from restaurants and get shopping to the elderly. We want to help wherever we can.”
Putting the vehicles nears hospitals & supermarkets
Furthermore, Voi Technology is also helping riders by placing their vehicles near hospitals and supermarkets.
Kristina Nilsson confirms, “In some cities in Europe, public transport is not available, and yet some professions have to get to their place of work, particularly those in healthcare or who work in small stores. For that reason, we are trying to keep our fleet near hospitals and in places of high demand. With anxieties about the possible spread of coronavirus on public transport, we understand that for many people, taking a VOI scooter is a practical and affordable supplement, so we want to reassure riders that we are taking extra measures to keep them safe.”
On asking whether they’re still operating in all the cities, Kristina Nilsson says, “As a European business, Voi is seeing a huge impact from the outbreak of coronavirus. We have regrettably been forced to pause our operations in the majority of our cities, only keeping open a handful of our largest cities. The cities where we will continue to operate are: in the Nordics: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Oslo. In Germany: Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremberg and Munich.”
The European cities where Voi has suspended its services are:
Aalborg, Aachen, Aarhus, Augsburg, Bremen, Bordeaux, Düsseldorf, Erlage, Fürth (outside Nüremburg) Frankfurt, Helsingborg, Karlsruhe, Linz, Lübeck, Lyon, Malmö, Marseille, Moviepark (50 km north of Düsseldorf), Odense, Paris, Pesaro, St. Gallen, Stuttgart, Tampere, Turku, Uppsala, Vejle, Västerås, Winterthur and Örebro.
“We are following WHO and country-specific recommendations and are monitoring these closely. We do not operate in any of the present high-risk zones and will not allow employees to travel to any of the high risk areas until the WHO deems them safe. All our warehouse and service fleet staff are following the WHO guidelines for basic protective measures. We are also advising riders to undertake additional safety precautions such as using alcohol-based hand sanitisers and greeting fellow riders with a smile instead of a handshake.”
Voi technology is a Scandinavian green mobility company, offers an e-scooter sharing service in partnership with cities and local communities. Recently, the Swedish e-scooter operator raised $85 million (€77 million) funding. So far, Voi has raised €154 million in total since 2018.
Another European e-scooter startup from Berlin, Wind Mobility is also doing its bit by helping healthcare and grocery shop workers, they’ve also removed the unlocking fee for them.
Founded by Eric Wang in 2017, with a total score of €65 million funding so far, Wind Mobility specialises in e-scooters and e-bike rentals and lets users unlock, park and pay for the dockless scooters via its app.
Providing private monthly rentals instead of ride-sharing
Another Dutch e-scooter startup which has headquarters in Belgium comes with a completely different approach.
Founded by Evrim Taskiran in 2019, STEP Mobility provides a long-term leasing solution of e-scooters to its riders and believes that they have nothing to worry about.
The founder says, “To begin with, it’s important to highlight that STEP is different from the larger shared-scooter firms such as Lime, Dott and others. We offer a long-term leasing solution, hence customers receive their personal electric scooter delivered to their door for a monthly fixed price. It is similar to car operational leasing, yet for e-scooters and with no commitments regarding the duration. Therefore, e-scooters are much more personalised and not shared with others, which drastically reduces the number of contacts – hence limits the risk of getting infected by the virus. The service is currently available only in Belgium, which got into a lockdown mode as of today.”
On asking, how is their business performing going on during the pandemic? Evrim Taskiran says, “So far, we have not observed an extraordinary change in our business (with respect to the number of cancellations) caused by the lockdown. On the contrary new subscribers often want a transition from public transport options to STEP. Today after a long internal discussion, we decided to continue our operations, however by grouping all deliveries to a single day a week to limit the number of touchpoints – in contrast to our more frequent response. We also inform our customers that we will try to avoid physical contact as much as possible during a delivery or repair. The personal instructions we provide during deliveries will soon be replaced by a video in 3 languages to shorten the interaction. Each device is cleaned using disinfectants before delivery and upon return, in order to protect both our customers and staff.”
“75% of our customers use their electric kick-scooter to commute to work and we want to make sure that we do not let them down, especially during these tough times.”
Keeping it clean and educating the riders
While everyone has to follow advice from local health authorities to stay home, and avoid public places as much as possible, some people still need to get to work. To help them in travelling, some European e-scooter companies are still operating, but they’re making sure to take some extra steps.
Wind Mobility, Amsterdam-founded dott and Berlin-based Tier Mobility (with reduced fleet in) all are educating their riders to take necessary precautions while riding — like using sanitiser and keeping physical distance and at the same time they’re also taking extra precautionary measures to ramp up their cleaning and disinfecting process for every vehicle.
Tier Mobility was founded in 2016 by Lawrence Leuschner to change urban commuting with its e-scooter rentals. The German company has raised €118 million funding so far. Whereas, dott was founded in Amsterdam in 2018. It is a ready to ride e-scooter company which has raised €50 million funding so far and is operational in Brussels, Paris, Lyon, Munich the Turin.
Opportunity for e-scooter rental companies
Kristina Nilsson, VP Communications, VOI, has a very positive vision for the whole scenario and believes e-scooters can play a crucial role in these times of crisis. She says, “Within the space of a few weeks, the entire world looks very different, but we believe that e-scooters can play an outstanding role in providing a new form of transport has been underlined. As the world changes, it shows how we can take even very bold steps like riding our city centres and capital cities of cars.”
“Looking ahead, we do not know where all of this will take us, but e-scooters have the potential to be transformational, ease the pressure on a strained transport system and reduce alarming air and CO2 pollution rates. That is why we believe e-scooters have a vital role to play in the future of inner-city transport and we think that the current situation, which is quite extraordinary, will only underline this.”
UPDATE: Also, Dott’s spokesperson informed us, “We’ve been maintaining our services in all our cities (Paris, Lyon, Brussels, Turin, Munich, Cologne, Augsburg, Bonn, Düsseldorf). In agreement with local authorities. – Of course, we see an important decrease of usage, but usage is till there. Healthcare professionals and authorities are encouraging us to maintain this mobility solution for people who have to move around. – We’re supporting healthcare and supermarkets staff as much as we can by offering free use of our service to all medical staff like Hôpital CHU Saint Pierre (Brussels), AP-HP (Paris), Pharmercure (Turin), elderly charity org Corona Prävention (Augsburg) and many others.
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