Categories
Electric Events

Tier Launches eScooter Innovations in London

The Tier Four escooter, unveiled today in London and hopefully coming as part of an escootershare fleet nearby, soon.

Tier, the German micromobility company, launched their “Tier Four” scooter and their “Energy Network” initiative at an event today in London.

Tier is one of around 20 companies vying to run escootershares in parts of the UK as part of the DfT trials, and so are keen to demonstrate the unique aspects of their offering to the market. They already operate a fleet of around 45000 escooters in 70 cities across Europe, which gives them considerable depth of experience.

Tier’s indicator lights, at the end of each handlebar.

The Tier Four escooter contains a number of innovations including user-operated indicator lights, a user-swappable battery, a wireless phone charger, and a foldable helmet contained within a secure box in the scooter, for optional, free use by a user. The helmet includes hairnets for cleanliness between users. The scooter is also designed for safety and comfort with a wide footplate, good lights, dual brakes and 12 inch wheels which both have suspension.

The phone mount/wireless charger, speedometer and (below) the helmet container.

The Energy Network concept involves the operator installing a number of “Powerbox” charging units, containing four batteries, in local stores in a fleet area. Users can swap out their battery at these stores for a fully charged one, using their app to unlock the batteries. The challenge of course is finding a good network of stores willing to host the units and supply the power. If it works, it should cut down on regular operator journeys needed to retrieve scooters and change their batteries.

User swappable battery, mounted in a Tier scooter.

I took a good look at escooter at the launch and gave it a test ride around Potter’s Fields, by Tower Bridge. The scooter comes with a nice digital readout of the speed (topping at 20km/h in the demo area) and the phone mount means a map of exclusion zones and read-out of journey time should be straightfoward. The indicator buttons were a little hard to find but these are likely to be further refined before the Tier Four is rolled out into a publically accessible system.

Some technical notes:

  • 700Wh battery
  • 20km/h max speed (UK allows up to 25km/h)
  • 100kg max load
  • The formal model name is ES-400B

No word on a UK launch yet – talking to staff indicated that, despite the expedited trial process taking place, there are still many steps for local authorities and operators to complete before an operation launches here. But it’s a nice product and undoubtably a positive addition to potential options for urban travel. and I hope to see it in an appropriate UK setting soon.

Published in association with Zag.

Categories
Electric Events

Spin Launches UK’s First Dockless Escootershare in Milton Keynes

The UK escootershare trials are gathering speed, with the launch this weekend of Spin in Milton Keynes – the UK’s first one where journeys can end almost anywhere in the operating zone, rather than in a limited number of hubs. Ginger and Lime are to follow soon – making this a three-way competitive trial of escootershare for the first time in the UK. Ginger already have a small escootershare in Middlesbrough, and Lime already operate a (recently reopened) electric bikeshare in Milton Keynes, so Spin very much are the new kids in the UK, although they have operated various other escootershares in the world, including over 1200 currently in Washington DC.

So far Spin have deployed around 100 escooters, across much of Milton Keynes. The town is large, with a unique (in the UK) structure of 1km square communities connected by a grid of fast (typically 60mph) roads, but with an extensive but little used “redway” parallel cycle network that also joins the communities together but on more wiggly routes. Escooters in the trial can use the same facilities that cyclists can. Hopefully this will lead to a better use of this part of the town’s infrastructure – although interestingly the scooters are allowed on the grid roads too. Only the motorways and trunk roads roads (A5 and M1) are explicitly banned for scooters to go on, in the app (although this also therefore blocks some cycle paths that cross these roads). Users also cannot go in the pedestrianised shopping precient in the town centre, and can ride in, but not end, journeys in the city parks:

No word yet on the Ginger and Lime launches although I would imagine they would be pretty soon in order to not allow Spint to get too entrenched. Ginger recently announced over 15000 miles traveled on their escooters in Middlesbrough which is excellent usage levels for their 50-scooter trial there which has been running for just over a month (4o days). Assuming an average journey of 2 miles (generous – 1-1.5 miles is more typical), that suggests getting on for 200 journeys a day, or 4 per scooter per day. Anything over 2 is a good social use of the asset, and if approaching 4, then that is a good economic use of it as well (i.e. potentially viable for a purely commercial operator). This is a rough calculation, of course, and may include retrievals of the scooters by operators where users didn’t leave them in the hubs. However, with Ginger having suffered numerous operational incidents, this must have been a bit of a relief for them and also demonstrate that escootershare in the UK might well be bigger than anyone has realised. It’s going to be an interesting autumn.

LocationOperatorNumberStatusType
London’s Olympic ParkBird15SuspendedHub-based (3 hubs)
MiddlesbroughGinger50Operating, restricted hoursHub-based (3 hubs)
Milton KeynesSpin110OperatingDockless
Currently escootershares in the UK, as of 23 August 2020.

Categories
Electric Expansions

Electric Bikeshare Bicycles coming to Liverpool

It looks like Liverpool’s citybike bikeshare system will shortly be boosted with electric bikes, aka “pedal assist” or pedelecs, supplied by Freebike. Freebike is part of Homeport which was also the system supplier for the existing manual bicycle fleet there. Liverpool is a hilly city so the electric assist will no doubt be very welcome.

The Liverpool citybike system has been around since 2014 and currently has 152 bicycles across 844 docking points in 93 docking stations (another 33 stations were removed a while back after being underused – since then it has continued to expand and contract). Most dock-based systems would have approximately 45% bike/capacity ration, which suggests that Liverpool is around 228 bikes short. There have been vandalism problems in the past, and also natural attrition from regular usage and weather may be to blame. The addition of new bicycles into the fleet will doubtless go some way to plugging the gap. Photos shared by the supplier suggest at least 50 electric bikes are on their way.

There has not yet been announcement from the operator, Liverpool City Council, and so there is no pricing information for the electric bikes, information on whether they will be docked like the existing ones (Freebikes are not normally a dock-based system) or a launch date.

The council recently allocated £100,000 to citybike for “upgrading infrastructure” why may be the fund for the new bicycles themselves or infrastructure relating to them.

Categories
Electric Expansions

eScootershare Trials: August Update

[Updated 11/8: Bird Liverpool demo]

[Updated 12/8: Aylesbury and High Wycombe planned trial]

[Updated 14/8: Zipp approved]

[Updated 19/8: Lime app showing Birmingham as an area of (planned) operation?]

[Updated 26/8: Beryl approved]

It’s been over a month since rental eScooters have been legal on public roads and cycle paths in the UK. Since then, one trial has started and a number have been announced, with a number of eScootershare operators also signaling intent without naming specific cities (by joining the CoMoUK charitable organisation and/or announcing that their vehicles have been approved for use with the trials by the Department of Transport.) Already, a number of differences in the implementations are appearing. To date:

Trials Launched

  • Middlesbrough (Ginger). Part of a wider Tees Valley trial. Painted hubs. Around 50 eScooters in 3 hubs. £2/20 min. Max speed 12mph (DfT allows up to 15.5mph). Over 18s (DfT allows over 16s). Helmets advised but not mandatory. Ginger were quick out of the blocks with a system based on the Joyride platform – a slightly unfortunate name. The fleets appears to be only operational from 9am to 5pm, so not useful for people commuting. Middlesbrough is not a tourist city so one does wonder who therefore is their intended use base? As the first one, there has been a lot of media attention on any “incidents” which have included under-age users in shopping centres and users on the motorway – such locations presumably fixable with more careful geofence specification. The under-age issue is trickier – Ginger doesn’t allow under 18s – so something isn’t working quite right. Perhaps more worryingly, the fleet is already shrinking, with around 25 available. Hopefully the other 25 aren’t already at the bottom of the River Tees. Or maybe they are seeing high maintenance needs.

Trials Announced

  • Hartlepool (Ginger). Part of a Tees Valley trial, however its trial has been delayed indefinitely as Ginger work out the issues raised with the Middlesborough part of the trial. There are also potential political issues, with the local MP not enthusiastic.
  • Darlington (Ginger). Part of a Tees Valley trial. Specific launch not yet announced.
  • Cambridge (Voi). £1+20p/min. Helmets mandatory (not required by DfT rules). Of note, Voi will be rolling out pedelecs at the same time. Cambridge has already had Mobike and ofo bikeshares, both of which have closed.
  • Peterborough (Voi). This has been announced by some media however I think this is confusion over the authority name that covers the Cambridge trial above.
  • Northamption(shire) (Voi). Not yet announced except by a Business Insider article.
  • Milton Keynes (Lime). 250 escooters. Lime already have a fleet of dockless pedelecs in Milton Keynes so have “on the ground” experience of the challenges of managing self-service electric rental vehicles in a UK city.
  • Milton Keynes (Spin). MK is the first multi-operator trial.
  • Milton Keynes (Ginger). (h/t Zag)

Additional Areas Interested

Noteably, almost all these areas have had bikeshare systems that have failed in the past, often due to vandalism.

Operators Approved

All the above (presumably), plus:

Operators with CoMo Membership

All the above, plus:

  • Augment
  • Bird (who until recently had a small private-land-only trial in London’s Olympic Park, and are in talks for the Liverpool tender.
  • Helbiz
  • Hive (part of the Free Now taxi platform)
  • Moo
  • Neuron
  • Tier
  • Wheels
  • Zwings “Already working with 3 councils for either e-bike or e-scooter trials”

Operators Interested

All the above, plus:

  • Knot
  • Ride Gotcha

N.B. Some operators may be planning long-term rental schemes, rather than escootershare systems.