Bolt, the Estonian ride-hailing and e-scooter company, has launched an electric bike-sharing service in Paris in its bid to further diversify its operations.
The company today kicked off the e-bike service with a pilot of 500 bikes in the French capital. It adds another string to Bolt’s bow of on-demand services, which includes ride-hailing, e-scooter-sharing and food delivery around Europe and Africa.
CEO Markus Villig said that adding e-bikes to the app was part of the company’s wider mission to be an all-encompassing transport service that provides alternatives to private cars.
“We see long term we want to cover all modes of these small vehicles and electric bikes are just the next phase of evolution for us,” Villig said.
Beginning with Paris, Bolt’s e-bikes will be operating in a very busy market that has seen many scooter and bike sharing companies at play in the city.
“Paris is one of the largest transportation markets in Europe and it’s a very dense city,” Villig said.
“It’s actually one where scooters are currently going through a tender where the city is going to select which three providers will get the licences. Until that process is done we want to start immediately operating with e-bikes as well.”
Bike-sharing, whether it’s regular bikes or electric, is a crowded industry in Europe with many operators big and small.
Villig added Bolt’s main selling point will be driving down prices for micro-mobility options.
“We actually see that in most cases, electric scooter rentals are more expensive than ride-hailing per kilometer, which makes no sense,” he said.
“We think in order to actually transition cities to something sustainable in terms of environment, in terms of speed and actually make it accessible for people, you need to bring the price down and that’s what we’re doing everywhere.”
In its initial Paris launch, Bolt is charging €0.10 per minute with no unlocking charge. Other providers typically charge an unlocking fee that is usually around €1 or €2 while per-minute charges can vary quite a lot city to city.
“The pricing is the most under-reported thing I’ve seen about the industry,” Villig added.
The economics of bike and scooter sharing companies have come into sharp focus in recent years.
Recently Uber’s Jump Bikes, which operated throughout Europe, has come under the ownership of e-scooter firm Lime as part of Uber’s investment in the company. Meanwhile there has been consolidation in Bird acquiring Germany’s Circ.
As cities come out of lockdown, Bolt and its competitors are betting on consumers seeking out greener transport options and micro-mobility.
Villig said Bolt is “actively investigating” the next city for its e-bikes and back in May, the Estonian company announced that it would be deploying e-scooters in 45 cities in Europe and Africa.
As the UK allows for trials of e-scooters, he said that the UK is “definitely in that list” for expansion.
Bolt raised $109 million in funding in May from Naya Capital Management amid the height of coronavirus lockdown when ride-hailing, micro-mobility and food delivery were facing an uncertain future.
A multi-pronged approach will be necessary in the post-lockdown economy, according to Villig, in order to be sustainable.
“We see that e-bikes and scooters are going to be a really important component there but that doesn’t mean that those will necessarily be a great standalone business on their own,” he said.
“We’ve actually been very cash efficient and thanks to that, quite close to breaking even over the last two years so we don’t have a necessity to raise [more] funding but we raise it so we can quickly expand into new verticals.”