European Uber rival Bolt launches electric bikes in Paris

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An electric bike from Estonian ride-hailing firm Bolt in Paris, France.

Bolt

Ride-hailing app Bolt has launched an electric bicycle-sharing scheme in Paris, expanding its transport offerings even as Uber pares back its own bike and scooter ambitions.

The Estonian start-up said the bikes would be available on its platform from Wednesday. Users will need to switch from taxi-hailing to bikes within the app, and can then unlock one by scanning a QR code.

It marks a significant investment from Bolt into so-called “micromobility” services, which were hard hit after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out demand in the still-nascent industry. Bolt is betting such offerings will help it recover from the crisis after its sales plunged 75% in March.

“Our new e-bikes sharing service will also help to fulfil the demand for light, green individual modes of transport, which has seen growth due to European cities gradually coming out of COVID-19 lockdown,” said Dmitri Pivovarov, Bolt’s director of micromobility. “We believe that micromobility should be accessible and affordable, especially at times like these.”

The company has been expanding into new product segments following a rebrand in 2019 from Taxify to Bolt. The firm launched its first e-scooters in Paris back in 2018, and then rolled out a food delivery service in its home city of Tallinn in August last year.

Bolt has chosen the French capital for the maiden launch of its e-bikes but said it has plans to launch bikes in more European capitals later this year. It currently offers scooter rentals in 21 cities across Europe.

The company’s expansion into this area comes after Uber scrapped thousands of electric bikes and scooters following the sale of its Jump division to Lime in May. The company had previously said it wanted to “double down” on two-wheel vehicles in 2020 — but that was before the Covid-19 outbreak hit.

Bolt, whose investors include German automaker Daimler and Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi, was recently valued at 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion). The company claims it hasn’t had to make any layoffs to cut costs during the coronavirus crisis — unlike its Silicon Valley counterparts — however it did admit to slashing salaries by 20-30% in April and May.

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