MAY 17, 2019
Cities need help with congestion: Usain Bolt on electric scooter firm
- The way people move around urban areas is changing in a number of ways, with services such as Uber and Lyft and bike sharing schemes becoming increasingly popular.
- The vehicle unveiled by Usain Bolt has a swappable battery and seats one passenger in the front and one in the back.
PARIS, FRANCE – Usain Bolt’s Mobility company has launched a two-seater, all-electric and zero-emission vehicle.
Dubbed the Bolt Nano, it was unveiled at the VivaTech conference in Paris Thursday. Whilst detailed information about the vehicle has yet to be revealed, prices start at $9,999, with deliveries starting in 2020.
Those interested in the Bolt Nano can put down a refundable deposit of $999 to reserve a vehicle, which has a swappable battery and seats one passenger in the front and one in the back. The vehicles are small enough for four to fit into one parking space.
The launch of the Bolt Nano comes in the same week that the firm announced it was rolling out its e-scooter offering in Paris. Users of the scooter service locate their vehicles via an app, paying for their ride through an account with the company. In the U.S., it costs $1 to unlock a vehicle and then 15 cents per minute.
Speaking to CNBC’s Karen Tso Thursday, Bolt said that, having retired from sport, he was entering a new chapter of his life. “Through traveling, through my times as a track athlete, I’ve learned that the cities around the world need help with congestion,” he said.
Bolt, one of the most successful and iconic athletes of all time, is a co-founder of the business. The firm says its aim is to cut congestion and people’s reliance on “personal vehicles” by partnering with city governments to “weave transportation alternatives into the fabric of urban environments.”
Sarah Haynes is also co-founder of the firm. She told CNBC that there was a “big, big appetite for finding solutions for transportation issues.”
“The cities that we have today are the same ones that have been there for centuries, and they’re not made for this many cars,” she explained, going on to add that the firm was “looking at a fleet of transportation solutions that are electric. Our designs with our scooters are all customized so we can recycle every single part, including the batteries.”
The way people move around urban areas is changing, with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft now offered in major cities across the world. Well established cycle-share schemes are also available in capitals such as London and Paris.
In the electric scooter market, Usain Bolt’s venture is one of many looking to tap in to the shared transport sector. Firms such as Bird, Lime, and Bolt – formerly known as Taxify – also offer users a platform that allows them to locate and hire electric scooters using their smartphone.
Whether electric scooters take off and become a popular mode of transport for urban commuters remains to be seen. Regulatory hurdles pose a significant challenge to their mass adoption.
In the U.K., for example, e-scooters are considered to be “powered transporters.” This means that, currently, they are defined as being “motor vehicles” and it is illegal to use them on a public road without complying with several requirements, which in practice is difficult. Use of powered transporters on U.K. pavements and cycle lanes is also prohibited.
Change is afoot, however. In March 2019, the government announced what it described as “the biggest review into transport in a generation.” The review will look at regulations surrounding vehicles such as e-scooters and e-cargo bike trailers and will explore modernizing old laws that date back to the 1800s.