Tech: The scooter war explodes in Europe as Taxify brings dockless scooters to Paris

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Taxify's Bolt scooters in Paris.

Taxify, the European rival to Uber, is expanding into dockless scooters and launching them in Paris under the new 'Bolt' brand. It marks the explosion of the scooter war in the French capital, where US startups Bird and Lime have already started to operate.

  • Taxify, the European rival to Uber, is expanding into dockless scooters and launching them in Paris under the new Bolt brand.
  • It marks an explosion of the scooter war in the French capital, where US startups Bird and Lime have already started to operate.
  • Scooter startups are currently barred from operating in London, where electric scooters are illegal.
  • Taxify CEO Markus Villig echoed rivals in saying that scooters made more sense for short city trips than cars.

There's a new front in the dockless scooter war.

European ride-hailing firm Taxify is to launch electric scooters for hire in Paris this week, expanding beyond private hire cabs for the first time and jumping on a major Silicon Valley bandwagon.

The company will roll out a fleet of dockless scooters in the French capital this week under the new brand name of Bolt. Passengers will be able to see Bolt scooters available for hire around the city through Taxify's main app, and hire them for €0.15 a minute, with a minimum fare of €1.

The scooters will come with inbuilt GPS, and passengers will be able to "unlock" them by scanning a QR code on the vehicles. Taxify said it would collect scooters every evening for recharging and maintenance.

Paris has become the primary jumping off point for scooter startups launching in Europe because electric scooters are currently illegal in the UK thanks to the Highway Act 1835.

Established US startups Bird and Lime have raised huge amounts of money from venture capital and flooded American cities with scooters before pushing into Europe in recent months, starting with Paris.

Taxify CEO Markus Villig said his firm has the advantage of 500,000 users in Paris already. He also said regulation didn't pose much of a challenge to launching.

"You need to have good relations with a city to deploy hundreds or thousands of scooters," he told Business Insider. "We have been in talks with the local mayor for months and they are essentially very welcoming of scooters."

Bird launched in Paris at the beginning of August with a similar offering to Taxify, while Lime launched in the French capital at the end of June.

Asked about the competition, Villig said the goal was to persuade rivals onto the Taxify app.

"Currently we own all our scooters, but we have an ecosystem where we can plug in other providers," Villig said. "At the end of the day, our goal is to be a transportation provider… giving passengers as many options as we can.

"The journey should start with 'Where do you want to go?' and we then offer them a range of options. But we don't have to do it all ourselves."

Uber, which is also expanding from ride-hailing into electric bikes and scooters, has already struck a similar partnership with Lime.

Taxify said it planned to launch scooters in other European cities, and Villig told Business Insider the firm was in talks with London's transport regulator about a British launch. The company is already barred from operating its ride-hailing service in London thanks to issues with its licence, and is currently fighting to relaunch in the capital.

Villig said: "We’re in talks with the city on both the ride-hailing front and on launching scooters. It’s quite obvious that in the long-term, small vehicles are much more efficient from a traffic point of view, [and] environmental impact, [and] ease of use… It's a matter of how fast cities will realise this and regulate."

Both Bird and Lime are currently lobbying for a change in the law to allow scooters in the UK.

Taxify eyes IPO

Taxify raised $153 million from auto firm Daimler in May to fund its expansion. Asked if the company planned to follow Uber and Lyft down the IPO route, Villig said a float would probably happen but the company was still in the building stages.

"Definitely, as we need further funding, an IPO is one of the options for us," he said. "We are currently still in the developing phase [and that is] a bit longer down the line."

He also said a long-term partnership with Daimler could involve exploring autonomous vehicles.

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