Voi rolls out hundreds of e-scooters in Cambridge trial

By Robert Scammell

Swedish e-scooter operator Voi will be rolling hundreds of its battery-powered scooters and bikes out on Cambridge roads as part of the UK’s e-scooter trials.

The contract was awarded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and is the first UK trial contract won by the firm. Voi’s rental e-scooters will be deployed in phases, with the potential to scale up to 2,000 of the coral and black two-wheelers.

Trials will begin in the university town by September. After three months Peterborough will assess the trial to see if e-scooters are suitable for the area. Voi’s e-bikes will be rolled out across the whole region, which could see almost a million people given access to e-scooters and e-bikes across the combined authority.

The micromobility firm, which has notched up 20 million rides across Europe, said that the scheme will create more than 50 new local jobs.

Voi’s e-scooters can be unlocked using the company’s app for £1, with the cost of hire £0.20 per minute. It will also offer subscriptions for regular users at £10 per day or £40 per month. They are free-standing, which means they do not require a docking bay.

The firm aims to have 100,000 rides a day across the UK by the end of the year.

In July the UK government introduced new regulations that legalised rental e-scooters for a one-year trial period. They will be banned on pavements and limited to 15.5mph. A full or provisional driving licence is also required.

The trials were fast-tracked by the government to provide an alternative and socially distant form of transport during the pandemic.

Richard Corbett, UK GM of Voi Technology, said: “As normal life resumes across the UK and people return to workplaces and shops, the need for quick, convenient and covid-safe transport is increasing. Cars no longer suit the way we live now. 60% of car journeys in the UK are between 1 to 3 miles, significantly adding to congestion.

“We estimate that 1 in 5 of these journeys across the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region could be replaced by low-carbon e-scooters with a minimum 24-month lifespan. E-scooters provide a compelling alternative that will outrun the car.”

E-scooters promise environmental benefits

E-scooters are also seen as an environmentally friendly source of travel that can help the government meet its 2050 net zero emissions climate target.

Mayor James Palmer, the leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, said: “Electric bikes and scooters have the potential to revolutionise travel and I am delighted that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be the first region in the country to make both available to the public so they can enjoy quicker, healthier journeys.

“This year has seen a 27% drop in carbon emissions and a 200% increase in cycling, with people enjoying soaring air quality and fitter lifestyles, the benefits to moving away from cars and buses are clear and our investment shows we are committed to rolling out a fully integrated active travel network for our region.”

Since the announcement, a handful of operators have been competing to win the tender process from more than 50 councils and regional authorities that have been designated for trials in their area.

Middlesbrough was the first area to begin e-scooter trials with UK e-scooter firm Ginger. However, since the mid-July launch there have been mounting complaints, including two teenagers riding e-scooters down a dual carriageway and underage users roaming through shopping centres.

Paul Hodgins, the company’s chief executive and a former Conservative council leader, said: “We’ve naturally evaluated the project since its very successful launch and made further modifications we believe will improve rider and community experience ahead of our planned roll-out to other areas.”

The 12-month trial period was created to discover challenges that e-scooters face in the UK’s transport network, with a view to fully legalising rental scooters if safety and logistical concerns can be addressed.

Read more: UK e-scooter trials: Firms ask for “parity” with e-bikes on insurance and licences