That pot Kenny show on Newstalk. Electric scooters have become a familiar sight on the streets of our towns and cities over the last few years, however, no regulation has been forthcoming from government regarding their use on public roads. While covid restrictions mean buses and trains continue to run on reduced capacity and government advice is to avoid public transport where possible. Could electric scooters be a viable transport alternative for people?
I'm joined now by Damon Young, founder and CEO of Irish Scooter Higher Startup ZEW Scooters. Good morning, Damien.
Good morning. How are you? I'm very well.
Now this is a scooter designed by yourselves and rolling out in Germany, but not here.
That's right. We we we set up the scooter company just about a year ago. We designed a very unique three wheel scooter, which is actually the first in the world for our share schemes. And lo and behold, I suppose Ireland didn't have the legislation to allow us to launch here. So we did a number of months of testing and rigorous testing with the Department of Transport in Germany, and we launched in June despite covid-19. We launched in June and Heidelberg, and we've now expanded into four cities in Germany.
I went on your website and it figures it shows very quickly how you use the thing.
You download the app and after that you locate a scooter, scan something and off you go. That's right.
Yeah. You just scan the QR code and then those trips are probably, you know, less than 10, 15 minutes. So it's very economic way to get around. But of course, with covid-19 and the transport capacity issues, it is also a very convenient way to to avoid packed public transportation.
How does it actually work? How do I find a scooter in Heidelberg, for example?
Yes. So we've developed software that each scooter has what they called an Iot, which is like the brain of the scooter and those scooters that are located around the city. We have what we call a geo fence around the city and you can spot the scooters on your up, like looking at Google Maps, you see the scooter, you go up to your scanners and then it unlocks and then you pay per minute usage around the city.
Now it's a three wheeler to the front, one wheel at the back. So therefore it's not lying in the road. I saw scooters lying around in Prague, for instance, the same in Paris. So this will be standing there and waiting for your attention. How do you know whether it's powered up that there's enough juice in the battery to get you where you want to go?
Yeah, we have a a meter for the battery. So we at the back end can see whether a scooter is low on battery. I'm at a certain level, we will actually switch it off so that you can't renters. But generally these scooters will travel maybe 70 to 80 kilometers on a full power battery. So it's it's it's quite useful to to be able to see that.
But you can also see it when you actually scan into the the app itself so you can actually prevent a scooter from being found even if the battery is too low. So it won't appear on the app, is that correct? Correct.
It won't appear in the app. And we then send out our maintenance person to swap the batteries that we have swappable batteries in the actual scooters themselves.
Yeah. So rather than have to plug into a charger, you could just take out the spent battery, replace it one that's fully charged and off you go. You want to bring the thing back on stream now.
The whole question of insurance, Helmut's Road, Manor's speed.
How are they addressed in Germany.
Yeah, in Germany last year, in June 2019, they put in place specific legislation around what's called light electric vehicles, which include scooters. So there's a maximum speed limit of 20 kilometers an hour. So we can actually set our scooters to that limit so that they cannot go over that limit. The legislation in Germany doesn't necessitate a helmet, although it's recommended that we as a company recommend that our users wear a helmet. So the legislation also allows the users to use bike lanes, certain roads, not the very large road, certain roads, and obviously abide by normal road traffic provisions.
So it's not a free for all for scooter rider.
They allowed on the footpath some footpath passed.
They are in Germany because the footpaths, as you know, Germany and other European countries are very big cycling areas. So a lot of footpaths allow bicycles and electric scooters on them. But obviously you have to give way to pedestrians as well.
What's the track record in terms of accidents? Because if there's no insurance required by you as a company. Or by the the rider of the scooter, you know, if they play into somebody, what then? Also there is there is insurance. So we as a company pay the insurance. We work with Allianz in Germany and it's on a per scooter basis. So we pay a premium per scooter that we have on the street and not what what that covers is public liability insurance for the user and pedestrians in the event of an accident.
And touchwood, since our launch, we haven't had any accidents. Now, what's your plea to the Irish government? Yeah, I suppose we now have a government which is which is always a good start, because this process has started over 13 months ago and there has been a report by the RSA with regards to the school safety.
And basically the recommendation was that we need to regulate and legislate for scooters that went into a public consultation which ended last October. And since then, obviously, we've had no government that we've had covid-19. But I suppose my plea now would be given the recommendations of DEFAT and others around using public transport. This is an ideal opportunity to create a micro mobility situation in Dublin and in other cities where one of the largest cities in Europe not to have microprobe ability for four for public transport users.
It is a very convenient that is very covid friendly way to do it. We sanitize the the scooters and in scooters. We also have a hand sanitizer on the actual scooter as well. So it's a good way to do it. I think, you know, aside from the covid, if you look at Dublin, we have very poor congestion, probably one of the worst in the world.
And, you know, I suppose it's time from an environmental perspective we need to cut emissions. So this is the ideal time. And I think that similar to the UK, we need to fast track this and we need to make that decision.
The one caveat you'd have is, I mean, you as a company can limit if they decide 20 kilometres per hour is the maximum that they'd like to see you as a company can do that. But once they regulate for scooters, people will be driving their own privately owned scooters.
And, you know, they may be told 20 kilometres, but of course, many of them, as you've seen, I'm sure, whiz, whiz, whiz along.
Well, what they did in the UK, actually, the trials that that kicked off in the UK in June or July, they only legislated for what they call shared schemes. So like companies like my own, so that there wouldn't be private usage of private usage is still not allowed in the UK, but they are running schemes. And the reason for that is, I suppose, to I suppose to ring fence this for for a period of time to get the learnings and to ensure things like speed is not breached.
Well, it's very interesting. It sounds like an idea whose time has come. Damien Young, founder and CEO of the Irish Scooter Hire Start UPS, Observe Scooters. Thank you very much for joining us.