By Geert De Clercq
California-based bicycle sharing service Lime will launch a fleet of dock-free electric scooters in Paris on Friday as part of a wider roll-out in several European cities, the firm said
Lime, which operates bike and scooter schemes in about 60 cities and university campuses in the United States, has already launched operations in the German cities of Berlin and Frankfurt and in Zurich, Switzerland.
“Paris is our first big-scale deployment in Europe, we have big ambitions in Europe,” Lime France director Arthur-Louis Jacquier told Reuters on Thursday.
Jacquier said Lime plans to launch in 26 European cities by year-end, but declined to specify in which countries.
From Friday morning, Lime will put a few hundred scooters on Paris streets and hopes to expand that to a few thousand as demand grows.
Private-equity funded Lime started as a bicycle-sharing scheme in California, but when the firm also started offering electric scooters, demand from users was 10 times higher than for bicycles, Jacquier said.
Lime, founded in June 2017, has raised $350 million from Silicon Valley investors and plans a next financing round for several hundred millions of dollars for its U.S. and international expansion, Jacquier said.
Lime users can find and unlock the scooters with a mobile phone app and leave them anywhere after their ride, which will cost one euro ($1.16) per ride plus 0.15 euros per minute. Their speed is limited to 24 kilometers (15 miles) per hour and they have a range of 50 kilometers.
All scooters will be picked up every night around 9 p.m. for recharging and repairs, said Jacquier, who was an executive with Gobee Bike, which earlier this year stopped its European bike sharing operations due to vandalism.
“Gobee was a good learning experience. Lime is very different. By picking up the scooters every night we will avoid problems with breakage,” he said.
Lime arrives in Paris as the city’s own alternative mobility solutions are in deep chaos.
The city on Thursday ended the Bollore group‘s contract to operate its electric vehicle car-sharing scheme due to financial problems while a change of operator at its pioneering Velib bike-sharing scheme has left a large part of its docking stations unusable.
In recent years, Paris has been a test bed for new mobility solutions, with several Chinese bike share operators and two electric motorbike schemes launching services in the French capital.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Adrian Croft)