Paris becomes the test-bed for new-age mobility solutions

The future of ride-sharing and new-age mobility solutions seems to debut in Paris before anywhere else.
22 June 2018

Co-founders Toby Sun and Caen Contee of California-based bike sharing startup LimeBike show off their bikes at a recently-launched pilot program in Burlingame. Source: Reuters

The new generation doesn’t seem to want to be bogged down with car ownership and the issues that come with it such as maintenance and insurance.

The next generation wants to get from point A to point B comfortably and pay a reasonable fare for the privilege. It’s why the ride-sharing economy is booming today, in New York, London, and everywhere else in the world.

Built on new-age mobility solutions powered by mobile applications, the appetite for new and easier ways to commute seems to keep growing. It’s what’s fuelling the growth of the global ride-sharing economy.

Paris, incidentally, seems to have positioned itself as the test-bed for these new-age solutions. Citizens and residents are more than keen to trial whatever new mode of transport springs up on the city’s landscape.

Today, for example, Parisians will have the opportunity to test a new fleet of green/yellow dock-free electric scooters that will be put on the streets by California-based startup Lime.

“Paris is our first big-scale deployment in Europe, we have big ambitions in Europe,” Lime France director Arthur-Louis Jacquier told Reuters yesterday.

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.

Jacquier told Reuters that Lime plans to launch in 26 European cities by year-end, but declined to specify in which countries.

Those who want to test out the bikes can find and unlock the scooters with a mobile phone app and leave them anywhere after their ride, which will cost EUR 1 (US$1.16) per ride plus EUR 0.15 (US$0.17) per minute.

The speed of each bike is limited to 24 kilometers (15 miles) per hour with a range of 50 kilometers.

All scooters will be picked up every night around 9 PM for recharging and repairs, said Jacquier.

Paris is a competitive market

Paris is a competitive market and Parisians are quite choosy when it comes to what products and services they are seen using. It’s also a tough market to compete in.

Just yesterday, for example, Paris local authorities severed ties with the Bollore group and ended its contract to operate the Autolib electric vehicles fleet in the city.

Launched in 2011, despite having 150,000 active users, Autolib is set to accumulate losses worth EUR 293 million (US$340.3 million) by 2023.

Persistent issues with cleanliness, problems with parking and booking as well as competition from other modes of transport such as Uber have pushed the service into the red, according to Reuters.

Just last month, another bike-sharing service Velib went out of business.

“Parisians abandon city’s pioneering Vélib bikes as new operator’s revamp is beset by electrical and software glitches,” said the Guardian.

Vanmoof’s Electrified X subscription-based electric bike in Paris. Source: Vanmoof / Newsroom

However, the demise of some companies doesn’t mean that others don’t show up and fill the void.

Netherland’s based Vanmoof’s, for example, offers a subscription service on its’ electric bikes in Paris.

VanMoof is a twist on big-city bike-sharing programs: instead of sharing a fleet of bikes with a city full of people, you subscribe to use a single bicycle, complete with unlimited maintenance and theft protection, said the Verge.

In VanMoof’s words, you buy the key, not the bike, which the company continues to own.

When you want to end your subscription, you can sell your key (and the bike that goes with it) to another rider to try and recover as much of your key fee as possible.

The company’s subscription model is an entirely new concept, a first in the world according to VanMoof.

Again, the company is testing its product and services in Paris. Success in the country might mean success will come easy in other parts of Europe and in the US too.