An e-scooter featuring British-made swappable batteries has been launched as plans to trial the technology get under way.
German firm Tier hopes to deploy its new model in cities across the UK later this year along with a network of box-like charging stations, where users can swap out batteries to earn free rides.
It comes as new regulations enabling trials of rental e-scooters came into force at the beginning of July, to assess whether e-scooters reduce motor traffic and what impact they have on the safety of users and those around them.
The fully automated charging stations can be placed inside existing businesses to boost customer visits, such as in convenience stores or cafes, with all required electricity provided by the host covered by Tier, the company said.
London-based startup Pushme – acquired by Tier earlier this year – developed the technology and has a manufacturing base in Aylesbury, Oxfordshire.
The new scooters will debut in Tampere, Finland, where a fleet of 1,000 devices will be supported by a network of 50 charging stations across the city.
By the end of 2021, the company plans to roll out its swappable battery technology across all its operations, which currently sit at more than 70 cities across nine countries.
Tier’s latest e-scooters feature a foldable helmet, as well as indicator lights on the steering bar and back fender to signal the rider’s direction to other road users.
“Today marks a step change in safe and sustainable travel around our cities,” said Lawrence Leuschner, chief executive and co-founder of Tier.
“By integrating this new kind of swappable battery technology, we are building a Europe-wide charging network that allows users to play an active part in adopting climate-neutral travel and building better cities.
“At the same time, by hosting the charging pods in local businesses, we are helping high streets to recover from lockdown.
“This is a crucial step in Tier’s electric revolution to make mobility better.
“It is our plan that in time our charging network will not just service e-scooters, but other vehicles too.”
Rachel White, head of public affairs at UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said: “Whilst Tier’s new model will help make e-scooters more accessible, it is essential to ensure e-scooters work for the safety of all road users, including those riding e-scooters, and that this is prioritised.
“The needs of vulnerable road users, such as disabled people, the elderly and children, must be fully considered.”
As part of a 12-month trial of e-scooters across the UK, only rentals are allowed on roads, limited to 15.5mph.
Riders who participate in the pilots will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence, must be aged at least 16 and will be urged to wear a helmet.
Emma Drackford, communications director at Electrical Safety First, said: “As our lives become increasingly electric, it is important consumers only purchase items such as e-bikes and e-scooters from reputable retailers.
“Whilst cities around the country trial public hire schemes, privately owned models, which are not yet legal for use on public land, will need to be charged at home and consumers should be wary of purchasing low quality, substandard imitations which could pose a significant fire risk.”