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Electric Scooters May Represent Nightmare for Some Pedestrians, But Offer a Positive Cashflow for Swedish Startup

In France, e-scooters have been banned from sidewalks and in Britain they are not permitted on roads or pavements

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Electric scooters from Swedish startup VOI and Belin-based Tier sit parked side-by-side in Stockholm, Sweden, July 7, 2019. VOA

Growing numbers of young people whizzing around Europe’s big cities on electric scooters may represent a nightmare for some pedestrians and motorists, but for Swedish sharing startup VOI they offer a path to positive cashflow.

VOI cofounder and chief executive Fredrik Hjelm said safety was an important consideration and VOI had drawn up a code of conduct with the authorities in Stockholm for all operators after a fatal accident involving an e-scooter.

“Accidents are always very tragic and sad but since we’re in transportation, unfortunately there’s always a risk of accident. We can do everything we can on product operations and education but ultimately we’re in the hands of the users,” he added.

Critics have also said VOI and other operators could face the fate of Asian bike operators GoBee and Mobike, which crashed out of Europe due to price wars, vandalism and regulation.

Hjelm said the sector had learnt from past mistakes, with VOI upgrading to a model with longer-range swappable batteries to eliminate transport costs and increase product life.

European startups VOI, Dott and Tier and U.S. rivals Bird and Lime have already put thousands of e-scooters on the roads of European cities, betting commuters will take to the two-wheelers in a region where far fewer own cars than in the United States.

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Fredrik Hjelm, Swedish startup VOI cofounder and chief executive, poses at the company’s workshop in Stockholm, Sweden, July 6, 2019. VOA

In France, e-scooters have been banned from sidewalks and in Britain they are not permitted on roads or pavements. Hjelm said that VOI is already making a profit in several cities, including its hometown Stockholm, where its e-scooters accounts for about 70% to 80% of those on the roads.

“Our estimate is for VOI to be cashflow positive around late next year, but within three years for sure,” Hjelm told Reuters in an interview at VOI’s headquarters. “Price wars never end well for anyone. So what you see now in the market is the more experienced players like VOI and Lime have rather been able to increase our average price point,” Hjelm said.

Open to tie-ups

High-profile investors including Google, Uber and Volkswagen are increasingly getting into scooters as new modes of transport emerge from developments in electric and driverless vehicles. Hjelm expects the number of players to narrow within a year and said that VOI was open to discussing tie-ups.

“Automotive companies understand their business model is threatened. This ‘sell one car to one customer’ won’t work in the future because it’s not sustainable from an environmental point of view and not what the consumers want anymore,” he said.

“We’re in quite a stable financial position right now but we’re also always out in the market talking to potential partners and investors,” he added.

VOI, which has raised slightly more than $80 million, already operates in 25 cities including Paris and Berlin and said on Monday it had reached 5 million rides since launching in September.

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FILE – People use electric scooters by California-based bicycle rental service Lime at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, June 21, 2019. VOA

Hjelm, who launched VOI as a solution to address congestion, pollution and the difficulty getting around that he experienced when working in Moscow, said VOI would be in 50 to 60 cities by year end, with a focus on Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Micromobility growth

Barclays estimates that micromobility — transport using electric-powered one-person vehicles like e-scooters and e-bikes — could make up $800 billion in revenues by mid-2020s and total 1 trillion personal miles, or 4% of global transport.

Most of the e-scooter growth has been driven by 20- and 30-year-olds willing to pay for convenience, driving the growth of companies like ride-hailing service Uber and food courier service Deliveroo.

ALSO READ: Nirmala Sitharaman on Budget 2019-20: Adopt Electric Vehicles, Public Transport to Avoid Polluting Fuels

Hjelm said VOI was introducing cargo bikes, which would allow children or groceries to be transported, and e-bikes and was exploring adding e-mopeds and electric or transit pods.

“VOI should become partner to cities that are restricting cars and want to transform urban transportation. E-scooters are part of the solution with e-bikes, mopeds etc in conjunction with public transportation,” he said. (VOA)

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Swedish Teen Climate Activist Urging Law Makers to “Listen to the Science” and Take Action

The 16-year-old Thunberg has been in Washington since last week when she joined U.S. and indigenous activists for a protest designed

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Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg testifies at a Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing on "Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis," on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019. VOA

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared before a U.S. Congressional committee Wednesday, urging law makers to “listen to the science” and take action on global climate change.

The 16-year-old Thunberg has been in Washington since last week when she joined U.S. and indigenous activists for a protest designed to build support for a global climate strike on Friday and put pressure on lawmakers to take action on climate change.

She was one of four students to appear Wednesday before a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

She submitted a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in lieu of her testimony, and told the lawmakers to “follow the science:”

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Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared before a U.S. Congressional committee Wednesday, urging law makers to “listen to the science” and take action. Pixabay

“Well, well I don’t see a reason to not listen to the science, is such just such a thing that we should be taking for granted that we listen to the current best available united science. It’s just something that everyone should do. This is not political opinions, political views or my opinions, this is, this is the science, so yeah,” she said.

Later on Wednesday, Thunberg joined seven young Americans who have sued the U.S. government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They urged political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

Thunberg first gained notoriety last year when she began skipping school each Friday to protest outside the Swedish parliament. She was joined by other students and later founded the ‘Fridays for Future’ weekly school walkouts around the world  to demand government climate-change action.

Also Read- World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

Her organization of “climate strikers” reached 3.6 million people across 169 countries. She has been in the United States since last month when she sailed in to New York on a solar-powered boat to attend a U.N. climate summit. (VOA)