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Analysis of Paris’ e-scooter RFP

Business, Projects

Analysis of Paris’ e-scooter RFP

BY   Alexandre Gauquelin   

Since the emergence of shared mobility services, Paris has been one of the major open labs in Europe for shared micromobility services. The major Asian dockless bike-share operators launched massive fleets in late 2017– Gobee, oBike and ofo left, only Mobike remains in the French capital – before the waves of shared e-scooters hit the banks of the Seine.

Lime was the first to launch in June 2018, soon followed by Txfy/Bolt and Bird. During the next 12 months, the total fleet reached 20 000 vehicles, operated by 12 different operators. As in every city around the globe, the situation raised concerned around parking and riding behaviour. Paris’ city council had to adopt strict rules to regulate the fleet.

The first steps

As a result, the first set of rules was implemented during the first half of 2019 :

  • Fines for users riding the e-scooters on the pavement – 135€ – and for parking on the pavement – 35€ for the rider caught in the act or for the operator.
  • Implementation of 2500 parking spots dedicated to e-scooters.
  • Obligation for the operators to sign a good conduct chart.
  • Adoption of a vehicle license fee in order to regulate the fleet size – 50€/scooter/year.

But this is not enough, and the city council remained powerless in front of the operators to monitor the services quality and compliance to the local rules. A tender was much needed in order for the city to supervise, and control the operators.

The tender release

In the pipe since summer, the tender has been the only talking point in the French micromobility world since then. Operators, experts, were keen on forecasting on both the content of the tender and its results, and any piece of news was read trough the “tender prism”: end of the Juicer program for Lime, creation of the EU headquarters in Paris for Bird, promotion of the ethical model for Dott, the list is endless.

Expected for Autumn 2019, the tender was finally released on December 19th and was finally an RFP. The operators are allowed to submit their application until march 11th… 4 days only before the local elections. For sure the topic of e-scooter will be part of the campaign.

Let’s look at the RFP title: “Storage siding on the public right-of-way of dockless shared motorised personal vehicles fleets”. Phew. First conclusion, station-based solutions are out of the game, even if the city council signed an agreement with Charge for a pilot. Affected by the Vélib’ experience, Paris stays on the safe track avoiding to have to deal with charging station installation and connection. Painted boxes are a good start as stations. Second conclusion, the RFP is only about public space occupation. We are far away from a contract where the city has a right of inspection on the service…

What’s inside?

The range of vehicles allowed is defined by the french Rules of the Road – 6.15 de l’article R. 311-1 du Code de la Route – with 3 main implications: motorisation has to be electric (what a surprise), speed has to be limited to 25km/h, and most of all NO SEAT allowed. Wheels, Razor, Shared… out of the game.

The city council sorted the evaluation criteria in three main categories. User safety will count for 30%, and it includes 2 important points for which operators have diverse strategies: insurances and data privacy. Civil liability insurance is mandatory for scooter riders, but it is not provided by all operators. Between Lime and Bird who are not even providing this insurance, and Dott who covers both civil liability and physical damage, the spectrum is wide. Data privacy is way less advertised, but public awareness on the topic might carry weight in the final decision.

Operations – management, maintenance and charging – represent 30% of the final mark as well. The focus is made on equitable geographical distribution, to ensure that the service is a real city-wide one, not only available in the profitable areas. Currently, Bird, Tier and Circ are not covering the whole city, but of course, it is not proof of worse distribution. I guess operators will have to commit respecting distribution rates for each arrondissement and to ensure sufficiently sized staff, which also covers the maintenance point. Finally, operators will have to work on the parking management: positioning accuracy, implementations of parking zones in apps, distribution patrols… Looking at the apps, it is interesting to see that VOI is one step ahead in implementing the parking zones, while it seems that Bird is in progress to do so (16th arrondissement only). One thing is missing: there is no mention of social responsibility, so operators using gig-workers should not be penalised. Weird.

Environmental responsibility will represent 40% of the final mark. Energy consumption and gas emission are 2 important criteria, politically important for Paris. I bet that winners will have full-electric operations vehicle fleets – vans, cargo bikes – combined with a 100% renewable energy supply – it is already the case for Voi, almost for Lime and Dott. Hardware durability, maintainability and recycling should not make a big difference, as all the main actors are at the same development level: modular products with swappable parts, swappable batteries, sturdier design… Maybe the battery recycling will be one differentiator, between recycling industry, second-life batteries. Finally – and oddly – the environmental criteria contains multimodal integration, where operators have to give arguments for integration of their services into a future public MaaS platform. Standards adoption and business development strategy will strongly impact this mark.

My bet

3 operators will be awarded the temporary right to operate 5000 e-scooters each in the French capital. From a political point of view, it is impossible to see a majority of US actors taking the seats, and the French actors – Dott, Pony – are already one step ahead. Jump should also be penalised by its will to build its private multimodal app, and therefore to not collaborate with public MaaS solutions.

The economical strength will play a large role as well – Vélib experience again – and will favour Bird, Lime, Tier or Voi, who have the means to ensure enough investments to maintain a high service level.

Finally, the media image will have an impact. If the Americans Bird and Lime have a bad one, having launched with non-virtuous methods in summer 2018 – others such as Voi and even more Dott have communicating for months on their commitments to match high standards for environmental and social responsibility, collaboration with the city…

If I have to bet today, I’ll pick Dott, Lime and Voi. Let’s speak about it in 3 months.

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