VOI makes European push in crowded electric scooter-sharing market

FILE PHOTO: A man rides an electric scooter in Madrid, Spain, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s VOI Technology plans to put a new fleet of thousands of electric scooters on European streets this summer to fend off competition in an increasingly crowded market.

U.S. tech giants Uber and Alphabet are among investors that have have been betting on the growing popularity of e-scooter sharing in Europe, where large commuter populations have lower car ownership levels than in the United States.

VOI launched nine months ago and is now targeting 150 European cities. Germany is expected to give the green light to e-scooters this month and could become VOI’s biggest market, the company said.

Its scooters are so far available in nine European countries, including France, Spain and Sweden, with plans to launch in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Italy this summer.

But competition is fierce. Domestic start-ups such as Tier and Dott, as well as U.S. rivals Bird and Lime, are all expanding in Europe.

VOI, backed by investors such as BlaBlaCar CEO Nicolas Brusson and venture fund Balderton Capital, said the number of rides on its scooters had more than doubled to over 2 million after reaching 1 million within six months.

The company’s new scooters will be able to travel up to 50 km (31.1 miles) on a single charge, almost twice as far as earlier models, it said.

Critics warn that operators could face similar issues as bike-sharing businesses.

Forced into price wars and facing a backlash from authorities over rules and vandalism, bike operators GoBee and Mobike have both retreated from Europe.

Reporting by Helena Soderpalm; Editing by David Goodman