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Usain Bolt wants to launch electric scooters in London

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Usain Bolt publicising his new mobility company Bolt. Photo: Bolt Mobility

An electric bike and scooter company backed by Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt is planning to launch in London — but could face a legal battle over its name.

Bolt Mobility, which has raised money from Usain Bolt, said on Wednesday it plans to launch its bikes in the UK and hopes to launch electric scooters soon. The company is meeting MPs and other City officials in London this week to lobby for rule changes that would allow their vehicles on the road.

Bolt lets people rent electric bikes and electric scooters through its app, and has even developed a small prototype electric car that can fit through some doorways. To rent a bike, people unlock it through the app and then drop it off wherever they want at the end of the journey.

“As an athlete who runs in cities across the world, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that polluted air and overcrowded transport systems have on people’s lives,” Usain Bolt said in a statement.

“London’s roads are some of the most congested in Europe — so we see huge potential for the UK to benefit from the micromobility technology that is taking other cities by storm.”

However, a rival transportation company with the same name says it plans to challenge Bolt Mobility over copyright. Taxi hailing app Taxify, headquartered in Estonia, recently rebranded as Bolt and operates in the UK and Europe.

A spokesperson for Bolt, formerly Taxify, told Yahoo Finance UK: “We have been using the name Bolt since the launch of our electric scooters in Paris last September and hold the trademark for Bolt in Europe as well as our other markets (in total 54 countries).

“Obviously, we want to avoid a situation that would create confusion for our customers in Europe and consumers in general, so will be taking necessary steps to make sure our trademark is not infringed in the UK.”

Lobbying for change

Electric scooter companies such as Lime and Bird have attracted hundreds of millions of dollar in investment in recent years and spread around the world. Bolt Mobility CEO Haynes declined to say how much Bolt had raised or how much Usain Bolt had invested.

Bolt is part of a surge of new “urban mobility” startups around the world.

“We realised now people are using Ubers for less than five miles so cars are actually sitting in traffic for a long time,” Haynes told Yahoo Finance UK.

These scooter companies have proved popular with users but attracted criticism for cluttering cities and wasting resources. The average scooter lasts just three months in the wild and uses non-recyclable materials.

Haynes said the shelf-life for its scooters was two years as Bolt manufactures them itself. She added that the scooters are fully recyclable and batteries are replaceable.

Bolt will compete with Lime, which has launched bikes in London, as well as Boris bikes, Freebikes, Uber’s Jump bikes, and Mobikes.

“There’s certainly space for different brands, just like cars, there are many cars on the street,” Haynes said. “What makes us different is our design is first and foremost based on safety.”

Electric scooters are currently illegal on Britain’s streets, but Haynes told Yahoo Finance UK her team is lobbying for change.

“We have to educate. Because it’s a new technology, people don’t know how to match it to their Department of Motor Vehicles. Do they go on sidewalks? Do they go on streets? However the city deems to be acceptable, we’re flexible,” Haynes said.

Bolt Mobility was founded in Miami in 2018 and currently operates in 10 US cities. It expanded to Paris, its first international market, in May.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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