Electric bikes and scooters are transforming the way people make certain journeys – and the quickest, easiest way to get involved is by renting one.
While it remains illegal to use a private e-scooter on public roads, rental machines are allowed as part of the government-approved rental trial schemes in various cities and regions across the UK.
Meanwhile, there are also a rapidly growing number of rental e-bike firms expanding into the UK, giving another two-wheel option for electric-assisted travel.
But if you've never used a rental e-bike or e-scooter before it can be a little confusing. So Move Electric is here to help with this guide. If you find this helpful, subscribe to our newsletter to get more great content sent directly to your inbox.
Should I rent an e-bike or an e-scooter?
In some areas you'll have a choice of micromobility options. Obviously personal preference is key: you might just feel more comfortably on an e-bike or an e-scooter.
Generally speaking, e-scooters are better for short journeys in busy areas, while e-bikes are better suited for longer journeys. It's also worth noting that most rental e-bikes will come with some form of basket, which makes carrying small loads easier.
What will it cost?
The price for each service is set by the operator, and is generally based on how long you hire the machine for. The operators will usually make the charges clear through the app before your rental begins.
Most firms will charge a fee – usually £1 – to 'unlock' a machine and start a hire. E-scooters usually cost between 15p and 20p per minute. E-bikes will often cost a little bit more per minute.
Some operators will also offer day passes in certain areas: Voi offers a £7 day pass and a monthly pass, although both will have limits on exactly how long you can ride for.
There are also discounts available: e-bike firm Human Forest gives all riders 10 minutes of free riding per day, with a price of 17p per minute after that.
Many e-scooter operators will also offer discounts to certain riders. Tier, for example, has a UK Access Scheme that offers a 50 per cent discount to the holders of various concessionary cards, including university ID cars, National bus passes and railcards for disabled and older people, London Freedom Passes, Jobcentre Plus Travel discount cards, and veterans and apprentice Oyster cards.
How do I get started?
The first step is to find out which rental firms are operating in your area. We've got a big list of e-scooter operators and the main e-bike operators below, but if you've seen any in your local area it also shouldn't be hard to work out.
Most machines are brightly coloured and clearly branded, so next time you're passing one just check out the name written in big letters on the frame.
How do I rent one?
You'll need to download the firm's app to your smartphone. You can also access some services through third-party apps. For example, you can access Lime services through the Uber app, and Voi and Tier e-scooters and Dott and Tier e-bikes through the Free Now app.
You’ll need to register your details – if you’re looking to rent an e-scooter that will include your driving licence details – and set up a card for payments.
If you're renting an e-scooter for the first time, you'll have to watch a safety briefing video.
What if it's my first time riding an e-scooter?
The main UK rental firms now offer a lower-speed beginner mode, which will be engaged the first time you rent a machine so you can get used to the basics as a lower speed.
If you want, you're also able to select this mode on future hires.
How do I find an e-scooter or e-bike to rent?
Once that’s done, you can use the app to find e-scooters and e-bikes to rent near you.
Most e-scooter trial rental schemes in the UK now only allow the machines to be docked in set locations, so you’ll likely find them in clusters.
E-bike firms use a variety of docked and dockless machines. If it's the latter they may be a bit more spread out.
One top tip: rental firms will regularly gather up the machines for charging and maintenance, and while doing so will redistribute them to areas of higher demand. So if in doubt, look at shopping streets or near bus stops and train stations.
Once you've found a machine, some firms will allow you to reserve it in the app. You then head to where the machine is located and use your phone to scan the QR code that's located on it. That will then be ready to go.
What should I check before I go?
Make sure the e-bike or e-scooter is in good condition. In particular, check that the brakes and headlights are working.
If you've got any doubts, don't use the machine and report it to the operator using their app. All e-scooters will have a licence plate-style code on so you can identify it to the firm.
Do I need to wear a helmet?
As with riding a regular bike, the law does not require you to wear a helmet while riding an e-bike or an e-scooter. That means it's your personal choice – although we'd obviously recommend anything that keeps you safer.
To encourage helmet use, some firms will offer a discount on your rental if you send proof – usually in the form of a 'helmet selfie' that you upload. And some firms, such as Neuron, provide helmets with all their e-scooters.
What are the rules while riding?
Exactly the same for any other vehicle you'd drive on the public highway. That means you must obey the rules of the road at all times.
In particular, it is illegal to ride any form of e-scooter on a pavement, or to carry a passenger. And you shouldn't ride an e-scooter or e-bike while under the influence of alcohol.
For further details, check out our guide explaining the laws about e-scooters in the UK.
If you break the rules, you could be suspended or banned by the rental operator – and you could be prosecuted by the police if you're caught breaking traffic laws.
If you're hiring an e-scooter you'll only be able to use it within the area that the scheme operates, and there may be prohibited zones within that. If you attempt to ride where you're not allowed, the e-scooter will slow to a halt.
How do I finish a ride?
The rules for finishing a ride will depend on whether the e-bike or e-scooter firm requires you to dock the machine in a certain location.
With a dockless e-bike you can end your journey anywhere within the zone that they operate.
Many councils will now only allow e-scooters (and sometimes e-bikes) to be parked within certain areas. There are now usually parking bays specially set aside for them, which will also be marked on the map you can access within the operator's app.
Voi, for example, will mark 'great' parking areas in green, other designated parking spots in blue and no-parking zones in red.
Wherever you're parking an e-bike or e-scooter, please do take the time to park them responsibly and ensure you don’t block the pavement – not only is that helpful for pedestrians and other road users, but some firms will give you a discount or other reward for doing so (which you prove with a photo).
And remember, firms reserve the right to fine you if you park somewhere you're not supposed to.
When parking an e-bike or e-scooter, remember to deploy the kick stand and make sure the machine is parked up safely. You then end your journey in the app, leaving the machine free for someone else.
Who runs e-bike and e-scooter rental schemes where I live?
Here's a list of the key e-bike and e-scooter rental operators, and the regions they operate in. Each firm's website or app will give you specific details about the exact areas their services are available in.
E-bike rental operators
Bee Cycle Hire (run by Beryl)
Isle of Wight
Midlothian and East Lothian
Big Issue E-Bikes (run by ShareBike)
Cotswold Water Park
Moreton in Marsh
London (Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea)
Central London (including all or part of Brent, Camden, City of Westminster, City of London, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth)
London (Brent, Camden, City of London, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Richmond-upon-Thames)
University of Surrey
OVO Bikes (run by Nextbike)
Vale of Glamorgan
Santander Cycles (run by Nextbike)
West Midlands Cycle Hire (run by Beryl)
E-scooter rental operators
Isle of Wight (Cowes, Newport and Ryde)
Superpedestrian (formerly Wind)
* London e-scooter trials are in the boroughs of Camden, City of London, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth (north of the borough only), Richmond-upon-Thames
Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Westminster
All details correct at time of writing. If you've spotted any errors or omissions, email email@example.com.