Swedish micromobility firm Voi, the largest rental e-scooter operator in the UK, has called on the UK government to set a clear date to introduce legislation on the machines – claiming that both jobs and investment are at risk.
At present, it is illegal to use an e-scooter on public roads unless it is part of a government-approved trial scheme. Last year, the government announced plans for regulations that would fully legalise the machines and other light zero-emission vehicles as part of a new Transport Bill – but that bill has since been shelved, with no clarity on when, or even if, the laws will now be introduced.
The trials began in 2020, and while local authorities taking part in them have been allowed to extend those schemes until May 2024, but there is no clarity on what will happen beyond that.
Speaking at a Transport Select Committee hearing today (Wednesday February 8), Matthew Pencharz, Voi’s UK police chief, said that the uncertainty could affect investment in the UK’s growing micromobility industry.
“Almost three years after the trials were first started, the demand for e-scooters is proven with Voi alone having 21 million rides, replacing over eight million car journeys,” says Pencharz. “However, the industry doesn’t have certainty after May next year when the trials are currently due to end.
“Legislation will allow more cities and towns to use e-scooters as a sustainable method of transport for their communities, providing a firmer footing for the industry and the jobs and investment connected with it.”
During the session Pencharz added that legislation would "give more clarity for people who are understandably confused between our regulated trials and the more free-for-all, sometimes illegal private e-scooters".
The government published a report into the trials last year, and Pencharz said that he felt there was little left to be learned from them to benefit the shaping of future legislation. He added: "We have proven the demand, and proven it is a safe, sustainable mode of transport. The cities we work in are keen to see it normalised."
Voi runs 18 e-scooter and e-bike rental schemes in the UK, including the ultra-successful trial in Bristol and the West of England. Recent analysis by the firm showed that the use of Voi e-scooters has helped generate more than £50 million across local economies in the UK last year.
Voi has called on the government to “follow through” with its commitment to create a light zero-emission vehicle category, including a category for e-scooters that would fully legalise both private and public machines.
The firm also wants insurance requirements to be brought in line with e-bikes, which Voi says would enable insurance firms to create better bespoke policies. At present, rental e-scooter firms are required to offer Motor Third Party Liability insurance designed for motor vehicles.