German e-scooter startups band together over proposed restrictions

Up until now, there has not been a consensus in the e-scooter industry; everyone is fighting for themselves in a competitive market.

German e-scooter startups band together over proposed restrictions
A man with an e-scooter in Stuttgart in November 2019. Photo: DPA

But now the six largest sharing providers, Lime, Voi, Tier, Jump, Bird and Circ, see their existence threatened by a new proposal and have formed an unprecedented alliance, according to a report in Germany's Business Insider.

READ ALSO: What you think of the rise of electric scooters in Germany

For the first time, Germany is demanding a permit requirement for e-scooters which could significantly restrict their usage, according to the report. The move, part of a package to road traffic regulations, was to be voted on Friday.

How will a permit change the industry?

This would mean in practice that e-scooter startups would have to get a permit from German municipalities before their vehicles – which were officially legalized in Germany in June 2019 – are allowed to hit the streets.

Cities could also attach certain conditions to this permit, such as fleet ceilings, quotas and fees.

Up until now, being able able to park the e-scooters freely is part of the business model of the startups.

Via app, customers can rent and park the mini-motorized vehicles anywhere in the catchment area – the model is called “free-floating” in the jargon of the industry, and is intended to offer flexibility to park the vehicles in public spaces, even in front of the rider's front door.

An e-scooter rider in Cologne. Photo: DPA

READ ALSO: What happens to electric scooters in the colder months?

From the point of view of some cities, including Berlin, free floating causes parking chaos.

As the proposed amendment reads: “The commercial use of, in particular, pedestrian areas by commercial providers of rental electric scooters is increasingly causing traffic problems for other road users in cities and municipalities, in particular for pedestrians and persons with reduced mobility.”

Existence threatened

In a joint position paper, the six e-scooter companies called on the representatives of Germany's Federal Council not to approve the amendment.

“The current proposal allows cities and municipalities to ban e-scooters or rental bikes completely or to impose strict conditions on them,” it read. “Such strict regulation means the end of micro-mobility as an alternative to motorized individual transport.”

They stated that the bureaucratic burden would make the free-floating model so unattractive that only a station-based model – or picking and dropping off e-bikes at a particular station – would be considered by companies. But this in turn would be poorly accepted by the users.

In order to solve the parking chaos on the sidewalks, they see cities themselves as primarily responsible.

“In our view, the basic problem lies in the lack of infrastructure investments,” said Jashar Seyfi, Lime's German head, to Business Insider.

“Car parking spaces would have to be converted into parking spaces for e-scooters – but of course that doesn't make you popular as a politician in Germany as a car nation.”

‘Environmental friendly mobility’

According to Germany's Bundesrat, the amendment of the road traffic regulations serves to “promote sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility”. 

It also would increase the fines for parking and illegal use of sidewalks, ranging from the current  €25 today to up to €100. In addition, new traffic signs with e-scooter symbols are to be introduced.

In addition to e-scooters, greater safety for cyclists and better conditions for car sharing services are also an issue. The Federal Council was to vote on the changes on Friday.

READ ALSO: Fines and speed limits: Germany votes on new traffic rules

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Sweden Democrats threaten government crisis over biofuels obligation

The far-right Sweden Democrats are threatening to push Sweden's three-party ruling coalition into a political crisis as they fail to reach agreement over how drastically to cut the country's biofuels obligation, a key part in its plan to reduce emissions.

Sweden Democrats threaten government crisis over biofuels obligation

The party is claiming that a pledge in the Tidö Agreement calling for the biofuels obligation, or reduktionsplikt, to be cut to the “lowest EU level”, should mean that the amount of biofuels that must be blended into petrol and diesel and Sweden should be cut to close to zero, rather than to about half the current share, as suggested by ongoing EU negotiations. 

“We are being tough in the negotiations because of the power we have as the biggest party in this bloc,” Oscar Sjöstedt, the party’s finance spokesperson told TV4. “There is going to be a change at the end of the year that is going to be pretty significant and substantial, that I’m 99.9 percent certain about, otherwise we will have a government crisis.” 

The Liberal Party is pushing for a much less severe reduction, perhaps to a little more than half the current level, where 30.5 percent of all petrol and diesel must be biofuel. 

“We have signed up to a temporary reduction in the biofuels obligation, and it’s clear that that is what we are going to do, but zero is not an alternative for us,” the Liberal Party’s leader Johan Pehrson told TV4.

The decision to reduce the amount of biofuel in the mix at Swedish pumps has made it much more difficult for Sweden to meet its targets for emissions reductions, putting pressure on Pehrson’s colleague, Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari. 

Next Wednesday, Pourmokhtari will have to defend the extent to which her government’s policies have pushed Sweden away from being able to meet its 2045 target of net zero emissions when the The Swedish Climate Policy Council reports on the country’s progress towards its target.