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Uber plans to ‘double down’ on bikes and scooters next year — especially in Europe

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Via CNBC

Uber’s electric rental bikes in Rome, Italy.

Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images

Uber plans to “double down” on its investment into electric bikes and scooters in 2020, with a particular focus on Europe, an executive at the company said.

The firm bought Jump, a bike-sharing service based in the U.S., last year betting on growth in the so-called “micromobility” space. It has since rolled out the company’s two-wheelers internationally, mostly in European cities.

“We want to double down on micromobility,” Christian Freese, Jump’s head of EMEA, told CNBC in an interview. “We have seen how beautifully it works with our core business and ride sharing, and want to invest more and deeper, especially in Europe.”

Uber claims adoption of Jump’s bikes and scooters in Europe has outpaced that of the U.S. in the last eight months. It says more than 500,000 Europeans rode the vehicles in the last eight months alone, racking up 5 million trips in total.

The firm didn’t provide data on how many U.S. users took rides with Jump, but said its most popular city right now is Paris, followed by Sacramento and Seattle.

Investing more cash into such a specific part of its business could be seen as contentious among shareholders, who have battered the company’s stock since it listed in spring amid questions as to when it will start making money. For its part, Uber has claimed it can reach profitability by 2021.

Uber’s acquisition of Jump in 2018 came against a backdrop of growing interest from investors in buzzy e-scooter start-ups like Lime and Bird. In Europe, players like Voi and Tier have come into the fray, luring in millions of dollars from venture capitalists this year.

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But those vehicles have also faced regulatory pushback in both the U.S. and Europe, with officials uneasy about how some of them clock unusually high speeds and are left abandoned on streets or rivers. France recently introduced tougher rules for e-scooters, while in Britain it is still not legal to ride them — though Bird is trialing them on private land in London.

Uber’s priority in Europe will be to focus on deepening its presence in existing markets like London, where it launched e-bikes earlier this year. The U.K. capital is already awash with bike-rental schemes, but the firm said it aims to broaden its reach there, with plans to launch in the London borough of Hackney next year following initial rollouts in Islington and Camden.

London is an important market for the ride-hailing giant — its biggest overall in Europe. But the company’s future there has looked more uncertain following a decision by the local transport authority not to renew its operator’s license. Uber is however appealing the decision, and can still operate while that process takes place.

Freese said Uber is also in talks with authorities in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe about how it can look to pilot its scooters, addressing the safety issues that would accompany them.

“When we are thinking about bringing a product to a market, especially a product like scooters, we are working very closely with local officials,” he said, adding the company has had “very fruitful discussions in the U.K.”

Uber also plans to bring a new mode of transport, electric mopeds, to its platform for the first time. The company was set to launch mopeds in Paris in partnership with local operator Cityscoot, but CNBC understands this was delayed due to a product integration issue. Freese said the company would look to roll out mopeds in the French capital in the first quarter of 2020.

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