As Moscow prepares to host up to one million football fans for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, one Skolkovo resident startup is set to offer fans and Muscovites alike a new form of transport convenient for covering the so-called last mile: kick scooters for rent.
Sergey Pisarenko, co-founder of Samocat Sharing, rides a scooter near the Skolkovo Technopark. Photo: Sk.ru
Samocat Sharing, a resident company of Skolkovo’s energy-efficient technologies cluster, has for some time operated its scooter-sharing system inside the Skolkovo innovation city, and last year launched a pilot scheme in the Finnish city of Espoo. Now it has opened its first scooter station in central Moscow – on Ulitsa Pokrovka – and plans to open many more by the time that football fans from around the world descend on the Russian capital.
“We currently have one station that is up and running in central Moscow, outside the Central House of Entrepreneurs, with five scooters,” Sergey Pisarenko, co-founder of Samocat Sharing, told Sk.ru.
“By June 1 we aim to launch at least 25 to 30 stations around Moscow, in time for the World Cup [which starts on June 14],” he said. In total, the company hopes to open up to 100 stations around Moscow by the end of the year, and up to 50 in St. Petersburg, said Pisarenko, adding that the company is currently in negotiations with Russia’s second city on launching its scooters there.
Much like the bike-sharing schemes in place across many countries, Samocat Sharing enables people to rent a kick scooter for as long as they need after downloading an app and registering a credit card for payment. The fully solar-powered stations are all equipped with free WiFi to make it easier for people to download the app on the spot. Rental tariff options include per hour, per day and even a 7-day travel pass.
The Samocat Sharing kick scooter dock inside the Skolkovo Technopark. Photo: Sk.ru.
The scooters are designed to solve the last mile problem in smart cities, such as travelling from the metro to the office, as well as inside university campuses or other large-scale places of work, such as the giant Skolkovo Technopark, where kick scooters are a very common sight. The company claims it can save up to 23 minutes a day per employee in faster travel time: more than 100 working hours a year per employee.
Samocat’s founders – Pisarenko and Vasily Bykov – believe that kick scooters have several advantages over bikes: they are cheaper and lighter, and can be taken on the metro and other forms of transport. In addition, their stations take up less room on the streets or inside buildings.
The stations in Moscow were designed specifically for the city, including one station designed using a minigrant from the Skolkovo Foundation for the prominent Art. Lebedev Studio. But the company’s plans reach far beyond Russia: Samocat plans to build on the success of its pilot projects in Finland last year by opening 20-40 stations in Helsinki this year, as well as entering other European cities. Nor are the company’s plans limited to kick scooters: Samocat is due to announce its plans to expand into electric scooters and other forms of micro electric transport in the next few weeks, including at the upcoming Skolkovo Startup Village on May 31 and June 1.
While scooter-sharing schemes have been introduced in cities such as San Francisco, Washington, LA and Miami, most schemes across the world are stationless: riders simply leave them in an appropriate spot at their destination. (Anti-theft mechanisms include locking the wheels and requiring the app to unlock them, and fitting the scooters with GPS devices.) In China, dockless bike schemes have resulted in giant piles of abandoned bikes and bankrupt companies.
Samocat has consciously chosen to use docks, and has solved the main problem encountered by users of transport-sharing system stations: that they reach their destination only to discover that the station is full. Samocat’s solution for this situation is what it calls a “mini parking lot:” an overspill lot into which the scooter can be safely locked.
A Samocat dock designed especially for the upcoming FIFA World Cup. Photo: Samocat Sharing.
“Currently, there is a wave of stationless scooters being launched around the world: [California-based electric scooter services] Bird, Lime, and others,” said Pisarenko.
“We have understood from the very beginning that not every city will find it convenient to have scooters lying around everywhere, electric or otherwise. They will ruin cities: it’s chaotic and they take up a lot of room,” he told Sk.ru.
“Secondly, not every city or country can have scooters or other transport devices distributed in a way that guarantees they will not be vandalized etc., and that’s the thinking behind our solution. Our solution takes up less room and makes it possible to charge the scooters automatically. To solve the problem of the last mile, or even the last 600 metres, it’s the best option,” said Pisarenko.
Ilya Kiselev, head of energy storage, hydrogen technology and thermoelectrics projects within the Skolkovo Foundation’s energy cluster, said Samocat Sharing’s scooter rental service could improve connections between different types of public transport.
“Kick scooters are more compact than bikes, so they can be integrated in places with limited space, such as trains or car-sharing scheme vehicles, and we predict high demand for last mile transportation in megalopolis areas, as well as in cities with a small population,” Kiselev told Sk.ru, noting that Samokat Sharing successfully runs a pilot project in the Skolkovo innovation center, where two rental stations are located.
“The Skolkovo Foundation actively supports companies involved in the development of environmentally friendly and smart transportation solutions. An important component is companies such as Samocat Sharing that are implementing projects in new types of convenient urban transport,” said Kiselev.