A gold rush has hit British shores and it has nothing to do with mining. This is the last major untapped e-scooter market in the Western world, and micromobility companies are vying to win permits to operate shared scooter fleets in towns and cities across the country.
In a segment full of near-identical products, each operator is talking up their incremental improvements in an effort to swing lucrative contracts and persuade the public to try their products. In an open-air launch today in London, Tier showed why it is the first operator on British shores to field something genuinely different.
Tier, a German company which already runs numerous systems in mainland Europe and farther afield, has not yet secured any UK contracts – but its new Tier Four e-scooter cannot fail to attract attention. The scooter was presented by Tier boss Lawrence Leuschner overlooked by Tower Bridge.
The big differences are easy to spot. The battery stands upright at the base of the handlebar stem, rather than hiding in the deck as per industry norms. A black box further up the stem holds a folding helmet. Lastly, mounted at the handlebar tips and on the rear-wheel guard are indicators (turn signals, for any American readers out there).
The mint-green folding helmet is a rather neat little thing. Riders can unlock the storage box for free using the Tier app at the beginning of a ride; the helmet then assumes its shape with a couple of clicks. The hard hat must be replaced in the box before riders can end their journey. Disposable hairnets add a level of Covid-safety. It’s a nice concept and means that users wanting to wear a helmet don’t need to carry their own.
The Tier Four scooter also comes with indicator lights. They’re located at the end of the handlebars and on the rear-wheel-guard and toggleable by a couple of buttons on the left handlebar. This should allow rider to signal turns without needing to let go of the handlebars – important with a maximum legal speed of 15 mph (Tier currently limit to 13 mph).
There are also brake handles on both handlebars, which feels more secure than the foot-on-rear-wheel brake that is common on other e-scooters. On a quick test ride, the Four felt sturdy and comfortable, thanks to dual-suspension and 12-inch wheels.
Another great feature is the smartphone holder, which automatically wirelessly charges your phone.
Tier’s final London-unveiled feature was user-swappable batteries. Battery charging boxes, custom-made for Tier by a British start-up, can accommodate up to four batteries. Tier would like to install them in local shops and cafés. Users use the app to release their battery and swap it with a charged one in the store, while Tier covers all charging and the store benefits from increased footfall.
With early trials from other operators in the UK looking to be very popular, batteries are likely to need replacing every few days and this could be an efficient way to do it. Tier did not announce any specific store partnerships at the preview and it may be tricky to get stores to give up valuable real estate without further incentives but this could be a great system.
Tier has big plans for the UK and showcasing its new technology here first is not a bad way to snatch the spotlight.