How felyx is helping people to travel smartly
If you’ve spent time walking or cycling around Amsterdam in the last 12 months, then there’s a good chance that you might have seen one of felyx’s dark green scooters in action. In fact, you’ve probably seen one rather than heard it, as the firm’s rentable electric vehicles make only the faintest of noises. Quiet, emission-free and available to anyone with a Dutch address, a valid driver’s license and a Dutch bank account or international credit card, these rentable e-scooters are how the Amsterdam startup’s team hope to make cities cleaner and quieter, and help people make smarter choices when travelling.
The concept behind felyx is simple. The firm offers its scooters to rent through an app – it costs around 30 cents per minute. Users don’t need to worry about maintenance or parking the vehicles, so long as when they are finished, they leave it within a pre-defined service area. When questioned, 50 per cent of felyx’s users said that would have used a car or taxi to take a journey if a rentable scooter had not been available. Each of felyx’s scooters is powered by green energy converted from wind power, and in total they drive 430,000km per year (in total 1.2million km has been driven on felyx scooters), saving more than 100 tonnes of CO2 in total. The vans felyx use to maintain their scooters are also electric, further reinforcing the company’s sustainable ethos.
A startup aiming to make cities more liveable
felyx was launched in 2015 by founders Quinten Selhorst and Maarten Poot, who came up with the concept when they couldn’t find a parking space while using a car-share scheme. “That’s where it all started,” explains Luc van Emmerik, felyx’s global head of expansion, “and in 2017 we placed 108 scooters in Amsterdam and instantly saw huge demand.” Since that launch the service has seen its users grow exponentially – and now tens of thousands of users currently use the 108 electric scooters on the streets in Amsterdam and the 324 scooters available in Rotterdam. Hundreds of new users sign up to the app each day, and felyx plans to expand its team from 21 people to around 75 in the next few months. Van Emmerik has a simple explanation for why the service is so successful: “Our main aim is to make cities more liveable.”
Providing an alternative to using your car
Despite the huge demand and continued growth, Van Emmerik says felyx’s initial launch was not all smooth-sailing. “The initial reaction was great,” he says, “but one major issue was that we were launching at the same time as a lot of shared bike schemes. People were happy with the service but overwhelmed by the number of services that were launching at once.” Another problem was the Dutch government – who said shortly after felyx launched that all vehicle sharing schemes should be banned. “Fortunately, with the support of the public in Amsterdam, we were able to show that we deserved a chance, and so the government allowed us to operate.”
Photo: Luc van Emmerik from felyx
That decision has caused some dissent among some members of the business community who say felyx essentially have a monopoly on the market. But Van Emmerik says that a scheme like theirs – one that, he argues, reduces congestion, CO2 emissions and makes cities more liveable – is one that’s working towards a greater good. “I would say that we all serve a bigger purpose. We see more and more liveability problems in cities and in the end that causes lots of problems for its residents. That needs to change, and the sooner that we can change the mindset of people who use their cars to travel for short distances and to get to work the better.” Currently the number of vehicles that felyx can operate in Amsterdam has been capped by the government, but Van Emmerik says that they are working to add more as soon as they can to meet demand.
As well as users that use the scooters to travel on short single journeys, felyx also has seen a rise in the number of people that use one to take longer return trips out of the city. “That’s great for us,” Van Emmerik says, “as it shows us that they’re replacing their cars with our scooters.” There is also a high demand from train and bus stations, something he says “shows people are coming to the city knowing that parking a car would be hard – and instead are using public transport and then a shared scheme like ours to complete their journey”.
Rising adoption rates in smart mobility
In terms of the smart mobility industry, Van Emmerik is most excited that the adoption rate is rising. “That shows people are willing to change their travel habits,” he explains. “We could only grow as fast as we have if people are willing to try new things. The perception of travellers is changing, and that changes the daily commute to and from cities. That’s great for us, but also for people living in cities around the world."
“I think in the next few years we will see clear plans being developed in cities to how they service a crowd. In Amsterdam you see cars being forbidden in more areas, in Brussels you have ‘clean zones’ where you are only allowed in a certain area it is has a specific motor type. This collaboration – between governments, municipalities and businesses like ours – will not only change the way we travel but the way we plan our trips in the future so that we travel more responsibly.”
Using investment to expand into other European cities
felyx has now raised more than €3 million in funding and is using part of that money to launch its service in The Hague in 2019. The team are also already assessing other major cities in Europe which would be a good fit for the brand. “Amsterdam is a great city for our product – it has a pioneer mindset and it wants to be the best example of what a capital can be,” Van Emmerik says. “It was a perfect test case for us. The Amsterdam region is also a great place to do business: people work hard, but we’re also about having fun and that’s a big part of our companies’ cultures. It’s also very open-minded. If we need help we call other startups and even bigger companies, including banks like ABN AMRO, and they help us. And we also do our best to help others when they need it.”
When assessing other opportunities, felyx look at whether they can solve problems a city might have, such as pollution and congestion. felyx is also looking into developing public-private partnerships with transport companies. “We will do a test in The Hague next year and if everyone likes it, we will add more scooters,” Van Emmerik explains. “We’re also working on another few cities which we should launch next year, with the logical next steps for us being cities in Belgium, Germany and The Nordics. We always focus on human capital in a city, and whether our service will help improve liveability in a city.”