E-Roller Floatility © Floatility

Smart city project: Floating through Hamburg's city centre

Hamburg may introduce a fleet of e-rollers for sharing. Project also planned in Singapore

Electric scooters could become the latest addition to Hamburg’s shared mobility offer that already ranges from Car2go, DriveNow, Stadtrad and Janoo, as part of a mobility scheme dubbed “floatility”. The ultra lightweight scooters weigh just 12 kilogrammes and let the driver travel or rather float at speeds of 25 km/hour across tarmac, cobblestones and loose chippings.

Two locations

Oliver Risse is the man behind floatility. Risse, an industrial engineer, has worked in the cleantech sector for over 15 years and has a passion for smart city technology, electric mobility and sustainable concepts. He has worked in both Hamburg and Singapore for over 10 years developing business concepts and backing young companies. In 2010, he founded the OneNorth Ventures Pte Ltd incubator. At present, Risse is working on further developing floatility. To this end, he has offices in both Hamburg and Singapore.

Solar charging benches

Floatility aims to provide an environment-friendly travel solution for navigating downtown as the e-roller is powered with solar energy. Risse had the Hamburg-based photovoltaic producer, SolarNova, develop a solar station shaped like a bench. Risse noted: “The benches can be set up easily and are flexible.” The rollers take one-and-a-half to two hours to charge fully and you can then float around 15 kilometres through the city centre without emissions. Around 10 to 20 solar benches are needed to meet the charging requirements in downtown Hamburg, Risse estimates. The floatility app for locating rollers and charging stations is already in operation.

Potential in both markets

Hamburg and Singapore are pilot markets for floatility. Risse said: “We can test the roller’s suitability in completely different kinds of weather in Hamburg and Singapore,” as both markets have potential. Tropical temperatures in Singapore make cycling downtown almost impossible. “Every physical activity is unpleasant in hot, sultry temperatures,” said Risse. Floatility in Hamburg could be advantageous over city bicycles, as the rollers are easily folded, do not take up much space and can be taken on the underground during rush hour.

Modular production

The project came about in co-operation with BASF. In 2015, the company launched the co-creation programme with several founders and focused on city life, energy and nutrition. BASF is providing special composites and plastic materials, which a Stuttgart-based mechanical engineer is processing for individual modular parts in Indonesia, for floatility. Risse and a team of five do the finishing in Hamburg and Singapore.

MakerLAB Hamburg

Risse’s Hamburg office is adjacent to his workshop on the MLOVE Future City Campus in HafenCity. Harald Neidhardt, founder of MLOVE, designed the area in Baakenhafen as a place where founders can exchange ideas and for work platforms in sustainable urban development. This is where Risse has set up his MakerLAB Hamburg in several ocean containers overlooking HafenCity University. The office reflects the overall concept of floatility, Risse said, adding: “It’s compact and modular. The containers can be easily moved at any time to another place.”

Last stretch

“A fleet of 500 rollers could easily cover the requirements here in Hamburg and downtown Singapore.” Two successful seed rounds on financing the project have already concluded. And a third round is due to follow. However, Risse does not see his concept as a rival to traditional sharing providers. The entrepreneuer’s aim is instead, “to solve the problem of the last mile with the e-floater”; meaning stretches of five kilometres at the most. “That could be the road to work or the stretch to the underground,” said Risse.

Legal limbo

However, some legal obstacles have yet to be overcome before the rollers can take to streets. “The e-roller as a sharing model is still in legal limbo,” said Risso. Regulations on bikes as sharing vehicles would have to be expanded to e-rollers. And legal gaps would also have to be filled in Singapore as well. But Risse hopes to have resolved these issues in the next months. Then, the roller could go into production immediately.

Day trips with e-rollers

Until this legal limbo preventing the use of e-scooters as a public sharing system is settled, Risse is working on ideas for new usage areas. And he sees great potential for using e-scooters in spacious factory premises. He has already had an enquiry from a BASF branch in Shanghai. Tourism also offers potential for using the vehicles, he believes. Passengers on cruise ships arriving on excursions could tour the Hanseatic city on efloaters. Risse is already in talks with cruise companies to implement this idea.

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