Making a move

·4 min read

A new Charlottetown-based business has a goal of helping to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by transportation – one trip at a time.

Epic Electric Scooters has been about two years in the making, said owner Tafadzwa Mpaso, who started offering electric scooters to the public on Sept. 2.

“I know in P.E.I., the government is doing a lot to fight climate change, but I always felt like I needed to do something,” Mpaso told SaltWire Network in an interview Sept. 12.

Mpaso got the idea after travelling to Nova Scotia and seeing dozens of people riding around on e-scooters.

From there, he began to research how the new technology could help reduce carbon emissions in the province.

“I am a person who likes to live sustainably, so it was a very important (to) make sure I had done all the research,” said Mpaso, adding micro mobility is a good idea for the province because the vehicles are small and fast, making them ideal for P.E.I. roads.

From a business perspective, the scooters are also very affordable to maintain, and offering an alternative green solution that doesn’t break the bank was one his goals, said Mpaso.

“People can say we should buy electric vehicles in order to be sustainable. To me, it’s not realistic because EVs are very expensive.”

Reprovisioning the transport system in P.E.I. is what the province needs to do for the net-zero goal to be achieved, he added.

So far, the response from the public has been positive, from locals and visitors, said Mpaso. “People love it, we’ve been getting emails from people thanking us for bringing e-scooters to P.E.I.”

The city was supportive of the business decision, Mpaso added, saying he had little trouble in pitching the idea and getting the go-ahead.

“I explained the whole concept, they liked it and thought it was a good idea for all of P.E.I. It wasn’t complicated,” he said.

“Buying an e-scooter can cost anywhere from $200 to 2,000, so having a rental option in town was important for people who don’t have the means to buy one.”

Using an app

For his business, Mpaso says people download an app and then scan the actual scooter, which unlocks it. People are charged through their credit or visa debit card at a pre-set rate of $1 for the first minute and 29 cents per minute after. The scooters can be accessed at multiple spots around town and can be returned to any of those spots.

Safety regulations have been carefully considered, with every scooter originally being provided with a helmet. However, some of the scooters have had helmets stolen already, something the company plans to address next season.

“We do replace them as we have plenty extra, but by next year (plans are) to have helmets integrated into the scooter,” he said.

This means the helmet will be locked to the scooter and will only be able to be accessed when the scooter has been rented.

The app also provides rules when logging in about how to operate the scooter and contains a link with information about highway safety and provincial driving laws.

The company is working with Charlottetown Police Services as well, to ensure complaints or violations result in use of the app being suspended.

It is insured, but if the rules stated on the app link are violated, the driver of the scooter will be held liable for any damage.

“If we get any reports from the city police or from anyone, we investigate to see what is going on and then we deactivate the account,” said Mpaso.

E-Bikes

When contacted about new e-scooters on the streets of Charlottetown, no one from city council addressed the issue directly. However, information was provided about regulations for e-bikes. As of July 8, 2021, P.E.I.’s new regulation state e-bikes must follow the same rules as traditional bikes on roadways. Helmets must be worn, and speed cannot exceed 32 kilometres per hour.

At a city council meeting on Sept. 12, the city’s traffic bylaw was amended to include the definition of power-assisted bicycles, as per the Highway Traffic Act.

The city is aware of the e-scooter initiatives (external, third-party vendors) that have recently launched; however, the current focus is on reviewing and making recommendations on a municipal program that supports e-bikes, said a spokesperson from the City of Charlottetown.

“Our hope is that safety (such as helmets) and traffic bylaws are followed as users enjoy our multi-modal transportation network,” the statement read.

The municipality has no official regulations for e-scooters online at this time.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian