Cell phone with green background and word BOLT

The operator Bolt is harshly critical of the municipality: “The minimum amount required for each license is beyond what can be afforded”.

In Setúbal, the concept of sustainable mobility began to be implemented on June 5, 2021, with the pilot project of shared electric scooters for individual use by the population in urban travel, in partnership with Bolt. Electric bicycles followed on June 3, 2022.

But what seemed to be a step in the right direction ended in a tremendous disappointment. Today, unlike in almost every city in Portugal, it is no longer possible to rent scooters or electric bikes. All because, in January, Bolt terminated its partnership with Setúbal City Council.

“We can confirm that, for the time being, we have been forced to cease activity in Setúbal during a public auction which, initially, was deserted by any operator,” Frederico Venâncio, Bolt’s head of micromobility in Portugal, told New in Setúbal. On the app’s map, where it was possible to see the location of the vehicles and their parking spots, the Setúbal area is in red.

Setúbal was one of the first cities in Portugal to start operating with Bolt and the first in southern Europe to install a charging dock at the Transport Interface. However, according to the company, now “the minimum amount required for each license is beyond what can be afforded”.

Frederico Venâncio added: “We are therefore sorry to see that a European reference city for Bolt no longer has any micro-mobility activity; nevertheless, we are completely open to dialogue so that, who knows, we can once again serve the people of Setubal with alternative and sustainable means of travel.”

It should be remembered that Setubalenses have made millions of sustainable journeys on scooters and bicycles. According to Bolt data, more than 1.3 million journeys have been made and more than 2.1 million kilometers have been covered, which corresponds to going from the far north to the south of the country 3,818 times. These figures are proof of the project’s success in the city.

According to the company, “the uptake by Sadinos shows how well Bolt has integrated into the city”. After two months of using Bolt scooters, in August 2021, Setúbal was already one of the cities in Europe with the most electric scooter users, with more than 346,188 kilometers covered.

Initially, around 300 scooters arrived in the city. In the case of bicycles, and following the same pilot project logic, 50 pieces of equipment were made available for use by the population. The first charging station was inaugurated in June 2022, with the aim of “promoting responsible, safe and sustainable micro-mobility in urban centers”.

This initiative also came about as a safe and suitable place for vehicles, promoting better parking habits, since it was compulsory to leave them in the charging zone. Six months after the installation of the charging station at the Transport Interface, Bolt had registered more than 25,000 trips, a figure that contrasted greatly with the 1,600 parking spaces that had previously been registered in the area now covered by the station. Setubalenses will now have to go back to traditional transportation models, which are more polluting, expensive and outdated.

Bolt is a European app with more than 100 million customers in 45 countries and 500 cities across Europe and Africa. The company seeks to accelerate the transition from the personal car to shared mobility by offering better alternatives for each case, including car and scooter sharing and food and grocery delivery.

NiS contacted Setúbal City Council for clarification on the issue, but had not received a response by the time this article was published.