The use of e-Scooters on our streets is something of a divisive topic among the British public.
Advocates hail the devices as ways to combat climate change and help less active people explore their cities and towns much faster, while others decry them as dangerous to pedestrians and antisocial in nature.
Leamington Spa-based start-up Hilo EV aims to change all that with its own, safety-focused e-Scooter, which makes use of sophisticated AI and innovative design to reduce the likelihood of accidents.
Founded by James Browne and Robin Harris in 2020, alongside Chief Technical Officer Ashley May and Chief Creative Officer David Evans, the firm has five employees across its office in Leamington and R&D centre in Cambridge.
Its potential led it to receive backing from former Aston Martin CEO Dr Andy Palmer and the University of Warwick Science Park’s business support programme Business Ready ahead of a successful launch at major industry conference Micromobility Europe 2023.
The spark initially came from Robin, who visited ‘megacity’ Chongqing in China and saw many people using e-Scooters to traverse the metropolis with ease.
He said: “Seeing the take up of e-Scooters in China showed us the possibilities of what could be done in this country. But we knew the public at large would not go for something en-masse that wasn’t safe.
“When developing our prototype, we knew we had to prioritise safety above everything else.”
To that end, ‘Hilo One’, Hilo EVs prototype e-Scooter aimed at the private market, was born.
It features a larger front wheel to cope with bumps and potholes compared to other e-Scooters, and has a powerful ‘halo’ light to illuminate the rider in dark conditions to increase visibility.
But the most innovative feature is the AI system that constantly scans for danger using 360° cameras during use.
If a danger is detected, such as a pedestrian stepping in front of the scooter, haptic feedback in the handlebars vibrates and the lights illuminate brightly, sending a clear signal to both riders and onlookers that a collision may be imminent. The rider can then make a swift decision to avoid the accident.
Hilo’s potential was spotted by Dr Andy Palmer – the former CEO of Aston Martin and a pioneer of electric vehicles. He was impressed with the safety aspect and decided to come on board.
Further guidance came from support programme Business Ready, which was managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
When Hilo One was unveiled at Micromobility Europe in Amsterdam in June, the company was suddenly on everybody’s lips.
“We were blown away by the response,” James added.
“I think the industry has been crying out for an e-scooter that reassures riders and policymakers that people are going to be safe when using them, which is why a number of big players approached us soon afterward.
“We now have a few new avenues to explore after the conference and we’re excited to see where they lead.”
Hilo is now in talks with a range of automotive OEMs about integrating its scooters into existing EVs to create a form of multi-modal transport.
The idea is a driver could park their EV a few miles away from their final destination – perhaps at a charging point – before taking out the integrated Hilo e-scooter and riding the rest of the way.
Not only that, Hilo is speaking with fellow micromobility manufacturers about selling its innovative technology to them to improve their own safety.
The biggest barrier for Hilo remains the legislation around e-Scooters.
“We need clarity from the government around the legality of e-Scooters for private use, and whether they should be used on roads, cycle paths, pavements, or a combination,” James added.
“What we can do is tweak the features of Hilo One for different countries’ laws, such as max speed, level of lighting, and much more.
“Once the legislation is in place, we can then work around it and bring Hilo One to the streets.
“There’s no doubt that if adopted, e-Scooters will do wonders for reducing carbon emissions due to people ditching their cars to use them, or helping people who aren’t strong enough to cycle to get about urban environments quickly.
“Thanks to the support we’ve received along the way from the likes of Dr Palmer and Business Ready, we’re in a great position to make Hilo a reality in the UK and abroad.”