Bolt taxi app launches in Ireland to rival FreeNow and Uber

3 Dec 2020

Image: Bolt

A new taxi-hailing app has arrived on the Irish market, with more than 1,000 drivers signed up to the service that charges less commission than other rivals.

From 2pm today (3 December), Estonian start-up Bolt will begin offering a taxi-hailing service to Irish customers. Accessed through an app, the service will aim to rival that of established players FreeNow and Uber.

Last month, Bolt announced it would spend more than €100m next year to deploy 130,000 e-scooters and e-bikes across more than 100 cities in Europe. Founded in 2013 under the name Taxify by 19-year-old entrepreneur Markus Villig, Bolt now has more than 30m users across 35 countries and is valued at around €1.7bn.

However, it also operates a taxi-hailing service that will charge taxi drivers 10pc commission, compared to the 15pc charged by FreeNow.

The company said that more than 1,000 taxi drivers in Ireland have signed up to take Bolt fares, with passengers getting a 50pc discount on their first five trips. Also, through a partnership, Revolut customers will get an additional two trips at a 50pc discount.

Interest in e-scooters

Customers in Ireland can order taxis via the Bolt app with options including Bolt Shield, where the car has a protective shield, and Bolt Green for a hybrid or electric taxi. In Ireland, Bolt said 33pc of cars on the Bolt platform are hybrid or electric, and more than 66pc have protective shields.

“With the Irish economy reopening gradually this week, it is crucial to provide a safe and responsible way for people to move around,” said Luke Mackey, country manager for Bolt Ireland.

“The arrival of Bolt will support the renewal of our urban economies as well as introducing choice and fairness in a taxi market that needs competition. We will do that by providing perks to taxi users and putting more money in drivers’ pockets, with lower commission and more transparency.”

Speaking with The Irish Times, Mackey also confirmed the company is “definitely interested” in launching an e-scooter service in Ireland once the necessary regulation has passed. In addition to its e-scooter, e-bike and taxi services, Bolt also runs a food delivery division called Bolt Food.

Updated, 10am, 11 December 2020: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Bolt founder and CEO Markus Villig as Finnish, but he is Estonian.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic