An honest review of Coup

An honest review of Coup

This summer, Coup e-scooters have arrived in force and taken over the city. Is the service really worth signing up for, or should you stick to your trusty bicycle?

This is an older review. Some of the issues mentioned below have been fixed. Nonetheless, the general spirit of the review is still valid.

This summer, Coup e-scooters have arrived in force and taken over the city. You encounter the elegantly designed machines around every corner, and probably shook your fist at one or two of its users. Is the service really worth signing up for, or should you stick to your trusty bicycle?

The big picture

Coup is an electric scooter rental service. Its business model is the same as that of bicycle and car rental services such as Lidl-Bike and Car2Go. You use their app to locate the nearest vehicle, reserve it, ride it to your destination and park it there.

Each scooter has a helmet and a bag of hair nets under the seat. Once you found your scooter, you put on your helmet, hold the brake, press the Go button and you are good to go.

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When you are done with a scooter, you park it on the sidewalk anywhere within Coup's area of service. You can drive outside the area of service, as long as you park inside it after your ride.

Coup's pricing model is fairly simple: you pay 3 euros for the first 30 minutes of your ride, and 1 euro every 10 minutes after that. Here's an example:

Ride durationCost
1 minute€ 3
15 minutes€ 3
31 minutes€ 4
55 minutes€ 6

As long as you don't break anything, there are no other fees. Your usage is billed at the end of the month.

A rocky start

In order to sign up, you need a valid class B, A, A1, A2, AM driver's license - essentially any license that lets you drive a 50 cc scooter. You cannot sign up with a temporarily valid driver's license, such as those from non-EU countries.

On paper, it's simple. Just like with N26, you use the app to have a video chat with an employee that verifies your various documents. The employees speak English and German fluently.

However, the app struggled with this step. It took me nearly an hour to get the video session to start. It claimed I needed to enter payment information, but would not let me save it, then stopped asking about it but wouldn't start a video chat. I eventually found out that a corrupted address was the culprit. Filling the information correctly allowed me to go through the rest of the process.

When I was finally able to start a video chat, the screen froze 10 seconds into the call. The sound and the camera still worked, so I was able to complete the verification. I had to force quit the app when the call was over. A colleague of mine reported having the same issue with his iPhone.

Later on, I reported those issues to Coup and was rewarded with 3 free rides.

It's also worth noting that Coup is simply incompatible with many phones, effectively denying service to anyone with non-flagship phones.

Booking

The Coup app is fairly simple: it's a map of all the available scooters. You can see the distance from that scooter and its battery level. When you find a scooter, you can reserve it for 10 minutes, which is usually enough time to reach the nearest scooter.

Coup's Berlin fleet has a thousand scooters, over 3 times as many as its rival, Emmy. Being a user of both services, I don't even bother opening the Emmy app anymore, unless I really need a two-seater with two helmets.

Most scooters in around you have over 40% battery left, enough for a solid hour of riding. In my experience, you will usually have at least one scooter within 500 meters in the more central areas, and within 800 meters everywhere else.

Once you are near the scooter, you press the "Unlock" button on your phone, and the scooter gets unlocked via bluetooth. The scooter will play a neat sound and flash its lights to signal it has been unlocked, often attracting curious looks from passerbys.

You are then given 3 minutes to put on your helmet, lift the kickstand, hold the brake and press the big "Go" button on the dashboard. You're good to go!

As with most Internet of Things gadgets, there is always a noticeable delay before your button press translates to a reaction from the scooter. Unlocking takes 2 to 5 seconds, and locking can take up to 15 seconds. However, you can perform those actions while approaching or leaving the scooter, and it feels like goddamn magic.

I need to stress how cool it feels to have to be greeted with lights and sound when you approach the scooter, and to finish your trip at the press of a button as you walk away from it.

On two occasions (over a period of two years), my phone wouldn't connect with the scooter, so I couldn't lock it. A quick call to their technical support, and the problem was solved.

Riding

Coup scooters are surprisingly fun to ride. Their performance - acceleration, speed and handling - are superior to those of a regular 50cc scooter. They are torquey little machines and accelerate really fast. Instead of a high-pitched two-stroke fart, Coups emit a neat, futuristic hum.

Coups have a 53 km/h top speed. While it's enough for city riding, impatient drivers will often overtake you in the most dangerous ways while you're helplessly chugging along at full throttle.

If we have to compare riding Coups to riding scooters, it's all the same. However, if we compare them to riding the U-Bahn or pedalling across the city, Coups are hella fun.

Verdict

Coups are a bit like iPads: they bridge a very narrow gap between two things I already have. I have a monthly BVG ticket and a good bicycle already, and the times where a Coup is cheaper or faster are few and far between.

However, I look forward to booking a Coup. They're damn fun. It's something I treat myself to on sunny days, when I want to take the longest route to wherever. I spent 42 euros on Coups during my first month. It's addictive.

Despite a rocky start, I highly recommend Coup. It comes useful once in a while, and it's free the rest of the time. Once you're all set up, it's a fairly smooth experience, and at 3 euros a ride, it's about the same price as a train ticket.

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Stay around for a review of Coup's rival, Emmy.