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STOCKHOLM, July 4 (Reuters) - European startup Dott has secured 30 million euros ($34 million) in a fundraising led by existing investors EQT and South Africa's Naspers to launch an electric bike hiring business and roll out new generations of its electric scooters.
Europe's Dott, Tier and VOI, like U.S. rivals Bird and Lime, have put thousands of electric scooters on the region's roads, betting large commuter populations and lower car ownership than in the United States will make such transport a European staple.
The firms have raised thousands of dollars in the last year to fend off competition, with the sector attracting high-profile investors including Google-owner Alphabet and Uber , despite no clear route to profitability.
Dott, whose e-scooters operate in Brussels, Paris, Lyon and Milan, said on Thursday it would soon close a Series A funding round, which had also seen existing investors Axel Springer and Felix Capital make commitments.
The money will be used to launch two new models of e-scooters with replaceable batteries - a move that should extend the life of the scooters - as well as launch e-bikes within the next few months, it added.
The move into bike sharing, with Dott's rivals pursuing similar plans, comes after Asian bike operators GoBee and Mobike were forced to retreat from Europe due to price wars, vandalism and a backlash from authorities over regulations.
Critics warn e-scooter operators could face similar issues, with some cities having already pulled permits for some players over safety concerns heightened by several accidents and a handful of deaths.
Dott said it had struck partnerships that would allow it to become the first player to start offering insurance coverage to its users in France and Belgium for personal injury and third-party liability with automatic signup and at no extra cost.
Competition is driving players to find ways to distinguish themselves. Sweden's VOI, which earlier this year raised $30 million and introduced a new generation of scooters with changeable batteries, is exploring tieups with delivery groups to boost use of its products.
($1 = 0.8859 euros) (Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm; Editing by Mark Potter)