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Micromobility: e-bikes and e-scooters charge ahead

By Laetitia Laubscher |

Thinking small could help make big changes to the way we get around and help reduce our personal carbon footprint.

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Women riding eletric scooter
 
 

Electric cars are great – but they’re not the total answer to decarbonising personal transport. Cars are still large, often have just a single occupant, and create serious congestion in our big cities. With short trips under two kilometres making up nearly a third of all car trips on our roads, why would you get in the car at all? Instead, you can jump on your e-bike or e-scooter and make your trip fast, quiet and clean.

Small electric vehicles will soon be shaping the way we design our cities, according to Oliver Bruce, an ex-United Nations youth climate activist turned Regional Operations Manager at Uber turned investor. He’s spent the last three years jumping on a sneaky trend taking over our urban streets in various neon colours: micromobility.

Soon to outsell cars?

Micromobility is everything from e-bikes to e-scooters – it’s basically any lightweight vehicles designed for short distance travel. And the people love it; even more so than EVs. You can always take short trips on an e-bike or e-scooter, or you can use it to take you the last few kilometres to work or home, bridging the gap between your destination and a bus stop, car park or ferry terminal.

“Look at what’s selling. If you look in New Zealand, we will sell 7.5 times more electric scooters and bikes than we will electric cars.” says Oliver. “We will probably next year sell more electric scooters and bikes than we will all new cars. Give it another couple of years and we will sell more of those than we will all cars.”

The global micromobility market was valued at over $40 billion in 2020, forecast to reach $195 billion by 2030 – growth of over 17% each year. We can expect to see more small electric vehicles on our streets, as well as more sharing services. Investors are taking notice, with micromobility subscription options becoming more widespread and two e-scooter companies listing on the share market in the US.

Using 1% of the energy of a standard car

Close up of electric bike

Not only is micromobility appealing for its versatility and price, it’s also a lot more energy efficient. Oliver explains that by using e-scooters and e-bikes, “you can move people with a 30th of the energy it takes an electric car and a 100th of the energy it takes for a standard car.” It’s likely that as battery technology improves, vehicle batteries will last longer and e-bikes and e-scooters will become cheaper to buy, maintain and run.

That is underlined by the findings of a pioneering study released in May on why people use shared e-scooters, bikes and e-bikes. Conducted in Zurich, the study’s results suggest that users’ choices are dominated by distance and time of day. They are also influenced by whether the vehicles are available from stations or “free-floating.” For commuting, users prefer station-based modes. The policy implications could be significant: providing docking infrastructure for currently dockless shared micro-vehicles could make micromobility a more attractive alternative to car commutes.

Is micromobility the future of personal transport?

As their presence grows, we can expect city planners to start taking micromobility into account when designing our streets. That could include charging stations, more cycle/scooter paths and more spaces to park. Businesses, too, are recognising the need for parking and charging spaces, along with showering and changing facilities for employees.

To Bruce, EVs are step in the right direction, but the future of transport is to stop taking a one-size-fits-all approach to our transport needs.

“I have a Tesla, but I also have a scooter,” says Oliver. “You should choose the vehicle that makes the most sense. Most trips in urban settings are less than five kilometres. As a result, you’ll want to use a smaller vehicle in a highly congested urban place. It’s more efficient – and it’s just faster.”

 

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