By Kristjan Maruste, CEO and Head of Product at Äike
Micro mobility has become a huge trend, quickly gaining popularity amongst people that are constantly on the move in big cities. We even saw the UK’s ex-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, whizzing around on an e-scooter in London and Israel back in 2015, while in the US, the number of e-scooter journeys made jumped by 100% in 2019 to 86 million.
The love for this kind of quick and easy transportation has been steadily on the rise, despite a few hiccups faced by some micro mobility firms when COVID first hit almost three years ago. As streets and offices in urban areas became empty, some firms struggled to keep up with new demands for two-wheeled transportation methods in the midst of supply-chain chaos.
However, the pandemic certainly brought the spotlight back to bicycles and e-scooters, as nations around the world were encouraged to ditch congested buses and car-sharing to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. Moreover, the reduction in air pollution during lockdown highlighted a big problem of unsustainable transportation methods in cities, renewing calls for the UK government to fast-track e-scooter trials in a £250 million boost.
Since then, the growth of the micromobility industry has been dramatically rising, with a 240% increase in sales for e-bikes in 2021. E-bikes, e-mopeds and e-scooters are now on the fast-track to winning over commuters, so, let’s have a look at what awaits the sector in 2023.
E-scooters will become more accepted as an alternative to driving, overtaking e-bikes
When e-scooters first came out, they were perceived as ‘toys’ – poorly built with short life cycles, and not a particularly safe thing to drive. However, with people finally embracing the immense benefits of this type of transportation, such as compactibility, affordability and sustainability, we can expect to see commuters getting smarter and exploring new types of durable scooters. There are far safer options for consumers now, as more and more innovative technology is going into building them. One brilliant example is the use of smart-locks that are being installed into some e-scooters’ IoT modules, which means the e-scooter can automatically recognise when the owner is in range through integrated apps, and action commands.
We’ve seen how e-bikes have undergone a similar amount of scepticism in the past, only becoming an urban cultural phenomenon in the past few years. I strongly believe that not only will e-scooters go through the same glow-up, but they will actually overtake e-bikes in popularity. This is already a reality in some regions, with France selling more e-scooters than e-bikes in 2022, where over two million users made e-scooters their preferred choice for urban mobility.
At least one of the big unsustainably built and VC-backed companies will go bust, thus launching a new era of durable LEVs (Light Electric Utility Vehicles)
The initial e-scooter boom can be mostly attributed to VC-backed start-ups that were focusing more on pumping out the products than on making their products sustainable and reliable. Large sales were seen as a sign of growth, despite none of them really thinking about the longevity of these vehicles and their business models. The average lifespan of an e-scooter, especially in the early days, was as little as a month, greatly damaging its position as a sustainable and zero-waste method of transportation.
With people, especially Gen Z, focusing more on their carbon footprint, many companies built this way will bite the dust. We will see most remaining fleet operators make huge jumps to put out more durable, sustainable and safe vehicles, bringing immense benefits to commuters in cities around the globe.
The mobility subscription scene will skyrocket this year
Subscription services are not only reserved for streaming – just look at the success of Swapfiets in Europe, or Unagi in the USA, which clearly show the subscription model is something modern city dwellers feel extremely comfortable with.
With most people perhaps not being able to afford to buy e-scooters or e-bikes out-right, subscriptions offer a reassuring and low-barrier-to-entry way for new users looking to make their way around busy urban streets. Besides, at the moment rental e-scooter services are the only way to legally ride this type of transport on public roads in the UK as the Government is trialling the scheme until autumn 2023.
Subscription services are also a great way to extend the lifetime of a vehicle and replace their car or diesel bus trips – a fantastic step for sustainability in LEVs. I am looking forward to seeing many companies creating new and more innovative models to meet the demand.
Purpose-Built LEVs will forever replace car fleets
Despite the economic downturn and many companies slowing down their upcoming innovation budgets, LEVs are likely to weather the storm and continue to rise in popularity due to their effectiveness, sustainability promises, and cheaper maintenance when comparing them to combustion cars as a working tool. This will become especially prominent in 2030, as the UK is set to ban the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel vehicles.
This is further proven in the current numbers from the EU that shows the shrinking levels of car sales. However, I believe they should and will be replaced with alternatives such as cargo bikes, parcel delivery vehicles and other similar vehicles. As the logistics sector is facing a huge shift to decarbonisation, with sales of battery-powered EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles expected to rise by 57%, it is highly unlikely for any of these companies to transition back into conventional cars or vans.
Purchasing grants to extend not only to electric cars, but LEVs as a whole
Now, this trend is really high on my wishlist! A lot of governments and employers have quickly and swiftly adopted grants and incentives to help people purchase electric cars, with that sector, as we could see from the previous stats, dramatically boosting sales.
However, there is a huge untapped potential to incentivise the use of e-bikes, e-scooters or any other micro mobility vehicle – this could be a huge key player in urging more people to make the transition to micro mobility whilst caring for the environment, mental health and cleanliness of their communities. It also has the potential to encourage more workers to come back to offices as it would negate the unnecessary traffic-jammed commute they would have usually had to do.
There is a lot that needs to be done in order to encourage people to switch to this type of transportation. More purpose-built infrastructure is needed to support e-scooter users, and more investment into the areas that usually wouldn’t have benefited from the use of LEVs. E-scooter companies also need to ensure their products are highly-sustainable and durable if they want to succeed at targeting all age groups.
We are already on the right path, as some e-scooter companies are developing vehicles that not only reduce noise, air and traffic pollution but also offer a truly sturdy, safe and free riding experience. And finally, there is a wider call for the public to take proactive steps in reducing their own carbon footprint by changing their transportation habits.
2023 is a year for companies, decision-makers and micro mobility users to make a real change and put two wheels at the forefront of everyone’s minds.