The term ‘micro mobility’ is a new one, and it’s important to note that it currently lacks a standard definition. Generally, however, it can be understood to refer to a range of small, lightweight vehicles (under 500kg), often powered by electricity, that can be used to transport people safely round urban areas.
Typically, these forms of transport are shared vehicles that you can rent through an app or pick up at designated stations around the city. While they have a limited speed and range (typically up to 32 km/h) and are programmed to stay within certain areas, micromobility vehicles are a clean, fast way of navigating urban centers.
We’re going to introduce you to the two most widely used types of micromobility vehicles and explain some of the benefits of using them. We’ll also see why are micromobility vehicles so popular with the millennial generation.
Types of micromobility
What counts as a micromobility vehicle is still being defined. The category is constantly expanding as new innovations are brought to market. Some of these innovations are very practical for inner-city travel. But others, like the e-unicycle, haven’t caught on as fast.
Electric scooters are the most widely utilized form of micromobility vehicle. Like push scooters, they have a foot deck, two wheels, and a handlebar. However, unlike a traditional scooter, they also have acceleration capabilities, meaning you don’t have to do all the hard work. In fact, electric scooters can go up to about 20km/h, making them perfect for getting around in mid-to-large cities. City councils around the world have implemented public scooter sharing systems, which allow you to rent e-scooters from designated docks and pay for them by the minute.
Again, electric bikes are very similar to push bikes, but with a few extra features (battery, motor, and controller) to make it easier to ride uphill. The motor will propel you, but you still but need to pedal yourself! Electric bikes and scooters travel at approximately the same speed, but e-bikes are more popular in larger urban areas, as they are even better for traveling longer distances. In some cities where e-bike schemes are in operation, bikes can be left anywhere after you have finished using them. In others, you will need to rent your bike from, and return it to, a designated docking station. These stations are usually located in populous areas throughout the city.
As the micromobility market grows, some standout startup companies are emerging in this field. But some of the big names in the technology and travel industries are also looking for a slice of the action, including Uber and Lyft. These popular platforms have joined companies like Veo, Spin, Bird, and Lime in offering e-bikes and e-scooters for rent alongside their ridesharing services.
The benefits of micromobility
- Cost-effective – e-bikes are by far the most cost-effective form of micromobility transport (although electric scooters aren’t far behind). They are a fraction of the cost of an electric car, as they are smaller and consume less energy, particularly when it comes to charging. If you are renting a scooter from a public sharing service, you only have to pay for what you need and use.
- Sustainable – asmicromobility vehicles do not use fossil fuels, they do not use up precious, non-renewable energy reserves, or emit greenhouse gases. Instead, they are either powered by electricity, human energy, or a combination of both (for example, e-bikes), making them much better for the environment than cars, buses, or trains.
- Efficient – not only are micromobility vehicles more efficient than cars, they’re also a far more convenient form of inner-city transport. Riding an e-scooter, e-bike, or electric skateboard, means you can make use of bike lanes, bypassing the traffic. Parking is much easier and cheaper, too! When you rent a scooter from a dock, all you have to do is return it to the nearest docking station at the end of your journey, ready for the next person to pick up.
How millennials are driving the future of micromobility
Millennials are currently the largest and most influential generation in the US, and their taste for urban living has been responsible for the regeneration of many American city centers. This is because buyers from this generation are more likely to choose a property near a city center than Gen X house-hunters. However, inner-city living isn’t well known for being transit friendly, and this used to be a big problem for people aged 25-45 who want to live, work, and socialize in a busy urban environment.
But now rideshare apps and micromobility vehicles are making these areas more accessible.
Ride and bike-share programs like Uber, Lyft, and Santander Cycles, have been operating in major global cities for over a decade. However, micromobility vehicles really came into their own just before the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, there were over 85 thousand e-scooters available for rent in 100 cities across America, and users made more than 38.5 million trips during this one-year period.
From these numbers, it was projected that the entire micromobility sector could be worth as much as $300B by the year 2030.
But between 2020-2021, due to lockdown measures in place across the globe. People stopped traveling even short distances, and the market for these services began to decline. However, analysts are confident that if micromobility startups can find ways to overcome challenges like a lack of regulation, distribution, and thefts, that the industry could be on track for another huge growth spurt.
As the millennial generation are concerned with sustainable urban transport options, we’re sure to see a steady increase in the number of e-scooters and e-bikes on the streets in the future.