At first, it was electric scooters that began to appear in major cities around the world. After ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft introduced new concepts in transportation, these electric transportation solutions followed. Scooter sharing became a thing, and city dwellers enjoyed these devices to take them to their final destination. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) gained in popularity, persuading many this was the way of the future. (Read more about mobility-as-a-service in this Bold Business story.) But despite this, not everyone was convinced. Scooters cluttering sidewalks, safety issues, and other problems made e-scooters certainly less than ideal.
Then, COVID struck. Suddenly, public forms of transportation were shut down due to risks of virus spread. Though many worked from home, personal mobility became more important than public mobility. Likewise, electric transportation solutions offered many advantages that cars and subways didn’t. For one, they allowed efficient mobility in urban areas without traffic. They were also environmentally friendly and readily accessible. Seemingly overnight, e-bikes, e-mopeds, and a variety of other electric transportation solutions appeared.
“Interest in sustainable travel and in micro-mobility solutions for urban areas – including rentable electric scooters – has been given a shot in the arm by the COVID-19 pandemic.” – David Leggett, GlobalData analyst
Light Electric Vehicle Use by the Numbers
Light electric vehicles, or LEVs, encompass a broad range of electric transportation solutions. E-scooters and e-bikes certainly apply, but likewise, e-unicycles, e-skateboards, and e-mopeds do as well. These vehicles now comprise a fleet off options that many urban residents have to get around town. And in the midst of the pandemic, they certainly have. In Portland, Oregon, nearly half of all car commutes have been replaced by LEV commutes. These same trends are expected inn other major cities as well. In fact, with the addition of e-mopeds, experts suggest three-quarters of all car trips in city areas could be replaced.
Changes driving these trends are not just those related to the pandemic. LEVs offer clear advantages when it comes to parking, allowing users to save a bundle on parking fees. They’re also quieter, dramatically reducing the amount of urban noise pollution commonly experienced. But most importantly has been a shift of e-bike and e-scooter companies to move to a subscription-based model. This change could serve as an accelerator to the widespread adoption of these electric transportation solutions. (Read more about the rise of the subscription-based economy in this Bold Business story.)
“The psychological aftermath of the pandemic will persist for some time; people do and will continue to prefer more distance from others. This will lead to an acceleration of personal e-mobility solutions, both outright purchase and subscription models.” – Shawn Carolan, Partner, Menlo Ventures
New Developments in Electric Transportation
In such a dynamic field, it’s not surprising that change is both rapid and constant. Nearly every week, it seems new developments are occurring ranging from city restrictions to new offerings. One notable development recently has been Lime’s announcement of their new e-bikes. Investing $50 million to scale their e-bikes globally, Lime has a brand-new model to showcase. Not only are their e-bikes more powerful with an automatic 2-speed transmission. They also have swappable batteries than can be used in Lime’s e-scooters. Lime notably entered into this electric transportation solutions sector after acquiring Jump from Uber last year.
Lime is not alone in making new announcements. Revel, which began as an e-moped provider in New York City, is expanding into e-bikes as well. The more notable development is that Revel will offer these e-bikes as a subscription service for $99 a month. In addition to mobility, subscribers also receive complimentary maintenance, flat tire repair, and app-based access to service. In the UK, Ford Motor Company’s mobility unit called Spin is introducing a 3-wheeled scooter. Its product comes equipped with automatic parking capabilities and can be hailed via an app few blocks away.
“We’ve been listening to our users to understand what they want and what they need, and being ready to deliver a vehicle at a time when it couldn’t be more needed for a city like New York.” – Frank Reig, CEO, Revel
Electric Transportation Solutions Still with a Few Problems
The issues related to street clutter with e-scooters remain a problem in many areas. Likewise, safety continues to be a big concern. Moving into services offering e-bikes and e-mopeds only intensifies some of these concerns. But new technologies are believed to resolve some of these dilemmas. For example, Ford’s e-scooters in the UK have electronic retrievability to avoid the clutter situation. Likewise, Revel, after some serious customer accidents, now requires all users to take a selfie with a helmet on before riding. Though these won’t eliminate all complaints about these electric transportation solutions, they are a move in the right direction.
Over the longer term, the bigger issue that needs to be addressed involves transportation infrastructure. Sidewalks are not conducive to most LEVs, especially e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-mopeds. But at the same time, these electric transportation solutions cannot safely travel alongside cars and trucks either in all areas. New infrastructures for these new transportation services need to be considered. This not only includes thoroughfares but battery charging stations as well. Some cities have utilized old railways for this purpose, but this will certainly not work in most urban centers. For those in the industry, the hope is these changes will come as more people choose these modes of travel.
A Burgeoning Industry on the Brink
There has been tremendous hype about electric cars with Tesla’s recent growth and GM’s announcements about future EV production. But other electric transportation solutions exist, and they will comprise a large part of mobility networks. E-bikes, e-mopeds, e-scooters, and an array of other models will continue to expand in style and number. Other accessories, such as Fend’s foldable helmets, will also increase in variety as well. And over time, infrastructures and best practices will emerge. The bottom line is that the pros far outweigh the cons. And all of this suggests that LEVs are not just here to stay but will occupy an ever-increasing portion of the transportation sector.
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