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The growing role of Micromobility Vehicles in urban mobility

JUL 19, 2023 | Nikita Singh| Joydeep Bhattacharyya
region: ALL Transportation & Storage Internet of ThingsHyperconnectivity

Transforma Insights’ recent report, 'Micromobility Vehicles: 328 million devices to support the demand for urban mobility in 2032' finds that by 2032, the total number of micromobility vehicle IoT devices will reach around 328 million and the market will grow at a CAGR of more than 50%. Greater China, North America, and Europe will be the three largest markets, and India & South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will be the other regions experiencing significant growth.

In this blog, we have provided a detailed understanding of why and how micromobility vehicles will play a role in urban environments, in addition to discussing the major challenges threatening the market at present.

Micromobility vehicles and their evolution

Micromobility typically refers to small and lightweight vehicles (including bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, e-scooters, and cargo bikes), which usually operate below 25kph. These vehicles can be both human- or electric-powered but they must have the ability for human propulsion. Additional features in micromobility vehicles include automatic emergency calls, integrated navigation, social media connection, anti-theft systems, embedded displays, performance logging, health monitoring, and remote diagnostics.

During the past few years, micromobility has undergone significant improvements, primarily owing to the development in equipment, technology, and batteries, which have enabled onboard connectivity in these vehicles.

Rising adoption of micromobility vehicles and the need for sustainable transportation

The adoption of micromobility vehicles has witnessed a steady rise during the last couple of years. Some of the principal drivers of this market are:

Rising urbanisation

Micromobility vehicles offer a cheap and convenient method of private transportation in urban areas, and hence, the rising level of urbanisation is greatly contributing to their adoption. They are useful in covering short distances and take less space, which make them a perfect choice in urban settings. Besides, many European countries have separate road infrastructure for such vehicles, which has increased their adoption as well.

Increasing traffic congestion

Micromobility vehicles are a suitable means of transportation in areas where congestion is a major issue, parking is difficult, or public transport is overburdened. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the annual cost of congestion in the 15 largest urban areas in the US totalled close to USD7 billion in 2019.

Increasing environmental awareness

As people become more conscious of climate change and the negative impacts of exhaust emissions, their reliance on micromobility has risen. Increasing environmental awareness has also resulted in greater use of public transport, but these have become increasingly crowded as well, forcing some to look for more use of micromobility. It is estimated that micromobility vehicles can decrease emissions by 2-3% across the world.

COVID-19 pandemic

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of micromobility vehicles owing to the health risks associated with sharing confined spaces on public transport. For instance, in 2020, bicycle sales were up by 65% in the US, and e-bike sales went up by 145%.

Extra tax benefits

The insurance cost, parking fees, emission taxes, and road pricing are often high for conventional vehicles, but with micromobility vehicles, these taxes and charges are much less, which is an additional benefit for such vehicle owners.

Cheaper alternatives

Another advantage of micromobility vehicles is their affordability. These are comparatively much cheaper than conventional cars and mopeds. Hence, there is a huge market for these vehicles in the developing world, especially in those countries, where road infrastructure is improving gradually.

Increasing adoption for delivery of goods

Commercial micromobility vehicles are also being used for delivery purposes. Companies such as FedEx, UPS and Amazon are now testing e-bikes and cargo bikes for delivery purposes. This is creating opportunities for commercial micromobility vehicles.

Useful in extreme weather and for elderly and unfit commuters

Micromobility vehicles (especially e-bikes and e-scooters) can be suitable alternatives to traditional bicycles when driven in hot and/or humid regions. They can also prove to be beneficial for the unfit and the elderly, who can drive such vehicles in difficult terrains such as hills.

Some Government initiatives supporting the micromobility vehicles market

Governments around the world have taken suitable initiatives to support the demand and use of micromobility vehicles. Let us quickly look at some of the initiatives by individual countries.

In 2008, the Chinese government passed a regulation to create smart parking zones for e-bikes. These zones allow companies to track the bike through positioning information provided by the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System or Bluetooth sensors embedded at the parking sites.

In addition, some European countries are also offering incentives (ranging from USD101 to USD1,526 for e-bikes) to encourage their adoption. Europe is also investing over USD1.02 trillion in safe cycling paths. The European Cyclists Federation also revealed that to deal with the public health crisis, European cities such as Berlin and Lisbon have opened up almost 1,500km of new lanes for bicycle riders.

The Cycling Embassy of Denmark has reportedly invested around USD155 million since 2005 to improve the country’s cycling infrastructure. In the UK, the Greater Manchester region is focused on retrofitting cycling and walking infrastructure in urban corridors to address wider problems such as poor air quality and inactivity. The region is already investing GBP15 (USD20.5) per person per year.

Current challenges in the market

Despite rapid growth in the number of micromobility vehicles in the past few years, the market is plagued with some pressing challenges. Let us quickly have a look at some of them.

Lack of investment in infrastructure

Investment in road infrastructure can greatly encourage the use of micromobility vehicles since bicycles and scooters are comparatively fragile. Infrastructure such as wider roads and bicycle lanes improve rider safety, and alterations to existing signage and road layout can make the regular vehicular traffic more aware of their presence.

Theft of micromobility vehicles

Theft and safety are some of the principal obstacles to the long-term use of any vehicle and micromobility vehicles are no exception to this. For instance, approximately 800 bicycles and e-bikes are stolen every day in Germany alone, which necessitates the quick adoption of suitable protective measures. For instance, hardware providers such as Bosch offer the ‘eBike Lock’ that prevents unauthorised use of vehicles. Some vehicles also have integrated NFC-enabled locks to improve theft protection.

Increasing preference for vehicle sharing scheme

The rising prominence of shared automobiles (such as scooters and bikes) poses another barrier to the micromobility vehicles market. This trend may reduce private ownership of vehicles in future. To deal with this issue, countries such as China have begun capping the number of shared vehicles.

Concluding remarks

Micromobility vehicles, (such as e-bikes and bicycles) are being increasingly adopted, especially in congested urban environments. These compact and more eco-friendly vehicles with lower emissions are a great alternative for short-distance travel, enhancing urban mobility. They are easily accessible, affordable, promote sustainability, and reduce reliance on traditional vehicles. The ongoing trend of their adoption will transform urban landscapes and foster greener transportation systems.

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