A Primer on Micromobility

Everyone needs to know about micromobility and that’s why we’ve produced a primer on micromobility.

What is micromobility? It is the “unbundling of transport” as Horace Dediu of the leading summit on the topic says.

In, perhaps, clearer terms that means the use of small, lightweight motorized vehicles that typically don’t reach very high speeds.

In the West this could mean electric skateboards, electric bikes, electric scooters and even electric motorbikes.

In the rest of the world this might include electric rickshaws, tuk-tuks, Jeepneys, etc. too. 

What Are The Essential Characteristics Of Micromobility Devices?

In general terms a micromobility device is any powered device that is designed to move an individual or individuals around with the following criteria:

  • They tend to be individually owned – though this doesn’t preclude fleet ownership, electric bike schemes in cities, for example, would still be micromobility
  • They travel at around 25 kph (16 mph) as a maximum speed, in general, however the definition allows for devices that move as fast as 45 khp (28 mph)
  • They cannot use an internal combustion engine and are, in the main, electric in modern usage (though historically this category includes bikes and scooters without any engines at all)

A Brief History Of Micromobiity

There was a time when nearly everyone was “micromobile” and cities were dominated by bicycles and scooters.

However, by the early part of the 20th century, the car was on the rise and for the longest time, smaller vehicles simply disappeared from most places.

Of course, there were (and are) exceptions such as The Dutch love for the bicycle (which can be explained by how extraordinarily flat most of The Netherlands are) or places such as China which has only recently pushed the bicycle to the sidelines in favor of the car.

However, in the 21st century, we’ve seen an emerging trend of new electric vehicles that are much smaller in scale than cars. 

In 2000, the “dockless” bicycle was introduced to allow for easy ride sharing in cities and it has taken off dramatically in China, for example, where bikes are now on the comeback against the usurping motor vehicles.

However, in the rest of the world it has been the electric kick scooter which has dominated the shared micromobility landscape and it is capturing the market at a rate of roughly 4% annually wherever it is introduced!

We would also note that, for now at least, most of these new vehicles are low tax, low cost options and thus, can be very wallet friendly for consumers who are pushed to make ends meet. 

The Future Of Micromobility

It is the future of micromobility which is the most exciting prospect for those interested in green technology and a more sustainable future. 

While many cities have begun to impose regulatory frameworks on micromobility vehicles and, in particular, shared fleets – their popularity is undeniable. 

This has attracted the interest of the big, traditional transport development companies, such as Ford, GM, etc. who can see that consumers are excited by the convenience of being able to dodge rush hour traffic and get easily from home to work. 

In fact, where these options are available car journeys drop by up to 33% because of the convenience of micromobility. 

Of course, not all of this is positive, for now, there are real environmental concerns that this technology is not as green as it appears.

Sure, electric vehicles reduce emissions in cities but the life-cycle of these products may cause more pollution than traditional vehicles in the long-term. 

We look forward, with interest, to seeing how these issues are addressed in the longer-term. 

Final Thoughts On Micromobility

Many people waste hours of their lives commuting to work every day. 

Micromobility, if adopted on a wide scale, could reduce much of the pain of commuting.

It’s also super-efficient for getting from A to B and when people have access to these kinds of vehicle, they report huge decreases in their use of cars for journeys.

In fact, it’s possible that they might also, one day, replace much of the inner city public transport network as they are, generally, cost-effective and affordable. 

Certainly, that’s what the big brand transport companies are betting on and companies like Ford and General Motors are investing big time in micromobility solutions.

We hope that they succeed, micromobility means a better life for millions. 

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