Just seven years ahead of the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales in the UK, we still lack the charging infrastructure to make EVs the “don’t make me think” purchase they need to be. We also lack the personal wealth as prices stand (though they are falling). But there’s a more nuanced point about mass-scale adoption of EVs: they won’t unduly change our behaviour as drivers. So while they may reduce emissions, they won’t solve the problem of our clogged roads. They are not, therefore, the full-scale mobility solution for a visionary’s city of the future.
25% of journeys by motorised vehicles within the UK are under a mile. 68% are under five miles. And with 45% of journeys in the UK being made in privately-owned vehicles, it’s clear that a lot of our traffic is drivers taking “around the block” journeys—doubtless while experiencing the joy of other drivers doing the same.
There’s a big problem to be solved here, and it could have a very small solution.
With the rise of hybrid and home-working, we simply don’t need cars as much as we used to, and the government is taking notice of how micromobility can help reduce both emissions and traffic congestion.
“Micromobility” refers to small, lightweight vehicles that are slower than conventional traffic and used over short distances, including electric bicycles, scooters and other open-air, single-person vehicles. According to McKinsey, the global micromobility market is worth about $180 billion and could increase to $440 billion by 2030. The tiny open vehicles you occasionally see today look set to become ubiquitous. In the UK alone there are already a number of micromobility projects underway that present huge opportunities for UK design and manufacture, and the transfer of skills from traditional automotive applications into this space is critical for the expansion of the market.
A market set to explode
The demand for short-range, low-emission transportation is clear and the next decade or two will see a transformation in mobility as the government puts legislation in place to limit congestion and incentivise and invest in the adoption of micro-vehicles. We’re likely to see a decline in privately-owned passenger vehicles, while micromobility and eMobility infrastructure will be an industry in itself.
These markets are well-positioned to echo the innovations of disruptor brands such as Volta Trucks, by challenging ideas about vehicle ownership through solutions such as mobility-as-a-service.
Safety and legality
The UK is a hotbed for innovation in this area and it seems likely we’ll see last-mile fleet services embrace micromobility. But there are questions around legitimacy and safety: eScooters don't comply with road traffic laws (they don't have rear lights or registration plates for starters) so it is illegal to use privately-owned ones on public roads.
It’s a different story with rental: approved rental scooter trials are ongoing in 31 regions in England including Bournemouth, Cambridge, Derby, Liverpool, parts of London and Portsmouth. In these regions, rental eScooters are legal on public roads as long as users have a driving licence, and it is likely private models will be legalised, though the weight of anecdotal evidence of them being misused means that rules around usage will require clarification and enforcement.
The world needs innovation in micromobility more than it needs another supercar, and as a younger generation of engineers and dreamers is drawn to employers who are trying to solve the world’s problems, we see a renewed focus on finding a genuine alternative to traditional transport. The demand and technology is consistent with changes already experienced within the automotive industry but the application is smaller, more local and more environmentally sustainable.
Two notable companies in this space are iconic UK brand Brompton and EAV. The eCargo bikes of the latter are an urban delivery solution for a new world; an example of a business making the most of best-in-class UK engineering skills to develop transformative products quickly, and to a high standard.
Mobility solutions of the future could look very different. Of course cars and trucks will still be with us—twenty years is no time at all really—but micromobility solutions will increasingly be adopted to help people to move around more freely, reduce emissions and declutter our roads.
We expect to see more engineering consultancies moving into the micromobility space. A market to watch? Most definitely.
What caught our attention this month
Continuing the theme of our main article, a partnership between Benzina Zero and Domino’s is allowing for EV pizza delivery in Australia and New Zealand.
The FIA has closed a potential loophole that some F1 teams may have exploited to allow personnel outside of their main team to help work on car design and development projects.
From pandemic-era assessment centres to sourcing unique skillsets for innovative startups, the Gerrell & Hard team is proud to deliver responsive hiring and workforce management solutions across our markets. Discover some of our growing roster of case studies.
What do you think of micromobility solutions? And are eScooters a help or hazard? Let us know what you think by dropping a comment under the newsletter on LinkedIn! And don't forget to subscribe if you’re not already!