As cities grow ever larger, more numerous, more congested, and more polluted, consumers, governments, and automakers are looking for transportation solutions that move beyond the conventional personal auto.
The goal of so-called micromobility solutions is to provide convenient transport in congested urban areas (e.g., for short urban commutes or shopping trips) and to solve the “first/last mile connectivity” problem — the need to connect public transportation points of entry/exit to homes, workplaces, shopping, and other destinations.
While there are a wide variety of possible solutions — including walking, biking, and ride-sharing — that can meet these needs to various extents, this brief explores personal transport vehicles that are smaller than a conventional auto and are powered by a drivetrain other than a simple internal combustion engine. These types of vehicles may become a more important part of integrated urban mobility solutions over the next decade and beyond.
4 KEY FINDINGS
- The goal of micromobility solutions is to provide convenient transport in congested urban areas and to solve the “first/ last mile connectivity” problem.
- The need for micro-mobility solutions is driven by urbanization and resulting congestion and pollution, as well as by technology developments and market forces.
- Automakers and others are introducing a wide variety of potential micro-mobility vehicles of varying form, size, and wheel arrangement.
- Micro-mobility vehicles will form just one part of integrated urban mobility solutions.
3 DRIVING FORCES FOR MICROMOBILITY
A variety of forces are converging to drive interest in the development of improved urban mobility solutions.
- Population growth and urbanization. According to the UN, world population will grow from 6.8 billion people in 2010 to 8.8 billion in 2040. Most of this growth will occur in cities in Worlds 2 and 3, especially in China, India, Latin America, and Africa. More than 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, compared to 51% in 2010.
- Congestion. Traffic congestion and the difficulty of finding parking in crowded urban areas are driving interest in adapting the car to urban environments.
- Emissions and environment. Air quality, climate change, and the need for fuel efficiency to mitigate these issues are also driving interest in micromobility solutions.
3 INTEGRATED MICROMOBILITY SOLUTIONS
Micromobility vehicles are just one part of the larger integrated solution required to address urban mobility issues. Indeed, the entire issue of urban mobility should be viewed within the larger context of smart cities.
- Efficient urban transportation systems will combine optimized vehicle attributes (e.g., powertrains), optimized infrastructure (e.g., traffic flow management), and well-considered mobility concepts (e.g., last-mile micromobility).
- Effective urban transportation requires effective IT infrastructure, which may include communication from car to car, car to home, car to enterprise, car to infrastructure, or car to grid.35 In designing its EN-V two-seat, two-wheeled pod car, General Motors focused on making the car “smarter through connectivity.” (EN-V stands for “electric networked vehicle.”) A recent blog post described the EN-V as “a reimagined car for reimagined cities.”
- Volkswagen envisions that future urban parking areas would “offer condensed mobility services and operate as a hub.” Mobility solutions for such a “MicroCity” would include intelligent vehicle charging, pooling of vehicles, rental of vehicles, automated parking areas, and seamless mobility through easy exchange of transport mode.38 GM found that about a third of drivers in congested urban areas were just looking for a place to park.
3 BARRIERS TO MICROMOBILITY
While there are many emerging micromobility solutions, there are also potential barriers to their deployment and adoption; some of these barriers are potentially formidable.
- Cost. Initial prices for newly introduced vehicles may be high.51 A two-seat GEM model e2 NEV has an MSRP of $7,829; a four- seat e4 has an MSRP of $10,739.
- Competition. As already noted, a large number of new products based on widely differing concepts are expected to be introduced over the next decade. With many models for consumers to choose among, it may be difficult to generate consumer awareness of specific solutions.
- Electric vehicle infrastructure. Electric vehicles need charging infrastructure that must be built mostly from scratch. Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the number of charging stations deployed in Europe will grow from virtually zero in 2009, to the range of 1.8 million to 2 million by 2017.
3 BUSINESS IMPLICATIONS
- There will be a variety of new business models involving integration of transportation services, transportation information, and payment services. As single trips more often involve multiple modes of transportation, new business opportunities will emerge in providing routes, scheduling, and other information needed to organize such trips.
- Energy companies may find a significant opportunity in the deployment of electric vehicle charging stations.
- Solving the first mile /last mile connectivity problem will have broad impact not just on transportation systems but across many aspects of society, including consumers’ home and commuting life, workplaces, retail establishments, hotels and restaurants, schools and universities, and other transport destinations. For example, all of these destinations will need to accommodate new types of micromobility vehicles, providing appropriate, secure parking and charging for electric vehicles.