Why Shared Electric Scooters are Here to Stay

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Accessible and efficient public transportation is a goal for most cities. However, city leadership and transportation planners have struggled with how to address the “first mile/last mile” problem. Efforts to encourage bike riding and walking have produced meager results. Cities have limited resources and often lack the political will to expanding transit services to under-served populations. Accessibility often remains a talking point, not an action point.

How exciting, then, that a promising answer has come in the fun and compact form of shared electric scooters! E-scooters are part of a growing transportation sector known collectively as “micromobility.” Micromobility technically includes any single-occupant vehicle under 500lbs (think also: bicycles, e-bikes, mopeds, etc). However, to anyone living where electric scooters are being shared, it is clear that scooters are in their own category. Here’s why we think the littlest micromobility tool (ok, maybe not the littlest) is the big little trend that could.

 

1. Forecast = Major

Obviously, we’re not the only ones who think that the shared electric scooter market is a killer opportunity. The meteoric growth in the first year of existence was enough to get everyone’s attention.

Valuation_Growth

McKinsey and Company recently forecasted that the shared e-scooter sector alone will reach 400+ billion dollars worldwide by 2030.

McKinsey_Market_Size

This is based on a variety of factors, including the fact that more than 50% of US car trips cover 5m (Xkm) or less.

US Car Trip Length

This is exactly the range that an e-scooter is best suited for. When you consider that shared e-scooter ridership outpaced shared bike ridership in less than a year, it seems clear that the general public doesn’t need much convincing.

2018_MM_Trips

 

2. Accessibility

E-scooters are unique in the micromobility market because they remove many of the barriers to use that other modes present. They don’t require any special or learned skills to operate (not everyone knows how to ride a bike!). Scooters don’t require physical exertion, making them a better choice than both bikes and walking on hot days. They are faster than, say, a skateboard or rollerblades (hey there, 90’s kids!). E-scooters also support a wide range of footwear and other wardrobe choices. In fact, polls show that men and women view e-scooters favorably in roughly equal percentages, in contrast to bikes which women use less. All of these factors show that the potential demographic audience for riding electric scooters is extremely broad and diverse — a good thing for the longevity of the trend.

 

3. Hot Spots are Growing

Beyond this, the list of relevant locations for where electric scooters can provide transit support seems to be growing. In the early days of scooter sharing (way back in 2017!), the conventional wisdom was that dense urban cores were ideal for shared e-scooter deployment. While these are still excellent markets, Deloitte recently demonstrated that edge cities also show high demand for micromobility solutions.

MM_Commuting

A few theories might explain this development.

  1. Urban centers, while good for micromobility, are also more walkable, and people are more likely to tackle short trips on foot.
  2. Urban street traffic and density may discourage some of the less “hard core” riders, whereas suburban streets give riders more confidence.
  3. Suburban commuters may be more motivated to ditch their cars when micromobility makes public transportation a relevant alternative. On the other hand, many city-dwellers do not own cars and use micromobility instead of other public transportation options.

Whatever the reason, all of this points to an expanding market and exciting new opportunities for shared scooter ecosystems.

 

Looking Forward

The micromobility industry clearly has massive potential, but the currently prevailing model for sharing e-scooters is not perfect. The “dump the scooters and run” policy has been effective for speedy growth, but the leading companies don’t appear interested in being good stewards. There is mounting evidence that “absentee management” is leading to angry residents, poor fleet maintenance, and over-saturation of the market.

These days, technology is making it easy for new business models to disrupt existing industries with big ideas that attract bigger money. But the innovation doesn’t need to end after the first go-round. In the case of micromobility, local fleet ownership and community-based transportation ecosystems can address some of the hesitations people have about e-scooters, benefit the local community, and ensure the longevity of this thrilling era in personal mobility. For shared electric scooters, change should start with empowering individuals and communities to take back the reins…or the handle bars, as the case may be.

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Rachel Linnewiel

Rachel Linnewiel

Rachel is the Head of External Relations at DAV. Graduate of the Technion Institute of Technology with a Masters in City and Regional Planning. Previously Transportation Planner and Coordinator of Electric Vehicles North Texas, the electric vehicle stakeholders group of the DFW Clean Cities Coalition.

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