Editor’s Note: Brad Hunstable is CEO of Linear Labs. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
Shared electric scooters and bikes seem to have popped up overnight in cities throughout the world. E-scooter brands, such as Bird and Lime, are now known from Paris to Los Angeles. They have become an easy and affordable way for people to get around, and will further reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions as more riders start using them.
Electric micromobility has already assured its place in the sharing economy. Future generations will visit a city and think nothing of zipping to their destination on shared transportation. The National Association of City Transportation Officials reported that people took 84 million trips using shared bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters in the United States in 2018, more than double the number of trips taken in 2017. And globally, e-bike sales are expected to reach $24.3 billion by 2025.
That said, there are still several challenges the industry needs to overcome before we see e-scooters and e-bikes become a regular part of our daily lives.
Many communities and municipalities have viewed shared scooters and bikes as toys — or worse —nuisances. Some of this is due to scooters left on corners and sidewalks, which can block paths for pedestrians and cause unsafe conditions. Also, a lack of dedicated bike lanes can be dangerous for riders sharing the roads with cars.
As micromobility grows, cities need better infrastructure. This includes dedicated traffic lanes, giving e-scooters and e-bikes more room on the road. Some cities may limit the number of e-scooters and e-bikes operating in certain densely populated areas to alleviate parking congestion. Additional infrastructure could include dedicated space to abate parking headaches.
Scooters are an appealing product to users and manufactures alike. Millennials remember their manual Razor scooters, and manufacturers enjoy the ease of producing off-the-shelf machines that can easily be branded with any company logo.
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But now there’s an opportunity to experiment with design, like producing scooters and e-bikes with larger wheels and more stable frames, enabling safer and more rugged products and improving rider satisfaction. For manufacturers and ride-sharing companies, improvements in performance and durability allows e-scooters and e-bikes to stay in the market longer, which increases profits and allows for more sustainable manufacturing resources.
These design changes are already happening. New micromobility designs hit the streets on a seemingly daily basis. Some designs feature varied standing and seating positions, while others offer more space. For example, Boosted has created the Rev electric scooter with a higher weight capacity and can now carry adults weighing up to 250 pounds — 30 pounds more than typical e-scooters. It also has a larger board for riders with larger feet.
Battery technology is rapidly advancing and will eventually be reliable enough for multiple users to travel long distances on one charge. But the electric motor and the durability of the overall vessel still need to be improved before we see fewer damaged or undercharged scooters on the roads.
Most products currently on the market are older designs that cannot effectively climb hills and have limited weight capacity. To truly achieve their potential, they need much more power and range. These improvements will enable people to travel further and over more extreme terrain, like delivery workers who cover expansive distances and varied terrain during their long shifts. Riders are often forced to leave their e-scooter or e-bike wherever it runs out of power. At Linear Labs, we’ve engineered a micromobility version of our patented Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET) electric motor solution that produces enough torque to conquer extreme inclines and increase range.
Electric micromobility is here to stay. Once we are able to optimize municipal infrastructure and product design, as well as enhance technology and durability, even more riders will embrace e-scooters and e-bikes. We will then reach the critical mass necessary to feel a true impact on traffic congestion and environmental sustainability.