Micromobility on the Rise

Author: Hannes Rügheimer

Jan 04, 2023

Ride sharing and car sharing in competition with taxicabs, short range mobility via e-scooters or bicycles – so-called micromobility services are regarded as an important component of the mobility revolution. Large cities in particular expect them to reduce traffic and parking problems, improve the use of public transport – and thus reduce CO2 emissions overall.

Even if, in some ways – such as with the use and actual benefit of e-scooters – a degree of disenchantment has already set in: Mobility experts are convinced that innovative mobility services will be indispensable in the future. According to a study conducted by the Oliver Wyman Forum, in cooperation with the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at the University of California, Berkeley, urban mobility options such as ride sharing, e-scooters, charging stations for electric vehicles, and smart parking apps are expected to generate sales of more than 660 billion euros in North America, Europe, and Asia by 2030. They all have in common that they are driven by demand, shared, and ideally powered by green electricity. According to the study, such urban mobility options already represent a global market value of 260 billion euros.
Strong demand for ride sharing in particular
Ride sharing has already become very important in many countries. Unlike carpooling, in which several passengers share the cost of conventional transportation such as a cab or shuttle ride, ride sharing involves an intermediary that brings passengers and drivers together. This is usually done via app. Whether drivers must provide certificates of competence and have their vehicles subjected to special tests varies from country to country. Since getting started in the USA, which has particularly few regulations in this regard, providers Uber and Lyft have exported their business model to many countries.
In regulations-loving Germany, a revision of the Passenger Transportation Act was necessary before the services could legally operate. But even heavyweights that are traditionally active in other areas of mobility have expanded their offerings to include sharing models – one example is car rental company Sixt, which now also offers ride sharing, car sharing, or e-scooters. However, the example of car sharing platforms Car2Go (formerly founded by Daimler) and DriveNow (formerly BMW) also shows that the market for mobility services is not a foregone conclusion. Since 2019, they have been operating as joint provider ShareNow, which then ceded the entire business to the Stellantis Group (with brands such as Citroën, Fiat, Opel, and Peugeot) in 2022.
But there are many other intermediaries, in particular for the ride sharing sector, that offer this mobility model in different countries – for example, Gett, which operates in the UK, Israel, and Russia; Grab, which is active in Australia, India, Japan, and some Asian countries; or Bolt, which was founded in Estonia and is now active in 33 countries. The latter, incidentally, is also known as an e-scooter provider, but its services also include private and business car transfers as well as food deliveries. Despite financial turmoil following the withdrawal of an equity investor, the latest update in late fall 2022 was that the business would be able to continue operations. Meanwhile, supplier Gojek is focusing on the markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore. It relies on a fleet of motorcycles whose drivers speak the respective local language plus English.
Ups and downs for e-scooters
US micromobility service providers also pioneered e-scooters. These days, US company Lime is represented in Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, and Austria, among others. In Switzerland, the company is one of the founding members of the Swiss Alliance for Collaborative Mobility (CHACOMO for short). The basic principle is the same everywhere: After registering and depositing a payment method, the rider can search for a free scooter via app, rent it, park it at the end of the ride, and terminate the rental.
However, the history of e-scooter providers to date shows that their business model does not work equally well everywhere. Lime, for example, has already discontinued its service in various South and Central American countries as well as in the US metropolises of Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Diego. E-scooter provider Bird, also strong on the US market, focuses on around 50 major US cities and is also active in places such as Tel Aviv, Santiago de Chile, and several European cities from Berlin to Lisbon and Barcelona to Stockholm.
However, the largest e-scooter supplier in Europe at present is Voi from Sweden. In addition to its home market, the company is also represented in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK. It also joined the CHACOMO alliance in Switzerland.
Yet the market for e-scooters is as volatile as it is fast. In the last three years, for example, start-up Circ has been taken over by competitor Bird, and the e-scooters of former Uber subsidiary Jump now belong to Lime. Provider Spin, itself acquired by car giant Ford in 2018, withdrew from Germany, Spain, and Portugal after a brief stint, but remains active in the US, Canada, and the UK.
Bike sharing is also gaining significance
Next to e-scooter sharing, bike rental is also an important component of micromobility. According to the Statista Mobility Market Outlook, China (2.9 billion US dollars) and India (700 million US dollars) lead the field in terms of market volume. The two largest Chinese providers are Mobike and Ofo, which together hold a market share of around 90 percent. The top dogs in India are Ola Pedal, Yulu, and Zoomcar PEDL. Third place is taken by the US with 280 million US dollars. Here, Lime offshoot LimeBike is the largest provider.
If we look at the expected growth rates, China remains in first place – where annual growth is expected to be around 14 percent by 2025. The statistics also show that Europe, with an annual growth of around eight percent, has a lot of catching up to do. In terms of individual countries, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK are in the lead. Next to a few industry giants such as Nextbike (Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, and others), Vélib’ (France) or the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary Call-a-bike in Germany, however, the European market is made up of many smaller providers that concentrate on one or a few cities and often also cooperate with the municipalities or other partners there.
These examples show: Despite occasional setbacks, many providers see their future – and that of their users – in micromobility services. Significant growth rates and increasing competition clearly prove: Micromobility will be indispensable in the future, especially in densely populated cities.
Standard for safe micromobility
An international team of DEKRA experts has developed a standard for safe micromobility. On one hand, the holistic approach to safety and sustainability around e-scooters & Co. is aimed at providers – for example, e-scooter rental companies – and on the other hand at cities in which corresponding rental systems are offered in traffic areas. The test procedure comprises more than 120 individual test points from fields such as technical design, security and data protection, provision, maintenance, and storage. DEKRA Digital’s experts take a detailed look at these points and also take local legal requirements into account. Current safety standards and rules for the use of new mobility services differ not only from country to country, but often even from city to city.
“The matter of micromobility is highly topical in cities around the globe and will become even more important in the future. As a global partner for a safe world, we therefore want to contribute our expertise and neutral knowledge for more safety and sustainability in new mobility concepts,” explains Dr. Kerim Galal, Managing Director of DEKRA Digital GmbH. E-scooter providers Voi, Spin, and Tier, for example, have already been certified according to the Micromobility Standard.