Electric scooters are outselling all-electric cars and have the potential to transform urban transit | Source: Getty Images

Micro-Mobility for the Masses: The Evolution of the Electric Scooter

Undoubtedly electric-powered travel is the direction of the future. While society’s move towards sustainable travel is clear with the rise of electric vehicles, they aren’t the solution to all urban mobility problems.

If you’ve ventured into a big city recently, you’ve likely felt the influence of the micro-mobility market. Dominated by the electric scooter, the portable personal transport industry has long been growing behind the scenes hitting its peak this year.

The global electric scooter market is expected to reach A$48.78 billion by 2028, expanding at a CAGR of 7.6 per cent from 2021 to 2028, according to a study conducted by Grand View Research.

Indeed, e-scooters are everywhere. The pandemic scooter boom boosted-scooter sales 145 per cent from 2019 to 2020, more than double the rate of classic bikes, according to the market research firm NPD Group.

And that growth does not seem to be slowing. Deloitte projected that between 2020 and 2023, 130 million scooters would be sold worldwide. At the moment, scooters — not cars — appear to be the world’s best-selling electric vehicle or E.V.

That sort of trend has the potential to transform urban transit. In New York City, just over half of all car trips are three miles or less, according to a 2019 study by the analytics company INRIX. Many short car trips could be replaced, hypothetically, with a short, brisk scooter ride. 

And while it’s clear that electric scooters have well and truly entered the mainstream, they are far from a new invention and have been around since the mid-1990s. So what are the factors attributing to their booming popularity?

bird electric scooter
Source: The New Yorker

The electric scooter wasn’t a hit, to begin with. It started as a novelty tech item that was prohibitively priced creating a huge niche market. It took the introduction of an affordable, shared electric scooter model to ignite interest and turn the expensive product into a practical emission-free travel solution.

In 2018, startup companies like Bird and Lime introduced shared, dockless e-scooters in the US further expanding to cities internationally. That same year the number of rides Americans took via dockless scooters, bikes, and traditional bike-share systems more than doubled from 2017 to 84 million trips according to Bloomberg.

Today Bird is one of the largest global bike and scooter share operators with systems in approximately 300 cities worldwide. This mode of transport planted the seed for personal electric travel throughout society as commuters became used to micro-mobility as a new form of travel.

Several key factors have contributed to the population and growth of this sector. What took the market to the next level was the advancement of the technology involved. The high-tech bike became more affordable as the components used in the making reduced in price and evolved.

The price of lithium-ion batteries dropped from US$1200 per kilowatt in 2010 to just US$137 in 2020 – a price drop of nearly 90 per cent in about a decade.

Lithium batteries are the most common power source for electric scooters today. It means it’s now cheaper than ever to produce smaller, more powerful batteries thus opening the door for lighter, more compact electric scooters with a longer range.

Another factor taken into account is the worldwide resurgence of interest in urban cycling and scootering over the last decade. The design has evolved improving capacity, range, and speed – creating a wider target audience.

The electric scooter of today now appeals to people who need a versatile means of transport. The varying options on the market include long-distance scooters, more robust models and lighter, more convenient varieties – there’s now something for everyone. If you’re interested in getting involved with the growing trend, here are the best electric scooters of 2021.

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