Trend Report: Automakers are always searching for the next big thing that will click with buyers. They may have found it with electric bikes and scooters, long popular in Europe and Asia.
With the growth of car sharing and ride sharing, especially in large cities, two-wheel motorized transport is an effective and inexpensive way for anybody to get around, not just for take-out food delivery services.
And automakers are recognizing that they can be part of a so-called portfolio of mobility choices and help boost the bottom line.
Recently, Ford purchased a scooter company and GM announced it will build its own e-bikes.
They will compete with auto manufacturers already building and selling their own, including BMW, whose battery-assisted bike is called the Active Hybrid, and GenZe from India’s Mahindra. And, they will compete with EV bike and scooter sharing companies like Lime and Bird, which is giving new life to the company that introduced us to the Segway.
Remember the Segway? It was supposed to be the next big thing in personal mobility a decade ago. But I digress.
Ford just purchased Spin, a dockless EV scooter-sharing company.
These are stand-up scooters, the grown-up version of the leg-powered riding toy for kids, not to be confused with the iconic Vespa, the original motorized scooter that’s gaining popularity once again.
Right now, Spin operates in 13 cities and college campuses, including in San Francisco, where the company is based. Stay tuned for Ford to expand it to more cities and college campuses, along with sprawling corporate campuses.
There’s no word yet on whether Spin will be limited to sharing, or if Ford has plans to sell the device to those of us who don’t like to share our toys. BMW sells its e-bikes in dealerships, so why not Ford.
Ditto GM, which says it will produce two e-bikes, both to feature what the official statement describes as “revolutionary, flexible electrification technologies”.
One bike is to be a folding design, the other a streamlined model, and both are to undergo what’s described as “automotive-grade testing”.
That tells me the bikes will have enough speed, and safety systems, to be allowed on roadways, not just on sidewalks or campuses.
Pricing and names for the two models are to be announced early next year, before they go on sale.
Vespa Goes Electric
On sale now in Europe is the first electric Vespa, the Elettrica Concept, which reportedly has a 62 mile range between charges, and can be recharged fully in four hours. Parent company Piaggio plans to extend sales to the USA and Asia early next year.
Mahindra has been making the GenZe electric bike and scooter for the Indian and Asian market for years, and introduced it recently to the US market. There’s a ride-sharing program for the e-bike being tested in San Francisco, which could expand to other cities.
The e-scooter is used primarily by restaurant delivery workers and couriers in cities like New York City, who can make more deliveries in a shift with battery assistance, earning better wages and tips.
E-bikes also have great potential for tourism.
A few years ago, I did an e-bike tour in Switzerland, where the battery-assisted pedal power made it easy to ride uphill in the countryside. The company I rented from, in Interlaken, has an agreement with local merchants, including restaurants and cheese shops, to have small recharging stations, to swap out worn out batteries.
Depending on the model and its power, e-bikes and e-scooters cost from around $1,500 to $2,500. Motorized stand-up scooters cost less, and the Vespa costs more.
E-bikes generally have a range of around 50 miles and a top speed of around 20mph.
Scooters generally have a 10-mile range between charges, although the Dutch firm Bolt Mobility claims its Vespa-like AppScooter can go 300 miles between charges.
As a New Yorker, i have seen so many scooters and electric bikes or other devices all over the city. Great, except for one main issue.
Nobody knows the rules of the road! Maybe 30% wear helmets, and these vehicles are in every lane impeding traffic and causing accidents.
There needs to be a law that requires these individuals to learn the rules of the road, what lane is permitted for these types of vehicles, and helmets must be worn (cement is really hard).