As a contributor for Ride, I spend virtually every day thinking about the future of both electrification and mobility. Coming from a background steeped in the automotive industry, I realize I am biased; I often think of mobility through a car-centric lens.
Because of this, I find myself wracked with concern over the feasibility and profitability of car-sharing and fully electrified car business models. After all, if you really pen them out, neither looks in the slight bit moneymaking — at least, not for many years.
Despite this, however, shifting toward shared and electrified forms of mobility is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation. Without a substantive change in the way we move around our cities, we’ll never curb climate change and global warming.
A recent New York Times report about two brands in India working to put e-motorcycles at the center of the ridesharing business got me thinking: Maybe this whole electrified and shareable car, truck, and SUV model isn’t the solution at all … maybe two-wheeled electrified vehicles are the answer to our transportation emissions woes.
Electric Bicycles And More
Don’t laugh off the idea of Americans widely transitioning away from big, cushy vehicles in favor of small, open-air two-wheelers; it’s not as crazy as it might seem.
Back in March, Uber found that residents of Sacramento preferred e-bicycles to cars more than half the time. In fact, Sacramentoans opted to ride a shared e-bicycle from Uber’s Jump e-bicycle brand 53% of the time, compared with Uber car’s 47 percent. This, as you might expect, represents the first time an American city has demonstrated a preference for e-bicycles over cars.
Of course, this was just one city. However, I wager that the Jump’s success in overshadowing Uber cars in Sacramento could be replicated on a wider scale.
Plus, e-bicycles don’t have to take up all the slack — this isn’t going to be a one-for-one swap. No one transportation device is going to supplant cars. It’s going to have to be a multifaceted effort, including e-scooters, e-bicycles, and e-motorcycles. The latter of which I think has the most appeal.
I put a lot of stock in e-motorcycles because they provide things Americans prize in today’s cars: They can be big, cushy, and powerful — especially compared to scooters and bikes. However, e-motorcycles can return a lot of the driving characteristics of a car without all the extra size and weight. And losing those is the key to efficiency. Plus, you can fit a lot more motorcycles curbside than you can cars.
Take any one of the new e-motorcycles entering the market: Lightning, FUELL, Evoke, Druid, or Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire. They all offer more than 100 miles of pure-electric range and virtual neck-snapping acceleration. They require much smaller batteries than electric cars to achieve these impressive figures, too. Because of that, they recharge in a fraction of the time of an electric car. What’s more, they retail for a fraction of the purchase price of an electric car (save the LiveWire).
Putting one (or all) of those e-motorcycle models into a Bird e-scooter-esque business model in which riders can pick up and drop them off wherever they want could make them even more compelling for commuters. This is exactly the model being implemented by Indian e-motor-scooter (my word) brand Bounce, which has 6,000 e-motor-scooters in and around Bangalore, India.[Side note: we need to figure out a new name for these e-motor-scooter things. If it had a gas engine, we’d call it a ‘scooter.’ But the ‘e-scooter’ moniker is already taken by the Bird and Lyme scooter things. So, e-motor-scooter is best thing I could think of.]
Granted, motorcycles and scooters require a special driver’s license endorsement, which could prove to be an obstacle to their widespread adoption. Remember: We’re not looking for a one-to-one car replacement. Even getting a small percentage of commuters to give up their car for an e-motorcycle could help.
If people wanted the benefits of a cushy and fast e-motorcycle without having to get a special endorsement on their license, they could step up to an electric trike like that from Arcimoto, which has been branded a Fun Electric Vehicle — or “FUV.”
Take the brand’s new flagship model, the Evergreen Edition, for example. It will set buyers back $19,999. For that, though, they get a two-seater trike with a windshield and a kind-of roof. Moreover, they get a FUV capable of 100 miles per range and a top speed of 75 miles per hour.
That’s not the only trike hitting the market. A Canadian firm has thrown its hat into the EV trike market, too. It’s called Electra Meccanica and it just went into production with its first model, the Solo EV, which retails for $15,500. It got its namesake from the fact that it can only seat one occupant.
I know both of these vehicles are kind of silly. I don’t expect most people to gravitate toward them. That said, I would much rather hop in an FUV on a cold morning for my commute than I would a Jump e-bicycle. I’d save myself from breaking a sweat on the way to the office but also have the opportunity to hit the freeway — for better or worse.
The concept that the success of e-mobility will be built on the seat of a two- or three-wheeled electric machine isn’t a wild or hippy-dippy idea. Old-school conservative automakers like General Motors and Ford are both jumping into the e-bicycle market. GM did so most recently with its ARĪV brand of e-bicycles, which it is initially selling in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. And GM wouldn’t enter the e-bicycle market if it didn’t believe them to be a significant part of the future mobility market.
If you want a cool, foldable e-bicycle here in the U.S., you should check out the ones from U.K.-based Gocycle. Not only do Gocycle vehicles look a lot better than those from GM, they’re available throughout the U.S. today.
No matter whether you choose an e-scooter, e-bicycle, or e-motorcycle (or, ideally, some combination of the three), do consider a two-wheeled electrified vehicle for your mobility needs. We all need to retrain our brains not to look solely at cars and trucks as our go-to mode of personal transport. On two wheels, you’ll save both money and help the planet — and probably have a bit more fun to boot.