January 8, 2021
Those living in city centers have no doubt noticed more commuters getting around by way of lightweight vehicles, such as bicycles, e-scooters, electric skateboards and mopeds. While this was all the rage in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt the micromobility industry some hard blows. That said, the industry could well be poised for a comeback in 2021 – and numerous companies are still fully vested in making that happen.
In 2019, 86 million journeys were made on e-scooters in the U.S., up from 38.5 million the prior year, according to the National Association of City Transportation. McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, predicted that the micromobility industry would be a $300 billion-$500 billion market by 2030. While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the fledgling industry as a record number of people remain at home, the firm considers a full recovery possible. This is entirely possible as many commuters without cars do not consider public transportation safe during a pandemic.
Should the micromobility trend continue the upward trajectory halted by the pandemic, here are a few companies poised to reap the rewards:
Dorel Industries Inc. (Tii:DIIBF)
Schwinn's parent company has been in the bicycle market since the 1960s and the Schwinn Brand dates back to 1895. These days, having seen growing interest in e-bikes, Schwinn has a fairly robust lineup of e-bikes and e-scooters. Among its offerings is the eSycamore electric hybrid bike, which features a pedal-assist motor for easy control and a top speed (when using the electric motor) of up to 20 mph. Its Tone 1 E-Scooter is a lightweight model that can accommodate riders up to 220 lbs., a maximum speed of 15 mph and a range of up to 11 miles per charge. Shares of this company may not be available for long as management has announced plans to take the company private.
Ford Motor Co. (Tii:F)
Over the past few years, Ford has been quietly acquiring electric scooter brands – scooter designers OjO Electric in 2017 and scooter-sharing platform Spin in 2018. Spin has been expanding in cities throughout Europe during the pandemic, allowing individuals access to socially distant transport. The subsidiary also increased the number of U.S. cities where it operated by 600% in 2019. Commuters are also using the service more, too, with average trip duration rising by 33% in 2020. For the safety-conscious, Spin is incorporating more advanced safety technology in its products. This year, expect the company to roll out its computer-vision-powered e-scooters that can detect if riders are using them on sidewalks.
Uber Technologies, Inc. (Tii:UBER)
Don't count out the auto rideshare leader yet. While rides in private cars are down substantially, Uber has begun exploring bike share opportunities. To further that effort, Uber has invested in JUMP, a dockless scooter and electric bicycle sharing system. Not long after, Uber sold JUMP to Lime, an e-bike and e-scooter sharing app. Uber subsequently invested in Lime, leading a $170 million funding round. While the pandemic has hit the company hard, with revenue declining 18% year over year, executives at Lime feel that the pandemic will fuel a desire for more socially distanced transportation options.
Shimano Inc. (Tii:SMNNY)
Though best known as a leading global manufacturer of cycling components and fishing tackle, Shimano Inc. is steeped in the micromobility industry. Its STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System) is designed to make e-bikes feel and handle more like traditional bicycles. More than 160 bicycle brands are equipped with Shimano's mid-motors, long-range batteries, and cycling computers. While sales in its bicycle segment were down in the first nine months of 2020, the company revised up its full-year revenue projections by 5.7% due to greater use of bicycles globally during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Piaggio & C. SpA (Tii:PIAGF)
Let's not forget one of the granddads of short-range personal transportation products. The 136-year-old Italian company behind the popular Vespa brand entered the micromobility scene with the Piaggio Wi-Bike Active, which delivers speeds of up to 28 mph and a range of 37-74.5 miles. Its features include the PMP (Piaggio Multimedia Platform) that allows users to connect smartphones with the bike via Bluetooth and an app with a range of services, such as a navigator.
Once the worst of the pandemic is behind us and commuters begin taking to the roads again, the proliferation of lightweight short-distance transportation will likely resume. And companies such as these will be poised to benefit from these new trends in micromobility.