These startups are propelling us toward a sustainable urban future.
The rapid urbanization and growing population in cities worldwide have led to increasing congestion, pollution and limited mobility options. In response to these challenges, a new wave of innovative startups has emerged, focusing on micro-mobility solutions. These startups are reshaping the way people commute within cities by introducing compact, efficient and eco-friendly modes of transportation.
Micro-mobility refers to a diverse range of compact transportation options tailored for personal use, typically operating at speeds of up to 15 mph (approximately 24 km/h). This category encompasses privately-owned devices and rental vehicles explicitly designed for individual trips. These vehicles, ranging from e-bikes, electric scooters and electric skateboards to shared bicycle fleets and electric pedal-assisted bicycles, provide viable alternatives to conventional transportation methods like cars and public transit.
They are a convenient, affordable, sustainable option for first- and last-mile connectivity, reducing city traffic congestion and carbon emissions. Research conducted by Professor Christian Brand from the University of Oxford highlights the significant impact of choosing a bicycle or e-bike over a car for at least one daily commute. This simple switch can result in an impressive reduction of 62 percent in an individual’s carbon emissions from transportation.
Furthermore, micro-mobility vehicles stand out for their energy efficiency. According to Wired, while a gasoline-powered car can only travel 0.8 miles per kilowatt hour of energy, an electric vehicle can cover 4.1 miles. Surprisingly, an electric scooter can go as far as 82.8 miles with the same amount of energy.
In this article, we will explore the remarkable innovations of the popular micro-mobility startups that are revolutionizing urban transportation. These startups are leading the way toward a new era of urban mobility with their innovative strategies and a strong commitment to creating eco-friendly transportation options.
Based in Bengaluru, Yulu is a micro-mobility startup that offers eco-friendly last-mile connectivity through electric bikes (Yulu Move) and scooters (Yulu Miracle).
The Yulu app uses GPS to display the availability of vehicles nearby or at any Yulu Zones in real-time. Users can search for their destination and estimate the time to reach a designated Yulu zone there. At the outset, users need to set up a payment method on their Yulu wallet. You can start your journey by scanning the QR code on the Yulu vehicle of your choice and end the trip by parking at a nearby zone, automatically deducting the cost from your Yulu wallet.
The platform operates on a pay-per-use model, requiring first-time users to register on the app and provide a refundable security deposit. In the case of the Yulu Miracle Bike, the base fare is INR 5 (US$0.60), with about US$0.024 charged per minute you ride the bike. Yulu has strategically placed its zones in convenient locations, like metro stations, bus stands, offices, residential areas and corporate offices. This ensures a convenient first and last-mile commute for users. The startup utilizes advanced technology, including IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence, on its platform to manage demand and supply, resulting in efficient operations effectively.
Currently, Yulu bikes operate in several cities, including Bengaluru, New Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Bhubaneswar.
At the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, AtmosGear, a French startup, unveiled its innovative electric inline skates, representing a new approach to micro-mobility. The electric inline skates look similar to regular rollerblades but have one significant difference: the middle wheel is powered by an electric motor to provide speed. The powerful motor can propel skaters up to 25 km/h (15 mph) speeds.
Additionally, users can control the skates using a handheld remote or utilize a smart mode that enhances speed while skating. An intriguing feature of the AtmosGear inline skates is their ability to recharge the motor while being used. These skates have a battery that provides users a range of up to 20 km (12 miles) on electric power alone. However, instead of integrating the batteries into the skates, users must wear a waterproof fanny pack (waist pack) to carry them. Wires are attached from the fanny pack down the rider’s leg to the skate. The skates can be fully charged in one hour.
The AtmosGear inline skates also offer a high level of customization. You can adjust wheel sizes and swap battery packs to increase your range to 50 miles. Additionally, they offer the option to purchase only the frames, which can be easily attached to any compatible boots you already own. Currently, the frames are priced at €600 (around US$614) on the official site.
California-based micro-mobility startup Lime (formerly LimeBike) focuses on providing electric scooter and bike-sharing services. The startup initially launched its sharing services with pedal bikes and later expanded to include scooters. Right from the beginning, Lime’s co-Founders, Toby Sun and Brad Tao, had a grander vision beyond offering bike rentals. Their goal was to minimize reliance on personal cars for short-distance travel and create a greener environment for future generations.
Their electric scooters, known as Lime-S, have a top speed of 14.8 mph and can travel up to 20 km. For safety purposes, users are required to have a driver’s license, which is scanned and verified through the app before their first ride.
When it comes to Lime’s dockless bikes, called Lime-E, they are equipped with a built-in motor to assist riders when pedaling on steep inclines. Unlike electric scooters, Lime-E bikes do not have a throttle system. A throttle system is a control mechanism that allows riders to adjust the speed of electric vehicles using a handle or lever. It regulates the power sent to the motor, enabling riders to control their acceleration and speed.
Lime is a leading player among a worldwide network of startups involved in the emerging field of micro-mobility. With a presence in 250 cities across 30 countries, the startup has secured significant financial backing from private investors, including Uber, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.
These were some of the top micro-mobility startups revolutionizing the way people commute, enhancing mobility and contributing to a greener future. Their innovative solutions, user-centric approach and commitment to sustainability have reshaped how people move around cities.
Notably, companies like Bird, Spin and Lyft have also made significant contributions to this movement. Collectively, these startups are reshaping the landscape of urban transportation and inspiring positive change in cities worldwide. Their efforts are instrumental in creating a more sustainable and interconnected urban future.
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