In general, everyone agrees, that there are too many private cars in the streets of the world. “Private cars are the biggest issue of urban traffic today because they cause traffic congestion, environmental pollution and parking problems,” noted Eimantas Balta, Bolt’s head of electric scooter development in the Baltic States. The question is, are we ready to change our preferences and increase the use of micromobility?
Kristjan Lind, the CEO of the smart bike racks manufacturer Bikeep, said that the transport industry today is producing carbon dioxide-based emissions all over the world and has not been able to reduce them. “The transport sector consumes more than 58 percent of the planned energy consumption,” he explained. “At the same time, distances travelled within the city are under 8 kilometres, which you don’t actually need a car for.”
Micromobility as a green alternative
Lind believes the issues are so serious that eventually our mobility will need to be adjusted. “People are becoming more aware of the issues regarding the urban space and it is only a matter of time until money starts putting the pressure on improving our cities’ living environments,” he said. “In the future, bicycles, e-scooters and shared mobility will replace cars in cities and reaching the city centre with your own private car will become impossible, because the city will belong to the people – the narrative must change from car-centricity to micromobility.”
Balta believes that all the above-mentioned issues can be solved. “The scooter rental service is fairly new on the market but we can see that interest in it is growing,” he said. “Our aim is definitely to support the green development of cities. We want to support cities in developing cycling and pedestrian paths and work together in that field, for example by sharing data that is important for traffic planning with many of the world’s centres.”
Lind and Balta both agree that there is a lot of hidden potential in the micromobility market. “The entire micromobility sector is in an upward trend globally, its predicted cumulative yearly growth rate within a decade being more than 17 percent,” said Lind. “The potential in Estonia is huge, we now offer the scooter rental service in 11 Estonian cities and the interest remains high,” Balta agreed.
Balta mentioned that the international micromobility market has not reached its peak yet. “Cities where you already can’t drive a personal car in the city centre, where large roads within the city have been transformed into recreational spaces, where people get around on foot or by bike and cities with city centres where cars are allowed the speed limit has been lowered to 30km/h, get a head start. These cities support local entrepreneurship, minimise costs to the health sector, raise generations where independent thinking and independent actions are prioritised and where talent is concentrated.”
Hot business opportunity where everyone wins
Both Bolt and Bikeep see great business opportunities in the growing market, thus they are investing steadily into uniqueness and novelty. Their aim is for not only the companies themselves but also consumers and the living environment as a whole to benefit from their business activities.
For example, Bikeep offers smart bike tracks to the final consumer completely free of charge. “Bikeep is genius because the cost of the project should not come from the cyclists’ pocket, just like the cost of road upkeep does not come directly from the car-owner’s pocket.” Bikeep has worked out a business model to earn revenue where their clients are buildings, campuses, companies and real estate developers. He explained that the aforementioned institutions pay for the service instead of their consumers. “They have to make bike tracks available to their clients, residents and employees,” Lind explained.
Lind highlights examples of their cooperation partners from all over the world. “Our clients include Translink in Canada, Boston Properties in USA, Ülemiste City in Estonia, University of Hertfordshire in the UK and the ICA grocery chain in Sweden,” he noted. “Companies who want to offer modern, safe and smart solutions to their clients are from various fields. Eventually, we will have a network of bike tracks and charging docks.”
International cooperation in reducing emissions
Bolt is the first scooter rental service in Europe investing in charging docks. “When we use charging docks, we spend less on everyday transport because our team does not have to pick up the scooters and bring them to a charging point,” Balta explained. “It will also give a positive push for better parking habits and contribute to organising the urban areas because the charging docks will be near popular hubs.” He noted that at the moment, they have ten charging docks in Tallinn and they will be expanding to other European cities during the next season.
Bolt electric scooters are charged with renewable energy and to achieve this, they are working together with the Lithuanian stock company Ignitis. “We want to find the best ways to make the entire scooter rental process – such as logistics, charging and maintenance – more environmentally friendly,” Balta said. “We began working together with Ignitis and as a result, all Bolt scooters in the Baltics are now charged using renewable energy which helps to minimise environmental pollution.”
Balta added that they use 195 megawatt hours of electric energy per year to charge the scooters. “By using green energy here, we reduce carbon emissions by 141 tonnes a year in Estonia,” he noted.
Safety is consistently increasing
Balta mentions that even though a few safety issues have emerged with electric scooters, they work hard everyday to resolve the shortcomings. “We take the safety of our scooters very seriously,” he assured. “We have dozens of people working every day towards developing new solutions that favour responsible mobility. One example out of many is that we are right now piloting a new feature that tests the reaction speed of the user prior to them riding the scooter, and we are developing a solution that would recognise when two people are riding on one scooter.”
Lind sees partnership opportunities with cities in creating a safer environment. “If the private sector contributes to campuses, buildings and the infrastructure surrounding them, then the public sector must follow,” he said. “Fortunately, this tactic works.” More specifically, he is referring to the development of infrastructure. “Outdated infrastructure, like high kerbs and lack of cycling tracks, is the cause of many traffic accidents involving light motor vehicles. We need to work hard with cities to ensure a safe environment.”
More success stories
Many other Estonian startups are contributing to micromobility. A good example is Comodule, which has won the Revenue Hack and the Hardware Comet awards at the Estonian Startup Awards. Comodule is an electric scooter manufacturer that also engages in connecting electric vehicles to the Internet. They have managed this in more than 45 countries and for more than 200,000 electrical vehicles. The latter have travelled more than 20 million kilometres all together. Comodule’s clients are vehicle manufacturers and sharing economy operators. The revenue of the company totalled 6.8 million euros last year.
Comodule CEO Kristjan Maruste has said that change can happen very fast with enough will, which is why he believes in the exponential growth of micromobility. “What was the main topic discussed at the International Mobility Conference in 1898?” Maruste asked at Äripäev’s 21st Gazelle Congress. “Manure,” he continued. “The streets were so filled with horse manure that people did not have any space to walk there. Just fifteen years later, horse carriages were replaced with cars.”
Maruste predicts that the result of the changes that are taking place today is that cars will disappear in the future, which is why we need to contribute to everything that is not cars, such as electrical mobility. Maruste also believes that owning material possessions will become less important and the pressure on the environment will decrease due to this.
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