Sector trends

Micromobility: a huge opportunity for industry and society

Micromobility will help us towards net zero while offering opportunities for businesses – but regulation is needed to keep up with this fast-developing sector.

There’s no official definition of micromobility but, in simple terms, it refers to small, lightweight and efficient vehicles designed to make journeys over shorter distances. 

While other developments such as electric vehicles (EVs) can help to reduce emissions, these powered micro vehicles (PMVs) can take us further towards net zero. While their manufacture is also considerably less carbon-intensive, a typical e-bike or scooter, for example, also uses about a 20th of the energy an electric vehicle uses to make the same journey , according to David Greenwood, CEO of WMG centre High Value Manufacturing Catapult. 

There are other benefits too: “Micromobility reduces pollution and disease, it’s accessible and affordable, it cuts congestion, reduces parking problems and improves active lifestyles.” as Dave explained at the Micromobility UK 2022 event at the University of Warwick.

Why the opportunities for industry are exciting

As the sector develops, Dave sees opportunities for businesses to create more value through innovative products and production techniques. “This new, growing market is a fantastic opportunity to take companies from a variety of sectors, and help them find new products and services in this area,” he said.

The opportunity goes beyond vehicle manufacture, with huge scope for what WMG describes as “the infrastructure and service backbones”. First, though, there is a need for policy and regulation to catch up with this fast-developing sector. 

“Lots of these vehicles are fantastic but they’re not legal [to ride] at the moment, other than for specific trials in certain locations. If we’re going to help the UK take advantage of this opportunity, we need frameworks in place that allow us to do it.” he says.

Where can PMVs be used and by whom?

A new transport bill is imminent, which is expected to include legislation to enable the definition of new vehicle categories. This in turn will allow for regulation of these vehicles, clarifying issues like maximum speeds, minimum age of riders, protective equipment requirements, whether riders need insurance or not and where they can and can’t ride. 

Over the past year, in partnership with low-emission transport consultancy Cenex, WMG has been working on a major project to address many of these issues. NatWest and a group of stakeholders from across industry, government, user groups and finance organisations are working together to build a road map for how regulations might be achieved.

The good news is that, “in many areas, there is clear consensus from industry, government and user groups. It’s not total consensus in all areas, there are still areas that need debate, but we are closer to getting the right answers.” 

Seizing opportunities from a low carbon economy

Richard Hill, the  Head of Automotive and Manufacturing, added: “The bank has set out a clear ambition to play a leading role in helping to address the climate challenge. With transport being the largest carbon-emitting sector in the UK, clean transport is critically important – and this is why we are playing our part in helping the sector make the most of the opportunity from micromobility. 

“The transition and disruption in the automotive and transport sectors today are like nothing seen since the advent of mass vehicle production, dating back to Ford’s Model T 120 years ago. The industry in the UK is in its infancy, but we’re keen to help the transition and grow with it. I’m really proud, for example, to collaborate with WMG on the our Clean Transport Accelerator programme."

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