Benefits of Increased Electric Micromobility Options
While giving more people the choice to shift to EVs has many benefits, including reducing costs and dependence on foreign sources of energy, it does not mitigate the other challenges to urban transportation systems.
In contrast, increasing the use of electric micromobility and electric transit can align with many cities’ goals of reducing traffic congestion, pressure on parking, and the use of raw materials and associated waste streams. These benefits are in addition to the relatively greater affordability, more readily available fueling infrastructure, and lower greenhouse gas emissions previously described.
Access, Mobility, and Equity
Electric micromobility devices, paired with safe active transportation infrastructure, can help to close the first- and last-mile gaps to transit and can offer individuals greater access to jobs, health care, and other services. Electric and adaptive micromobility devices may also increase mobility for older adults, parents with young children, or individuals with disabilities, as they are less strenuous to operate than traditional bicycles or scooters.
Micromobility can also help to expand travel options for underserved communities because of their lower upfront and operating costs compared to traditional vehicles.
Shared micromobility has no upfront capital costs for users. According to NACTO, the average 12-minute scooter share trip costs $2.80 to $4.70 depending on the system. Many shared micromobility providers offer discounted fare structures, credit-free access, and non-smartphone access for lower income and unbanked individuals.
Traffic Congestion and Infrastructure
Replacing single-occupancy vehicle trips with micromobility or transit trips can be beneficial in terms of reducing overall traffic congestion, as real-world examples have quantified.
The City of Atlanta temporarily banned micromobility usage in the fall of 2019, a policy that was found to have increased travel times by about 10 percent for daily commuting and by 37 percent for large events. Extrapolated nationally, researchers estimate that banning existing micromobility services would lead to more than $530 million in annual congestion-related costs (using a value of time of $26/hour).
Making both electric micromobility and electric transit available to more residents is one way of reducing or avoiding increased traffic congestion. Decreasing demand for future car trips by increasing the supply of alternative mode options will also influence future infrastructure needs.
Parking, Land Use, and Housing
Space dedicated to vehicle parking is estimated to comprise a significant fraction of the land area and housing cost in U.S. cities. As many communities across the country face housing affordability challenges, there is continued attention to opportunities for repurposing land for new housing as well as a movement toward reducing or eliminating parking requirements.
A shift at scale of existing or future trips to electric micromobility and transit could reduce demand for dedicating space to vehicle movement and storage therefore enabling other uses of limited urban land area.
Raw material availability and ownership as well as supply chain constraints are important factors in the speed of the transition to EVs. Argonne National Laboratory reports that an EV battery pack can weigh between 140 kg for a compact EV and more than 650 kg for an electric SUV, including nickel, cobalt, manganese, and lithium. In contrast, e-bike and e-scooter batteries typically weigh from 3 to 10 kg. EVs have total vehicle weights starting from about 1,200 kg and as high as 3,000 kg, while electric micromobility vehicles range from about 10 kg for e-scooters to 30 kg for an e-bike, and electric cargo bikes as high as 40 or 50 kg. This is almost two orders of magnitude in difference between EVs and electric micromobility, demonstrating that the use of micromobility modes when possible and at-scale can significantly impact the consumption of raw materials.
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Benefits and Implementation Challenges of Urban Mobility Electrification