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The Rise of Minimobility

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Today’s micromobility market primarily consists of electric bicycle, moped, and e-scooters. However, another mobility segment, which hasn’t attracted too much attention until now, is three and four-wheeled minimobility.

Three and four-wheeled electrical vehicles (EVs) fall between cars and bicycles and weigh on average between 100 and 500 kilograms. Their maximum speed varies from 25 to 90 kilometres per hour depending on the vehicle type and local regulations. The main advantages of this mobility segment are that they are cheaper than a full EV car and significantly smaller. The smaller size is especially beneficial in crowded urban areas. Among other advantages are lower energy requirements and fewer resources and energy required for production. Compared with other micromobility, minimobility vehicles offer greater comfort including the ability to sit and better protection from the weather.

Recently, the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility  has polled 26,000 people in eight countries about their opinions on minimobility vehicles, including their willingness to purchase a vehicle in this segment. Let’s dive into main insights from the survey.

More than 30 percent of respondents worldwide would use a minimobility vehicle as one of their future mobility options. Respondents from Brazil and China are most likely to consider these vehicles (more than 50 percent) followed by those from Italy, Japan, South Koreas, and the United States (between 25 and 30 percent). This indicates that location has a big impact on the result with greater willingness to use minimobility in countries with a long tradition of small-sized vehicles, such as China.

What is interesting is that about 90 per cent of the respondents who were willing to consider these vehicles live in urban and suburban areas. This result matches this type of mobility with its size a key advantage in crowded urban areas.

Regarding income, about 58 percent of respondents have a low to medium salary (less than $50,000 annually). The low cost is a main reason why most respondents are willing to own a minimobility vehicle. Minimobility’s relatively low cost might increase EV ownership rates among people who might otherwise purchase traditional vehicles, which generally cost less than EVs.

Based on the survey results, minimobility vehicles might become an extension to the current light-mobility-vehicle market. Moreover, the growing popularity will raise important issues for different stakeholders such as city leaders, micromobility service providers, vehicle manufacturers, and new players. Thus, for example, city leaders could deploy minimobility vehicles as white-label car-sharing solutions for urban areas. Or minimobility options could be an extension of current vehicle portfolios for micromobility service providers.

Personal Comment:

I think it is a great survey for understanding potential future trends in mobility, however this survey would be even greater if we had another poll where the main question is: how many people already own a minimobility vehicle? Then you can compare the two surveys and discover trends in the minimobility segments. In countries such as China, where small-sized vehicles have been around for some time, it is easier to incorporate the minimobility segment and then we can say from this survey that it has an upward trend. But for European countries and the USA, we need more data not only about willingness to own a minimobility vehicle, but also contrasted with how many people have used it and are satisfied with its safety and comfort.

According to US sales data from 2019, the share of small cars plunged from 52% of new vehicle sales in 2009 to about 29% in 2019. It seems like consumers are not interested in smaller cars, and some minimobility start-ups have failed. One of reasons of why acceptance of minimobility might be low is that the mobility segment is somewhat between micromobility and cars. They don’t work very well at being your main car. However, we might observe a minimobility revolution when electrified vehicles become ubiquitous and manufacturers can lower prices.

Written by Kateryna Melnyk,
RISE Mobility & Systems