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Are ‘microcars’ the future of shared advancement services?

  • Tech
  • Micromobility
  • Infrastructure
  • Business model

Are ‘microcars’ the future of shared advancement services?

Polestar accelerates the shift to sustainable mobility, by making electric active irresistible.

Shared advancement as we all know has come a long way over the past decades. From accepted public alteration buses to remote-controlled e-scooters, the space has always been evolving to cover all aspects of transportation. Today the space is so activating in modes and business models, that almost every year there are avant-garde businesses arising out of cities around the world acclamation even bespoke needs. In the global context, however, modes in shared advancement can be broadly fit under one of these: public transit, carsharing, bikesharing, scooter-sharing, moped-sharing, car(van)pooling (or ridesharing), and microtransit (on-demand shuttles).

Use cases and the consistent acceptance of any mode in shared advancement always have had to check these antecedence boxes: convenience, speed, cost, and recently (outranking the other 3 since the pandemic) health concerns. Mobilizing people (individuals) over beneath distances has been the focus of micromobility (viz. Bikes, scooters). Cars have always been best suited for longer distances and with more than one rider and/or with a small cargo capacity. However, whether we call it the risk-averse or aberrant decisions that most humans make, the absoluteness isn’t absolutely that. In most markets, cars (owned or shared) have single control most of the time irrespective of the ambit to be covered. Factors such as parking and zonal (e.g. city-center) restrictions seem to impact the accommodation to leave one’s car behind more.

Factors alive adjoin micromobility accommodate perceived safety apropos with a 2 wheeler (sit or stand), the advancement ability of the market (Asia, Europe have had millions of moped riders over North America), and even demographics (considering ergonomics and concrete comfort). There acutely is a gap that exists amid micromobility and carsharing.

Enter microcars, a class of cartage with a accommodation for not more than 2 cartage and a little cargo hold, which offer the best of both worlds and accompanying with the leverages of shared advancement can offer multi-stakeholder benefits. But, can these tiny microcars prove acknowledged in bushing the gap in urban advancement while advancement the sustainability aspect?

In this commodity you will read:

  • What the accepted market abeyant for microcars is and what accepted gaps in urban advancement they solve
  • How these cartage stand to account not just users but also advance shared-electric (zero-emission) advancement initiatives for cities while saving costs for carsharing fleet operators
  • What factors pose a claiming to their all-encompassing roll-out in carshare fleets

Shared advancement change and where microcars fit in it

Carshare, well, has technically been around since 1948 as a small accomplishing in Zurich, Switzerland (first wave) but only got adopted alfresco of Europe (in the US) in the ’90s. Decades later bikesharing was alien which was bound followed by shared scooters, and since then the term micromobility. It has been axiomatic that more avant-garde modes and business models have been added to the shared advancement space and evolving fast. With millions of trips being accurate by micromobility and the millions of users being served by these modes, last mile connectivity has absolutely improved. However, cities grow more anxious and afraid over the operating models of these services.

Source: NACTO

While a majority of micromobility trips replaced car trips (pre-COVID), lack of apprenticeship and basic measures led to added rider mishaps in 2020 which in turn impact the perceived safety concerns. Micromobility modes are highly able in acclamation the ‘upto 2~3 km’ last mile connectivity, carshare currently addresses a bigger range but from a city and operational point of view needs to have a antithesis amid availability and appliance (fleet size, cost per trip). Microcars can play a analytical role in this space, but before that, what are microcars?

Smaller vehicles, all of which might not necessarily be classified as even automatic cartage have had a greater appeal in terms of their affordability. Additionally, they take up less road and parking space. These cartage have had a history. The auto industry saw the first wave of such vehicles in post-war Europe (1960’s) which bound became history until recently. What has made them rebound? Among many reasons, one of them is the urban active distances which boilerplate around 50km (North America). Calm with the electric agent and array technology developments, these new-age microcars present an ideal case for zero-emission urban advancement since they need lighter batteries with a range enough for beneath urban trips. And most can share the road with other cartage (not defective added basement viz., appropriate lanes).


Have such microcars been used in carsharing yet? How do/did they fare?

Short answer: Yes and fairly successful.

One of the better deployments of agnate cars in carsharing has been with one of the better carsharing operators globally – Car2Go (now ShareNow). The Smart ForTwo constituted a major allocation of the service’s North American fleet, and the unit economics of the agent accustomed for the rental rates to be lower than a accepted small car elsewhere. It was a member-favorite as long as the operations were accessible in cities across Europe and North America. The tiny car made great sense for short-to-mid length urban trips with able appliance levels. In many cities, Car2Go could accommodate great value for money compared to Uber/Lyft rates. Additionally, parking which is always a pain point abnormally for carshare associates was found to be a breeze with the ForTwo’s. North American city operations even saw lesser minor bumper scratch/damage rates and could about park 2 cars in 1 parking spot. In Europe, in accession to more number of cars in one space, the account could advance parking lot corners which contrarily would be space wasted at a cheaper rate.

Groupe Renault is one of the antecedents in ablution a assembly model, street-legal electric microcar in recent times. The Twizy, was tested for carsharing and car rental business models and launched in a few countries. France being one of them. Once again, one of the affairs points for this account was affordability i.e. lower rental rates. Group aggregation Nissan, followed a small-scale accomplishing of Twizy-based carshare in Japan in 2017.

Much recently, Citroen’s Ami was inducted into Free2Move’s fleet in France. Not acute a active authorization and that it can be driven by 16-year-olds, the Ami helps take away the entry barrier or driver accomplishment hurdle while alms an affordable amid (weatherproof) EV for all ages indeed.

Source: Author

Out of the above three, Car2Go’s Smart ForTwo was the most successful. Not electrically driven (other than the fleet in Hamburg, Madrid, Stuttgart, Amsterdam, Paris , and a allocation of the fleet in San Diego) the ForTwo didn’t have to face the range all-overs problems or charging basement availability. Plus the cartage offered an ‘almost car-like’ acquaintance unlike the Twizy and others which are classified under quadricycles and accommodation on ease of active (and administration as compared to small cars). Speaking of ease of driving, the Twizy (in Tokyo) needed to engage users in tutorials in order to brainwash them about the handling, bluff axis radius and basically accepting used to a quadricycle.

Microcars: Market abeyant and archetypal use cases

Data suggests that the majority of commutes fall below the 25km mark (in the US). That way range all-overs for EVs will no longer be a barrier. Microcars on average have amid 80~200 km range batteries.

It is important to note that this data set also compares commuting ambit with association having a academy degree or income levels. Not surprisingly, lower-income communities had higher commuting distances. Here’s where shared advancement can make a aberration and accompaniment public transit. While micromobility may plug the last mile connectivity, microcars through car-sharing can bridge the medium ambit commute. Because abate batteries, lower unit costs, and more bunched parking space requirements operators will be able to accommodate carsharing at affordable rates. With added interests in corporate, community-only or absolute carsharing for tenants for a property, these cartage present a acute case for both users and operators.

Why do we need accession new mode in shared mobility? As micromobility is accretion its user (demographic) base, it still charcoal broadly amid 18~39 years. Carsharing not only allows more than one commuter to travel, but also potentially bouncer the user from difficult acclimate and allows some baggage space. The main aberration amid these modes being the cost of operations and hence the rental rates. Microcars in shared advancement can solve this.

Source: movmi

Multi-stakeholder benefits

One of the prime success factors for any new busline mode is its all-embracing account to the community. Archetypal carsharing operations have not been accepted in abutting remote communities since the operation achievability is advantaged by denser communities. Electric car-sharing is all the more out of reach for low-income communities. With allotment support, a few equitable EV car-sharing businesses have been launched, but the asset cost charcoal a major hurdle in blurred the hourly/daily rates.

Microcars have the abeyant to affected that. With costs up to 70% lower than the boilerplate electric vehicle, these tiny cars with just enough range accommodation prove affordable in the accustomed drive use case. The sheer amusement of active an EV still charcoal which will be quite adorable to many. Changing commuting patterns and behavior is key to the success of a shared advancement service. As new modes, these microcars will help create an appeal to its associates acknowledging their alteration from buying to access.

From the city and busline ascendancy standpoint, electric microcars will added help align new busline initiatives with their altitude emergency acknowledgment targets. Additionally, owing to their affordability in the carsharing business model, microcars have great abeyant to abutment busline equity bringing clean advancement to low-income and contrarily underserved communities. The archetypal carsharing fleet has 2-3 empty seats on boilerplate for majority of trips and (as EVs weigh heavy on the operating financials) still have GHG emissions. Micromobility (scooters and mopeds) are electric as many cities in Europe and North America authorization them to be, but have issues with rider safety and abashing of sidewalks which aren’t accepted with most cities.

Lower asset costs of microcars anon account carsharing operations. As EVs, these cars crave nearly zero-maintenance. Abate batteries mean a beneath range (~150km) which also means faster charging times. Storage and parking costs are optimized as more than one of these tiny cars may be parked in a approved parking spot and such cars can potentially access contrarily wasted (empty) spaces in lots. Carsharing with microcars is being tested for assorted use cases including one as a accompaniment to other shared advancement modes.

Current challenges in on-the-ground implementation

Regulations around agent class definition

Certain city/country level authorities are still cryptic which vehicle-class will many of these microcars fall under. Avant-garde designs that define such cartage are being evaluated from the authoritative standpoint to actuate if these are street legal. Altered cities have altered laws to govern new advancement (case in point electrameccanica’s single-seater Solo is not acceptable on Canadian roads). The EU classifies these cartage as quadricycles (depending on the weight, engine power, and speed).


As per the size of these vehicles, they tend to save on allowance costs for the operator. These microcars are altered from your accepted cars. As electric quadricycles, they have some absolution in the NCAP ratings, and most are fitted with roll-cages for added safety.

Manufacturing and account support

One of the major success factors for shared fleet cartage is reliability. While all microcar manufacturers might ensure affection products, testing believability is critical. Currently, many of these microcar manufacturers are startups and have constraints in artefact homologation (globally) along with in capacity. Not to mention, after-sales abutment will play an important role too. As with any other electric cartage in carsharing, microcars will demand access to EV charging basement in the cities that they’re deployed. Although the time taken to charge these cartage may be less, advance in a charging base arrangement (paid by abettor or the city or 3rd party arrangement provider) will actuate acknowledged use experience.

In conclusion

The world of shared advancement has been evolving. The cold has always been to accommodate 100% of all advancement trips through one mode or the other, on its own or by tying calm many modes to complete one’s journey. Today’s technology has helped make this accessible and more acceptable than ever before. In order to move one away from their ‘sticky’ advancement mode choice, it is important to accede able means to optimize convenience, cost, and speed in every trip. Today’s new wave of microcars can be a great fit in the all-embracing advancement space to finer bridge the gap amid single-occupant car use and micromobility while alms affordable access to clean transportation.

As in any business, asset appliance (in this case, vehicles) in carsharing abundantly determines banking feasibility. While new modes are alien and tested, it’s vital to enable the ‘multimodal’ adventure and ensure all pieces fit in to accompaniment each other to create sustainable, airy busline ecosystems.

This commodity was accounting by Venkatesh Gopal, Business Development and Partnerships Manager, Movmi on The Urban Advancement Daily, the agreeable site of the Urban Advancement Company, a Paris-based aggregation which is moving the business of advancement advanced through concrete and basic events and services. Join their association of 10K global advancement professionals by signing up for the Urban Advancement Weekly newsletter. Read the aboriginal article here and follow them on Linkedin and Twitter.

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Published February 18, 2021 — 13:56 UTC

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