Less wheels, more efficient
Just two decades ago, the American engineer Dean Kamen amazed us by launching his new invention, which would contribute to revolutionizing personal transportation all over the world: we are talking about the Segway. After years of a mysterious marketing campaign and secrecy that sought to generate anxiety among consumers, this futuristic-looking device finally reached us, provoking all kinds of reactions and receiving praise from the then CEO of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Steve Jobs, who stated that the world’s major cities would modify their architecture to adapt it to this new form of transportation.
The Segway was a true work of engineering, equipped with sensors and motors that ensured the constant balance of the driver while he set the course of the trip just by leaning his body towards the place he wanted to go. For various reasons, the mass adoption that some predicted never happened. On the one hand, its high price (due to its sophistication) and on the other hand, a series of accidents, some caused by the negligence of the drivers, and others by a manufacturing fault of the first models that reacted erratically when its battery was about to run out, made the Segway was relegated to the use of security guards of shopping centers and airports and tourist rides in some cities around the world.
The truth is that although it did not achieve the mass adoption that its inventor dreamed of, it still achieved its goal, which was to revolutionize personal transportation. The idea was already floating in the air, and all that was needed was for engineers to get to work to create new means of economic, portable and fast transportation, perhaps sacrificing a little sophistication in exchange for functionality. Segway would gradually scale down the manufacture of its invention and merge with the company Ninebot, and this is how we would see the first massive arrival of electric scooters.
Lightweight, transportable and increasingly faster and more autonomous, they stealthily made their way to consumers. It wasn’t until companies like American start-up Lime, in partnership with Uber (NYSE: UBER) and Bird Global (NYSE: BRDS), broke into major cities with a simple and practical idea: scooters for hire. Major cities around the world have been planning and building bike paths for years, trying to overcome issues such as the saturation of motorized traffic and the pollution generated by it, and thus made it easier to seduce the consumer with a new means of transportation. Taking advantage of a “legal loophole” (since scooters do not require for the moment the acquisition of driver’s licenses, accident insurance, or the mandatory use of safety elements such as helmets), the massive arrival was imminent since anyone could access them through the use of an App.
The growth of this new means of transport has been exponential in recent years, not only in terms of rental use but also in terms of direct sales. In Spain, for example, there are more than 1 million units circulating daily, a not insignificant figure, considering that the country has 47 million inhabitants. Several factors have triggered this massive adoption. On the one hand, it gives us the possibility of transporting us quickly and at a very low cost to our place of work or study, avoiding the saturation of public transport in big cities. On the other hand, the folding capacity and portability of the devices allow us to take them anywhere without taking risks or taking up space on the sidewalk. Two other very relevant factors had a direct influence on this exponential growth. On the one hand, the restrictions due to Covid 19, which reduced both the capacity and frequency of public transportation, which forced us to look for alternatives to transport us short distances and on the other hand, the growing environmental awareness of the new generations, who are leading the fight to mitigate the ecological problems that the world must solve in the future.
The major automotive companies did not want to be left out of the growth of this market. Companies such as Ford Motor (NYSE: F), Volkswagen (BATS EU: VOW3), and BMW (BATS EU: BMW) joined the two-wheel fashion, presenting high-quality models at competitive costs, while companies such as Ferrari (BATS EU: RACE), Mercedes Benz (BATS EU: MBG) and the Pininfarina family (known for designing the most beautiful sports cars for various brands) did the same, but providing the incomparable quality and aesthetics that characterizes them. This is how the market currently offers options for all consumer needs, tastes and budgets.
Looking to the future, the electric scooter industry has a very encouraging outlook. Large cities are designing more and more spaces for fast and safe travel. Meanwhile, road authorities in different countries have yet to decide whether it is necessary to implement regulations for the use of these devices. Their correct use should be encouraged so as not to increase traffic chaos, as well as to emphasize the safety of both drivers and pedestrians. The truth is that once again, the new generations show us their predilection for the functional, for that which solves in a simple way those day-to-day problems that we are used to suffering, without realizing that the solution is often simpler than it seems.