23 Mar 2022
This week: All the ways sustainable transport is abuzz with new energy.
If you haven’t ridden an electric bicycle before, you’re in for a treat. They are unsuspecting things, these ebikes, camouflaged between rows of regular bicycles at shared docking stations but for a tiny lightning bolt icon. You pedal once, pedal twice, and then the electric-powered battery works its magic. With half the effort, you’re boosted down the road twice as fast. Riding one makes you feel like something close to a jetpack-powered superhero.
• “Farther, Faster and No Sweat'' read one New York Times headline on the bike-sharing and ebike boom. As was the case with bicycles in general during the pandemic, the demand for ebikes soared at the height of social-distancing. Sales for ebikes grew 145% from 2020 to 2021 and outpaced sales of regular bikes. Urban bike sharing systems like New York’s Citibikes and London’s Santander Cycles launched fleets of buzzy bikes that essential workers relied on when other forms of public transportation felt too dangerous. “Social-distancing, sustainability and accessibility helped accelerate ebiking during the pandemic, and the trend is showing up in urban bike-sharing programs,” reported the Times.
• The potential for electric vehicles to transform urban transit is not lost on Zoomo, an Australian company that recently raised another $20 million to fund its expansion into Europe. Zoomo offers a subscription-based ebike service designed for gig workers for a monthly fee, including servicing and support. In November they launched a shop in Manchester to show off their multiple ebike models, as well as rentable electric cargo-trikes – a promising way to transition hundreds of motorised freight journeys (like courier or delivery) to a more carbon-neutral option.
• For young EV independents, physical retail has been key to cutting through the noise. Amsterdam-based ebike company VanMoof found success in finding new customers with their Boxpark East London shop in 2020. They found that flexible retail space was an opportunity to reach cities they didn’t have a physical presence in. “One of the biggest learnings from having the popup in Boxpark is that there’s still thousands of people that don’t know about us as a brand,” UK Brand Manager Leigh Richards told Appear Here. “We get you on a bike within two minutes of being in the store so you can really feel what it’s like to ride one of our bikes.” Maeving, the UK’s first British-made electric motorcycle, is following suit. Their first motorcycle model, the Maeving RM1, has a retro 1920 boardtracker look, with the renewable technology of the future. In February, they launched a shop near London Bridge with Appear Here to showcase the RM1 in a setting as gorgeous as the bike itself.
Tesla may have made that sleek futuristic look synonymous with electric vehicles, but smaller EV start-ups are showing we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beautiful, sustainable designs for product and retail spaces alike.
The growth of ebikes may be accelerating the vision of a 15-minute city, an idea popularised by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. The idea is that residents of a neighbourhood can access their daily needs within 15 minutes of walking or biking. Dreamy, right?
• Mate Bike, a Copenhagen ebike company, shares the goal of promoting a local way of life through accessible transport. Last year, as part of their launch in the UK, they opened a shop in Birmingham's iconic Bullring shopping centre, and found that opening centrally located shops in pedestrian friendly areas boosted their sales faster than online alone. “The footfall was fantastic,” Mate Bike’s UK manager, Harris Qureshi, told Appear Here. “We had some people who had been following our Instagram page for six months and said, ‘Ah, I can finally see one’.”
• Until we reach the reality of the 15-minute city, cars will be getting a bit of a facelift too. By 2035, 80% of the world’s vehicle sales are expected to be electric, according to a recent McKinsey report. The EU has doubled down by effectively banning fossil fuels over the next decade, and going all in on electric. "The transition to electric vehicles is going much faster than anybody had ever anticipated,” Frans Timmermans, the EU's head of climate change policy told Reuters. One area of growth? Charging technology. Brussels proposed new laws that would require EU countries to have public charging stations no more than 37 miles apart on major roads by 2025, so EV drivers never run out of juice.
• Whether traveling by foot or on wheels, people are factoring environmental impact into their buying behaviours more than ever before, according to Simon + Kucher’s 2021 Global Sustainability Study. In a landscape where everyone seems to be jumping on the environmental bandwagon, environmental transparency matters – for small shops especially. Gold stars all around for Chris Forbes, the founder of The Cheeky Panda, who created a sustainability calculator that provides accurate carbon footprint data on a product’s lifecycle. The tool was a non-core part of The Cheeky Panda’s business – costing £10,000 and six months to create – but was an investment in transparency and the company’s future impact.
If you’re a small biz owner building a brand for the long-haul, one piece of advice: heed the green wave. It’s a movement, not a moment.
Words by Nicola Pardy, a freelance writer and producer living in New York.