Big Opportunity: Personal EVs
Single-rider electric vehicles will revolutionize commuting in crowded urban centers
This is my second post in the Big Opportunity series. You can read the first one “Big Opportunity: Improving the mundane” here.
Tesla is on a tear, but the next revolution in transportation will come from much smaller personal EVs.
I’m defining Personal EVs as convenient and affordable single-rider electric vehicles with enough range and speed to satisfy the needs of urban commuters.
And my hypothesis is that as urban centers grow in population, commuting using traditional cars will become more expensive and inconvenient due to cost of ownership, traffic, difficulty to park, and even pollution. Personal EVs will offer a more affordable, convenient, clean and even healthier alternative especially for younger generations entering the work force.
Here are some interesting facts
- In almost every European country, bikes are outselling new cars: “…Bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales last year in 23 out of 25 members of the European Union. Not including Cyprus, Malta and Croatia…” Source: NPR.
- More than a quarter of Millennials (people ages 16-34) in the US lacked a driver’s license in 2010. “…From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by people ages 16-34 dropped 23 percent, from 10,300 to 7,900, the survey found…”. Source: America’s Generation Y not driven to drive — Reuters.
And it shouldn’t be hard to understand why. Rising cost of gas, insurance, parking and maintenance are making the cost of car ownership prohibitive for many, while heavy traffic and the lack of readily available parking make it inconvenient, especially in urban centers.
In addition more than 50% of car trips in the US are less than 5 miles long. Source: Cumulative distribution of driven miles per trip from 748,918 car trips recorded in the 2009 NHTS.
So younger generations — who tend to be more concerned about the environment and staying active and in shape — are preferring to bike or even walk to work.
Lastly, there’s the benefit of spontaneity. Imagine driving to work and noticing a new and buzzing coffee shop on the left side of the street. If you’re in your car, you’d need to find the right place to turn and a parking spot. While on your bike, you wouldn’t hesitate to stop to check it out.
So why Personal EVs? Because by adding electric power to bicycles, longboards or other forms of small personal vehicles you can enjoy the cost, spontaneity, convenience, and environmental benefits of these vehicles, while increasing their range, speed, and even the ability to painlessly go uphill or arrive to work without a sweat.
Some creative and smart entrepreneurs are taking notice and have been designing, developing and commercializing beautiful and innovative products to capitalize on this trend:
- Faraday Bicycles*, Gocylce and Superpedestrian in the urban e-bike space.
- Boosted Boards* and ZBoard in the longboard and skateboard space.
- Lit Motors creating a new category of self-balancing two-wheeled electric vehicles.
Besides the aforementioned benefits there’s something else that make these Personal EVs exciting. Just think about the scenarios that become possible when you add electric power to your bike or longboard. Your ride could be:
- Safer with powered front and back lights.
- More informative with sensors measuring your speed, the strength with which you’re pedaling, distance or calories burned.
- More connected with built-in GPS to easily find your bike if you lost it, or other riders along the way, and integrated BLE (Bluetooth low energy) to connect your vehicle and your phone, which could be charged as you ride.
In addition new apps and services could be developed to locate other riders, engage in friendly competition, discover new or best routes based on car density, inclination, etc. and map great spots and charging stations for your Personal EV.
The future is bright for Personal EVs. New companies are pioneering this exciting space and as described on my previous post “Big Opportunity: Improving the mundane” the power of hardware coupled with software, connectivity and services will create magical products that disrupt yet another vertical.
PS: And in case of a rainy or cold day, you can always Uber or Lyft to work
*I’m an investor in Faraday and Boosted