May 04, 2019 11:46 AM EDT

Could Electric Scooters Transform the Way We Think of Transportation?

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Electric Scooter

(Photo : Denniz Futalan)

There is a global rush to figure out the most efficient way to replace vehicles that run on fossil fuels under pressure to be more environmentally friendly and deal with a potential shortage of petroleum soon. The push now is towards electric cars, with Smart Energy International noting that globally governments and private businesses are turning to electricity to power their newest vehicles. One of the world's most prolific electric vehicle companies, Elon Musk's Tesla, spent almost one and a half billion dollars in 2018 on research and development according to Statista. However, while electric and hybrid vehicles are slowly but surely dominating the roads, a lightly sleeping competitor may show them up at their own game.

Scooters, Scooters Everywhere

Roland Berger reports that in Southeast Asia, the majority of transport is provided by these two-wheeled vehicles, partially because of the lack of parking space for cars. The cost of these two-wheeled wonders is negligible, with new ones costing as little as USD 500 and used ones coming in at almost half that cost. With the late availability of income from the newly industrialized areas of India and other parts of Southeast Asia, the scooter market is one that is ripe for the entry of an environmentally friendly transport option. According to Sixth Tone, China has over 200 million of these electric bikes (e-bikes) already with a potential 30 million entering the market each year. As far as commuters are concerned, e-bikes off a space-friendly, environmentally friendly and convenient way to traverse the city.

Battery Packs and Easy Charging

When electric vehicles first entered the market, their dependence on Lithium Ion batteries made the entire vehicle construction process expensive. The thought of selling costly emerging technology like this to the third world was laughable in the extreme. Then suddenly, because of the slow adoption of the technology around the globe, competing manufacturers and more R&D going into the field, the construction of batteries became so affordable that even poorer countries could afford electric power in their transport. Electrive mentions that batteries are likely to drop by 52% by the time 2030 rolls around. Due to the lack of charging stations in developing countries, manufacturers have fallen back on offering means of charging from a home power supply, but eventually, the idea is to roll out charging stations in easily accessible places to deal with the demand.

Why a Scooter?

In developing nations, not only is it difficult for a factory or commercial worker to afford a vehicle, but the hoops put in place by financial organizations to qualify for loans for cars puts it out of reach of most workers. The added problem of massive snarls of traffic that slow progress means that even affording a car is no guarantee of personal transport. Instead, the use of a power scooter is more prevalent in places where the population is massive because of the added mobility a scooter offers to the operator. Overall, consumers prefer spending less time stuck behind a traffic jam, and the fact that they can still have motorized transport that avoids that bottleneck makes the decision to buy a scooter the obvious one.

Government Support Needed

As with most developing nations, no move along these lines will succeed unless the government puts in the requisite support. Subsidies for entrepreneurs who want to open charging stations is a potential way for governments to stimulate the growth of electric adoption. Manufacturers can aid in creating standardized sizes of components and batteries to assist in the importation and distribution of parts. The fight to control climate change has already begun, and while there is a distinct need for our thinking about carbon-based transportation to change in the first world, developing nations are the most crucial battleground in this war.

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