Top 5: Shared Micromobility Takes Off in the U.S.

04.23.19 | Blog | By:

Hello friends! Here’s my monthly take on the five most interesting developments in future fuels and vehicles trends. Items I selected include:

  • Shared Micromobility: In 2018, 84 million trips were taken in the U.S. on shared micromobility applications such as bikes, scooters and e-bikes.
  • PHEVs for HDVs?: A new SAE paper from MIT makes the case.
  • Who Needs to Approve of Shared Connected Autonomous Mobility?: Women. Or it won’t work.
  • GDI Adoption Growing: Of all the emerging technologies, gasoline direct injection (GDI) has seen the highest level of adoption among manufacturers, reaching 51% for the 2018 model year.
  • Air Pollution: Air pollution is responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol use, and physical inactivity.

1. National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO): Shared Micromobility in the U.S.: 2018 ― According to NACTO, in 2018, people took 84 million trips on shared micromobility in the U.S. ― bikes, scooters and e-bikes ― more than double the number taken in 2017. The map below shows where this is occurring in the U.S.

Source: NACTO

In 2018, people took 36.5 million trips on station-based bike share systems and 38.5 million trips on shared e-scooters. Dockless pedal (non-electric) bikes, which quickly proliferated across the U.S. in 2017, have largely disappeared from North American cities, with just 3 million trips in a handful of cities in 2018. E-bikes have emerged as a popular option, accounting for 6.5 million trips in 2018 (6 million in dockless systems and 500,000 in station-based systems). This is summarized in the figure below.

Source: NACTO

In 2018, e-scooters overtook bikes as the preferred vehicle for dockless vendors. As of the end of 2018, over 85,000 e-scooters were available for public use in about 100 U.S. cities. In contrast, dockless bikes, which once numbered in the tens of thousands, have largely disappeared from city streets, with the notable exception of dockless bikes still in use in Seattle.

Over the course of 2018, most dockless bike share companies (including Lime and Spin) retooled their fleets to focus on e-scooters, and new e-scooter-only companies (including Bird) emerged. Early e-scooter adopter cities include Santa Monica and Austin, and e-scooter companies expanded to many more cities from there, with about 26 formal e-scooter share pilots across the U.S. launching between July and September.

Venture capital-backed ride-hail companies began investing large sums in shared micromobility companies, with Uber acquiring Jump Bikes and Lyft acquiring Motivate, the operator of the five largest docked bike share systems in the U.S.

2. Ars Technica: MIT Says We’re Overlooking a Near-Term Solution to Diesel Trucking Emissions ― Daniel Cohn and Leslie Bromberg, a pair of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published a paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers, suggesting that the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol.

Ars Technica notes a hybrid heavy-duty system isn’t a completely novel idea, though a PHEV system has yet to be widely applied and tested in long-haul heavy-duty trucking. A company called Hyliion introduced a hybrid electric-diesel truck in 2017, and San Diego uses a hybrid electric-compressed natural gas bus on its transit system.

Cohn and Bromberg did a detailed analysis of both the engineering and the economics of what would be needed to develop such an engine to meet the needs of existing truck operators. In order to match the efficiency of diesels, a mix of alcohol with the gasoline, or even pure alcohol, can be used, and this can be processed using renewable energy sources, they found. Detailed computer modeling of a whole range of desired engine characteristics, combined with screening of the results using an artificial intelligence system, yielded clear indications of the most promising pathways and showed that such substitutions are indeed practically and financially feasible.

3. Vox: Self-driving Cars Will Be Considered Unthinkable 50 Years from Now ― “We have invested years in developing social contracts around both private and public transportation. When you get into a bus or a train, or even a car, you acknowledge that the person at the wheel is in charge. This power relationship is what allows shared transportation to flourish, and this social contract is what helps many of us in marginalized groups feel safer while riding transportation. It doesn’t feel safe to imagine riding in a shared driverless vehicle. Not just because the technology doesn’t work — but because it doesn’t feel safe to be alone in a small, enclosed space with strange men.”  This article highlights a major issue that I don’t think is really talked about openly in the “new mobility”: safety concerns, especially for women.

And frankly, the bottom line that I think other analysts are missing when it comes to ride sharing, ride hailing, autonomy and even electric vehicles is that none of these applications will work unless women (literally) buy in.  Consider these statistics about women just in the U.S. alone. They:

  • Contribute US$7 trillion in consumer and business spending
  • Hold 60% of the personal wealth
  • Will own 2/3 of consumer wealth in the next decade
  • Own 40% of the private businesses
  • Make or influence 85% of consumer purchases
  • Make 68% of the car purchase decisions
  • Spend US$200 billion on new cars and mechanical servicing annually

You want shared connected autonomous vehicles to work? You want them to buy EVs? Then you better convince them that they will be safe and they will benefit. So far, the companies and advocates involved in this space aren’t doing a great job at that. In fact, I don’t think they’re talking to women very much at all.

4. U.S. Department of Energy: Of Emerging Fuel Saving Technologies, Gasoline Direct Injection Was the Most Widely Adopted in 2018 ― Of all the emerging technologies, gasoline direct injection (GDI) has seen the highest level of adoption among manufacturers, reaching 51% for the 2018 model year. Eight of the largest manufacturers installed GDI in more than 75% of the vehicles they produced, with several near or at 100%, shown in the figure below.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The 2018 EPA Automotive Trends Report: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Fuel Economy, and Technology since 1975, EPA-420-R-19-002, March 2019. Notes: GDI = Gasoline direct injection; CVT = Continuously variable transmission; CD = Cylinder deactivation; Hybrid = Gasoline hybrid that cannot be plugged in; PHEV = Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle; EV = All-electric vehicle; FCV = Fuel cell vehicle.

Turbo charging and stop/start are two other engine technologies that reached a production share of about 30%, while cylinder deactivation (CD) was at 12%. Thirty-six percent of the vehicles produced had transmissions with seven or more gears while 22% were fitted with continuously variable transmissions (CVT). Gasoline hybrid vehicles accounted for 4%, while plug-in hybrid, all-electric, and fuel cell vehicles had a combined total of 3%.

5. Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME): State of Global Air 2019 ― Air pollution is responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol use, and physical inactivity, according to this year’s State of Global Air 2019 report. It shortens the life of children born today by nearly two years, and is the 5th highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just below smoking. Perspective: each year, more people die from air pollution related disease than from road traffic injuries or malaria. For the first time, the report looks at the impact of air pollution on life expectancy. Long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease worldwide in 2017. The graphic below shows deaths from air pollution in 2017.

Source: HEI/IHME

The analysis found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, with both countries facing over 1.2 million early deaths from all air pollution in 2017.  China has made initial progress, beginning to achieve air pollution declines; in contrast, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have experienced the steepest increases in air pollution levels since 2010. The figure below compares WHO air quality guidelines and interim targets for select countries for the years 1990, 2010 and 2017. Look at the overwhelming difference between the U.S. versus every other country/region listed.

Source: HEI/IHME

Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy. Learn more about membership in her Future Fuels Outlook service.

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