MICROMOBILITY AND EV BIKES
As we look towards being greener, micromobility is growing. We chat to Katherine Sandford, CEO of Ubco electric bikes
As cars go electric, hybrid and alternative fuels, smaller, economical transport is also showing a future. New Zealand is gearing up to make huge grounds in the micromobility space, with market revenue said to grow rapidly from $9.5 million last year to $2.4 billion by 2030. Coupled with increasing calls to adopt EVS as part of our nation’s efforts to reduce emissions, now’s the time to see what the future of transport might look like. According to The Future of Micromobility: Ridership and Revenue After a Crisis, Mckinsey & Company, the NZ micromobility industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 64.3 per cent during the forecast period (2021-30). Key driving factors span low prices and convenience, favourable government regulations, and a rising need to reduce traffic congestion. And of course, the spiralling cost of fossil fuels. Ubco is one company specialising in this form of transport. Its distinctive twin-motor, twowheel drive work and adventure electric bikes have earned a growing reputation on the farm and around town, being road registerable. We talked to Ubco chief executive Katherine Sandford on the future of mobility. Where do you see the direction of NZ’S transport industry in the next decade? We will see sales and use of lightweight EVS like Ubcos — that don’t require a full car licence — continuing to boom right through the ’20s. This is also largely driven by some megatrends that are shifting attitudes including climate change awareness, Gen-z avoiding cars, and individual mobility demand. Some multinationals are also predicting a move to 15-minute communities where you can find everything you need, or have everything you want delivered to you within 15 minutes. In that case, we’ll be travelling shorter regular distances and need more agile transportation options. What about in relation to car ownership? Reduced car ownership is accompanied by reduced ownership of products and assets in other sectors. This is powered by a greater shift towards subscription models of transportation, rather than people buying outright. So we’ll be more likely to pay a monthly fee for our vehicles and have servicing managed by the company — where they also ensure you’re driving the latest models. We’ve been fine-tuning Ubco’s subscription approach with Domino’s [Pizza], where it has more than 60 2x2 vehicles in its pizza delivery fleet. How would micromobility work with NZ’S public transport? In addition to the general benefits of lighter, smarter EVS, NZTA’S study last year found the micromobility trend here in NZ in association with public transport/ transit could increase patronage up to about 9 per cent by around 2030. By better connecting people between main bus or train stops and work or home, reducing parking costs and sidestepping traffic, people will become less reliant on cars that aren’t good for the environment. There will always be a place for cars (hopefully sustainable versions), it just depends on what and who you’re driving around. NZ still has a long way to go to get the best out of what’s on its doorstep. People generally want to do the right thing in terms of sustainable options, but if it requires too much effort or a huge change in routine, then they’re far less likely to adopt a new approach. To make it stick, it’s going to need a combination of regulation in support of safety, along with the right options that enable consumers to choose what’s most convenient for them. What’s unique about Ubco’s EV bikes? Firstly, Ubco is selling road registrable vehicles online, direct to consumers’ doors. This required redesigning our entire customer journey including packaging, training and communication. Subscription offers also increase adoption among corporates like Domino’s because the numbers stack up, the vehicles are quiet, and they don’t have to worry about servicing and bigger fixed purchase costs. So we will continue to fine-tune this approach. EVS can seem scary and out of reach to many people who haven’t made the jump. So we have a very simple design that anyone can put together out of a box, and we’re introducing new distribution models to increase accessibility — including taking our EVS into communities for test rides and servicing. With the growth in the adventure market, there’s been an increase in people interested in off-road vehicles. So we’ve created one that’s not only versatile for off-road conditions, but also environmentally friendly.