Generation Z shifts to e-bikes and car-sharing models
As more and more of us shift to remote working and travel patterns change, younger people and urbanites are embracing scooters, bikes and car-sharing. It is an opportunity for the transport sector to encourage us to get out of our private cars – but it should not ignore other commuter needs in the process.
“People are considering whether they need a car if they only go into the office two days a week,” says Juliette van Enckevort, Global Lead for Land Transport at ING. As we start to contemplate life after Covid-19, is a move away from cars one of the pandemic-driven behaviour shifts that could last?
For transport operators, the window for seizing this opportunity to plan ahead may be narrow, warns van Enckevort: “The key is to ensure we make use of the momentum of people rethinking how they get into the office on the days when they are not working from home.”
Micro-mobility is on the rise
New research commissioned by ING and conducted by Longitude, which surveyed more than 4,000 people, shows that there is growing enthusiasm for alternatives to the car. ‘Micro-mobility’ vehicles such as electric bikes and electric scooters, for instance, were among the preferred modes of transport prior to Covid-19 for 13% and 9% of survey respondents, respectively, but 21% and 16% say they will prioritise them in the future.
Younger generations are especially keen on greener forms of travel. Among 18–24-year-olds, 34% expect to use bicycles, 29% plan to prioritise e-bikes in the future, and 23% e-scooters. Overall, 35% say they expect to increase their use of alternative modes of travel in the future compared with pre-pandemic use, but that figure rises to 44% of Generation Z.
Don’t buy – share
This data suggests that future generations can be coaxed out of their cars. And many younger people may never become car owners at all. ING’s research reveals that there is growing interest in the mobility-as-a-service model (MaaS), whereby people pay to use or share a car only when they need one.
Already, 27% of 18–24-year-olds are willing to consider car sharing, compared with only 12% of 45–54-years-olds. Not only does this have the potential to reduce the number of cars on the road, it will also enable younger people to access electric vehicles despite their relatively high purchase price.
Jens Brokate, an automotive industry specialist at ING, says there is an opportunity to harness younger people’s enthusiasm for the sharing economy. “In metropolitan areas, a car is too much of a hassle for younger people,” he says. “It costs you more to own and maintain, and often you can’t even find a parking spot.”
It’s not for everyone
But transport providers will need to meet the needs of all their citizens – not just the young, and not just city-dwellers. While urban residents may be happy to give up cars, says Brokate, “That is different to what we see in smaller towns and the countryside”. Which may be why people living in larger countries, with lower-density population centres that are further apart, tend to be more wedded to their cars.
However, MaaS solutions have been growing at the expense of public transport, warns Brokate. “There is a need for a more wholistic organisation of transport. Or else we could see the growth of adverse effects such as MaaS with cars,” he says.
In other words, planning for future transport demands requires a multi-faceted approach. Post-pandemic, we need to give people safe, fast, sustainable and convenient public transport infrastructure to encourage those who cannot bike to take the bus or train instead.