Micromobility UK: real opportunities for UK businesses

To find out more about sustainability trends in the transport sector, we spoke to two innovative entrepreneurs about cleaner logistics and opportunities in the micromobility market.

When it comes to logistics and pollution, the micromobility world may hold a solution to the problem of last-mile delivery emissions. When used in built-up urban environments, smaller, lighter and cleaner electric vehicles offer an alternative for businesses that are concerned by the carbon emissions produced by, say, a diesel van. According to the WMG’s publication ‘Micromobility: a UK Roadmap’ powered micromobility vehicles offer “a huge opportunity to decarbonise transport, remove congestion, improve air quality and reduce car-dependence”.

Aside from helping reduce carbon emissions, micromobility solutions can also help businesses manage costs, especially when the prices of diesel and petrol soar, and when cities such as London and Manchester introduce stricter clean air zones.

What are the options for smaller businesses?

Although EVs are suitable for some businesses, they’re not for everybody; smaller businesses have fewer opportunities to invest in solutions like hydrogen-powered vans.

In the short term, the biggest thing people can do is look at their delivery schedules and fleet requirements, says Kunmi Oludoyi, co-founder and CEO of Sorair Technologies.

This includes asking:

  • Do you need to be doing as many journeys, or could you consolidate consignments into single shipments?
  • Can you use the same trip to do a pickup as well as a delivery?
  • Do you actually need the fleet of vehicles you’ve got today?
  • Do you need that size of vehicle?
  • Do you need that number of vehicles?

Business could try and reduce their emissions by using electric cargo bikes or plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are becoming more affordable, or contracting a third-party delivery company that uses micromobility vehicles. There are also tax breaks in place to encourage take-up in a market where UK manufacturers are thought to have just 1% of the global share.

Although some decisions made now may be driven by fuel prices, as technology moves on there will be more opportunities for businesses. “The world is moving to a scenario where energy prices are likely to remain high for a while. With a net zero carbon agenda, companies really care about how much carbon is embedded in their products, including from logistics,” says Kunmi.

“Eventually, governments will act by taxing carbon or putting in place regulations. Decisions that take you towards a low carbon or a sustainable future are ones you’re unlikely to regret. If you’re buying a truck with a 20-year lifetime, you want to think about the environment that’s going to be operating in 20 years from now.”

Two leading lights in the micromobility world

The lowdown on Sorair

Sorair provides air- and ground-based logistics solutions for e-commerce fulfilment companies using autonomous delivery drones, EVs, and bike couriers. By providing companies with their own logistics solutions, Sorair is helping them fight the inefficiencies of final-mile deliveries. Its logistics system is powered by electric or hydrogen-fuelled autonomous delivery drones, which release zero carbon emissions.

The business uses a delivery-as-a-service model, like Uber Eats, but using drones instead of couriers. Kunmi and his co-founder, Adebayo Popoola, pivoted away from their idea of manufacturing drones when they spotted the potential to add value by offering affordable same-day delivery services. By using autonomous delivery drones, they say their customers reduce costs such as labour and fuel – an important factor during the current energy crisis.

I don’t feel like it’s worth trying to innovate for the future if it’s not sustainable – that feels like going backwards

Kunmi Oludoyi
Co-founder and CEO of Sorair Technologies

Kunmi says: “It’s almost unthinkable to work in UK engineering and design without building sustainability into growth plans.” Understanding sustainable technology was embedded in his university course and now his business. “It was a no-brainer. I don’t feel like it’s worth trying to innovate for the future if it’s not sustainable – that feels like going backwards.”

The lowdown on IF Vehicles

IF Vehicles is a micro-company based in Newcastle and co-founded by design graduate Andrew Hodgson and former 10 Downing Street Press Secretary, Bill Clare. It’s developing a novel, zero-emission delivery vehicle to reduce the high levels of congestion and pollution associated with delivery vehicles in inner cities. It describes this product – the if.Micro – as part ride-on cargo-scooter, part electric trolley, which aims to provide clean, cheap and legal last-mile parcel delivery.

Tweaking existing technology, arguably a more straightforward business model, wasn’t a viable proposition for moving lots of parcels and reducing congestion and emissions, says Bill,, Chairman of the Board at IF Vehicles. He and Andrew went back to the drawing board and asked: “What do we need to do?” The solution was to design and develop a lightweight, battery-operated micro-container delivery vehicle, with an extending vehicle frame, or chassis (intellectual property (IP) pending), that will utilise reusable containers to distribute goods.

IF Vehicles CEO Andrew has said they don’t want to replace vans, they just want to make sure they are 100% efficient. They have developed route optimisation and delivery software that Bill says will allow the if.Micro to deliver more in a day than a three-tonne van. “We’re solving the problem of last-mile delivery in a sustainable way. This is better than a van that will cost you a minimum of £60,000, it only costs £15,000. The capital savings are enormous. We can save up to 40% on the whole parcel delivery cost.”

Further information on Micromobility Opportunities for Growth.

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