UK transport: Preparing for a lower carbon future

The UK micromobility sector is finding innovative solutions to get people and cargo moving more sustainably. Here’s our 10 takeaways from Micromobility UK 2023.

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Micromobility: The opportunities

Transport is the largest carbon emitting sector in the UK, accounting for 30% of all emissions. Across Great Britain, those who usually travel to work by car in 2021 represented 68% of those who commuted to work.

Micromobility refers to small lightweight efficient vehicles such as e-scooters and cargo bikes, which can be used to make short distance journeys.

As the micromobility sector evolves it is attracting innovative businesses of all sizes, which are identifying growth opportunities and solutions to transform final mile transport as well as support the UK government’s decarbonisation ambitions.

Clean transport and sustainable mobility could play a critical role in reducing the use of cars and vans, lowering carbon emissions in the sector. As Matt Western MP, Shadow Minister for Higher Education notes, the innovation developing in the UK is an exciting prospect for a lower carbon future.

Here are our top take-aways from some of the specialists we spoke to on the ground.

The UK could lead on creating safe, high-tech sustainable vehicles

There are opportunities for the micromobility sector to improve the UK’s economic competitiveness in areas as diverse as battery development, sustainable materials development, servicing and more. The Midlands has long been at the forefront of transport innovation and transformation. Businesses in regions across the UK are now encouraged to take action to develop new products, new categories of vehicles, and safety standards as the industry evolves.

UK businesses are creating the next generation of clean transport 

As the UK continues its low carbon transition after a long history of traditional cars, universities and financial institutions are engaging with businesses to help accelerate R&D into sustainable products and services on the market. Richard Hill, the bank’s Head of Mobility & Logistics, says there are unparalleled opportunities within this emerging sector for businesses with an entrepreneurial and growth mindset to thrive.

The UK could become a global greenshoring destination 

UK Research and Innovation describes greenshoring as a huge opportunity for UK manufacturing. It represents a shift in focus from low-cost to sustainable manufacturing and dependable, resilient supply chains. As more companies make commitments to achieve net zero, greenshoring could become a key part of the manufacturing sector’s sustainable transformation. Mark Urbanowski, Principal Engineer, Micromobility WMG describes greenshoring and micromobility as an industrial opportunity for UK manufacturers and innovators to become world leaders. 

Micromobility solutions could help cities function better

As traffic management and street design policies evolve, regional authorities are pioneering future sustainable transport solutions, testing concepts and innovations at scale and in real places, notes Anthony Ferguson, Deputy Director, Traffic & Technology at the Department for Transport. There is an industrial opportunity for businesses that are alive to the opportunities (and risks) as part of the shift to a low carbon economy. Micromobility could also address economic exclusion through offering lower-cost transport solutions and give unrepresented communities a voice on clean transport.

It's important vehicles are high quality, safe, and legal

UK micromobility regulation has not caught up with the speed of development of new types of micromobility vehicles. As the sector waits for the UK government to introduce regulatory clarity with the Transport Bill [proposed in the Queen's Speech in 2022 but delayed to the current session of parliament] organisations are pushing ahead to get safety right and develop best practice within the existing regulatory framework. Bill Claire, co-founder, if.Vehicles describes a micromobility community coming together to empower organisations to quickly prove safety standards are met.

Invest in people to attract and retain talent in the sector

As well as manufacturing, there are also services opportunities. The sector requires a reliable service network and infrastructure with skilled, fairly paid mechanics. Bike repair and servicing business Fettle has partnered with KwikFit, for example, to help keep micromobility vehicles on the road safe and well maintained. Businesses such as Pedal Me and Pedicargo are early entrants, training talent in the industry with the skills to help revolutionise the way services are provided, change perceptions and build trust.

Professor David Greenwood, CEO, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, WMG says: “You saw at the event lots of great companies, some of them start-ups, some of them have been around for a while. They’re not just showing their first prototypes anymore, they’re now showing products you can buy in showrooms and that you can use as your delivery fleet. It’s starting to get real.”

Discover how you could fast-track your sustainable business goals with the Clean Transport Accelerator programme, which we’re running in partnership with WMG.

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