Since they began appearing on streets last year, electric scooters have been billed as an eco-friendly alternative to gas-guzzling automobiles, especially in traffic-clogged urban areas.
Now Hyundai, one of the world’s largest automakers, is exploring the idea of using e-scooters as a compliment to their vehicles instead of an alternative.
The company has released an e-scooter prototype that can be mounted and automatically charged on Hyundai and Kia vehicles using electricity that is produced while driving, according to Hyundai (Hyundai has a significant ownership stake in Kia Motors). An upbeat video released by the company shows the foldable scooter –– which looks like it could nearly fit inside a large handbag –– being stored in several potential compartments inside the car. Once the vehicle is parked, the compartments open and the driver is able to quickly transfer from car to scooter.
Hyundai said the idea for adding e-scooters to their vehicles comes from research showing that the ‘Last Mile Mobility’ market in the United States, Europe, and China is expected to grow to $500 Billion by 2030.
“This is the vehicle-mounted personal scooter which could be featured in future Hyundai Motor Group vehicles,” DongJin Hyun, head of Hyundai Motor Group Robotics Team, said in a statement released by the company. “We want to make our customers’ lives as easy and enjoyable as possible. Our personal electric scooter makes first- and last-mile commuting a joy, while helping to reduce congestion and emissions in city centers.”
Hyundai isn’t the first major car company to hawk an electric scooter. Earlier this year, luxury German car-maker BMW unveiled its own electric scooter, according to Bloomberg, a device with limited range (12 miles) and a hefty price tag: $890. The market is full of electric scooters with three times the range at about half that price. BMW’s model will go on sale this month at the company’s German dealerships.
Hyundai’s electric scooter appears much smaller than rentable models produced by companies like Bird, Lime, Bolt and Skip. Even so, the company claims the device’s 10.5 Ah lithium battery is powerful enough to help the scooter to achieve a top speed of more than 12 miles per hour and 12 miles distance on a single charge.
Hyundai says the “tri-folding” scooter weighs just under 17 pounds and features a digital display that shows battery status and speed. At night, the new scooter is equipped with two front LED headlights and two rear tail lamps. The automaker says its engineers have added suspension to the device’s front wheel for a smoother ride.
At first glance, Hyundai experimenting with an e-scooter might look like a marketing gimmick, but David Liniado, vice president of new growth and development at Cox Automotive Mobility Group, said he expects more automakers to embrace micromobility innovations as cities begin to encourage alternative modes of transportation as well.
For drivers living and working in crowded urban centers like Atlanta and Washington D.C., where parking is often scarce, being able to transition from a car to a scooter could prove extremely useful, he said, especially if the vehicle also served as the scooter’s charging station.
“Going from a car to a bike to a scooter is a trend that is going to continue to grow because there’s utility in it,” Liniado said. “Obviously, somebody living in suburbia, their lifestyle may not need this as someone living in midtown Atlanta.”
Liniado said micromobility trends might accelerate if more cities begin follow the lead of Madrid, Spain, where plans to ban most petrol and diesel cars in the city’s center have been fiercely debated in recent months.
In Paris, which has struggled with poor air quality, the first Sunday of each month is car free in the city’s center. London plans a similar ban for a single day later this month, an effort designed to encourage residents to explore the city in ways that don’t cause pollution, according to the Guardian.
“You may see a day not too soon where you need to park in designated urban areas and walk, bike or scooter to your final destination,” Liniado said. “If you can drive to work and park at work you don’t need a scooter, but there’s tons of use cases where you might have multiple destinations once you park your car, and a scooter would simplify your ability to move around."