Few could have predicted the economic and geopolitical landscape facing the mobility sector in 2022. With the industry still struggling with material shortages – particularly semiconductor chips – caused by COVID-19 lockdowns, the invasion of Ukraine has further tested the sector’s resilience.
This has led companies to rush to get rid of Russian oil. The result of this has led to a strong focus on renewable energy, including conservation, optimizing operational efficiency and electrification, topics that will span all areas of mobility by 2023.
But there’s a lot more we can expect from the industry next year, and here are a few of those predictions.
More subsidized public transport
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In 2022, countries such as Spain and Germany subsidized public transport and these initiatives will continue until 2023.
France has banned short-haul domestic flights, reducing the cost of train tickets en route. We will likely see more countries invest in public transportation to reduce citizens’ dependence on gas.
Solar electric vehicles (sEVs) will hit the road for the first time
We can expect big things for solar EVs in 2023. Sono Engines’ The Sion, a €25,000 solar-powered hatchback, is expected to go into production in the second half of the year. According to CEO Laurin Hahn, the company will then start fulfilling pre-orders within the EU. Though the company is going through some issues.
Lightyear’s €250,000 Model “0” solar electric vehicle – which was developed in the Netherlands – will likely hit the road alongside the Squad Solar City. In California, Aptera may also release its two-seater solar electric vehicle.
According to Sono Motor CEO Hahn, the availability of technologically advanced, safe, energy-producing solar electric vehicles – as opposed to simple energy-guzzling EVs – represents a major leap forward in the electric vehicle industry to date.
He added: “Each of these companies are pioneers in an emerging industry committed to realizing the dream of truly zero-emission mobility that has eluded us for too long.”
Bidirectional charging to have its moment
Currently, bi-directional charging of electric cars is a useful feature, but in 2023 it will become much more sought after.
Electric car owners will want to reduce energy costs at home and in the office, and using their electric car as an alternative power source could be the right choice.
Bi-directional charging usually requires a hardware investment. But according to Hahn, Sion could be one of the first European carmakers to offer consumers the option to charge other vehicles or feed energy back into a public or private grid (e.g. home grid) – without additional hardware.
E-bikes are on a point of inflection
2022 has been a great year for e-bikes, even with the hardware selling cars in the U.S. In much of Europe, they are becoming the ubiquitous mode of transport for city dwellers.
Tanguy Goretti — co-founder and CTO of Cowboy — predicts greater adoption among families who will continue to ditch their second car as it becomes too expensive to run. E-bikes offer families “a more affordable, convenient transportation option that the entire household can share.”
TNW has reviewed many great e-bikes for their great design and usability, but there’s also a significant amount of software innovation that Goretti expects to grow in 2023.
He believes e-bikes will have their iPhone moment, explaining that two major hardware moments have occurred over the past 10 years: electrification and connectivity. He continued: “This is exactly what happened with iPhone or Tesla; hardware differences became less relevant and software became the most important element, and soon the ebike industry will follow suit.
Micromobility will grow, but will struggle with profitability
2022 was another big year for micromobility as operators focused on expanding fleets and entering new markets. But the challenge of profitability has grown, leading to the layoffs we’ve seen across the tech ecosystem. This year, major providers of shared micromobility services want to Voi, Birdand Low are all considerably reduced.
It is also speculated that Paris may ban e-scooters in response to parking challenges and accidents, despite a boost both ownership and ridership. The city’s contracts with Lime, Dott, and Tier are all due for renewal in February 2023, so expect the dangers of e-scooters to dominate the French media.
Parking and curbside driving remain notable pain points, so expect more attention to be paid to the technology that manages how escotoers are driven and parked. Docking (and charging) solutions can become a critical part of city infrastructure in some public spaces to reduce clutter.
And then there is Berlin. From January 1, bicycles, e-scooters, scooters and (rental) motorcycles can be parked free of charge in the regular parking spaces. While I like the elevation of their status in the parking food chain, I’m just waiting for the hordes of angry car owners to drive over them.
There is also good news in the UK with the Department for Transport extend trials from rental e-scooters until May 2024. This will be a litmus test to see if suppliers can improve driving behavior and increase the number of users. That said, the ban on private e-scooters, which are currently limited to private use of land, is unlikely to be lifted.
The rise and rise of circular design
I predicted last year that circular design would be a key feature of 2022 – and it will continue to be.
As a reminder, circular design completely reimagines product creation, from the original blueprints to different lifecycle stages, and what happens to each element after it fulfills its original purpose.
Next year will see the expansion of global battery regulation and the origins of critical, but not infinite, materials such as cobalt and lithium.
New EU battery regulations have created a set of mandatory incremental requirements. These are forcing battery manufacturers (and users such as automakers) to think about battery life, from R&D to extracting source materials, closing material recycling cycles and managing end-of-life batteries.
In practice, in 2023 we will see car and bicycle manufacturers focus on a closed loop where discarded parts are reused to create new designs. We can also expect an expansion of battery innovation R&D, from material design to the development of reusable and recoverable batteries.
Increased production of sustainable materials
In 2023, innovation will continue to grow in the materials used to build our vehicles.
This year, the Swedish Volvo became the first truck manufacturer in the world to get started fossil free steel in its electric trucks. The steel is made using a completely new technology with green electricity and hydrogen. The result is a significantly lower climate impact and an important step towards a zero-emissions value chain.
In addition, startup Roetz is working on a modular bike called Life, something made up of interchangeable parts. Modules are repaired or overhauled, ready for the next life cycle. The Roetz modular ebike will be launched in 2023.
The German company igus and the Dutch company MTRL have also partnered to create igus: bicycleand what makes it so special is the fact that it is made from 90% recycled plastic waste, including the frame, bearings, brake levers, pedals and belt.
So there we have it, just a few predictions for 2023. We know that even with challenges, the mobility industry is constantly improving and evolving its product offerings and changing the way we move people and products for the better.