In this era of transition to a new green mobility, the spotlight is constantly on the car, yet what is happening in the world of two wheels deserves just as much attention.
Two-wheel and four-wheel scenarios are considered different, especially in terms of the number of players. Politics is the extra player in the car scenario. It has powerfully taken the stage with the decision to irrevocably stop the sale of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars in Europe from 2035 onwards, and has relegated both car manufacturers and end customers to the role of extras.
In the motorcycle sector, politics has not yet intervened, at least not as drastically. It has not pronounced stopping the sale of petrol engines, perhaps because of their lower weight in terms of their contribution to pollution or simply because of agenda priorities. Here, the protagonists remain the traditional two: Supply on the one hand and Demand on the other. The point and the frequency with which these two players meet determines the market, without external intervention. This ‘pure’ situation is the litmus test of the real potential of electric vehicles today, in the absence of exogenous factors. In essence, the choice of those who buy an electric moped is dictated solely by their preference for the product, its features and the possibilities it offers over traditional competitors.
However, those who do market research, partly by professional deformation and partly by contractual obligation, are used to looking at things through people’s eyes. In any context and in the face of any change: all the more so during a revolution of this magnitude.
Before dismissing each of the two scenarios as different and stand-alone, it is appropriate to dwell on the people’s point of view, in order to better understand the whole issue.
Both two- and four-wheeled scenarios converge on the only true protagonists of the electric revolution: individuals. All inputs are intended for them, and their personal point of view will be the only one from which they will look at the set of possible options. It is the individual elements of the community who will determine to act for the environment themselves, whether and which resources from their own budget to devote to this cause and, above all, to which of the many available truths about the ecological impact of the various vehicles to give credence.
It is still individuals who will have to face the new problem of their own mobility. Yes, because rather than reasoning about distinct scenarios, consensus battles, ideological or technological issues, people are first and foremost proceeding by problems that they have to face concretely.
Abandoning industrial logic and assuming that of individuals, the horizon between now and 2035 is by no means short: it is very long. In the next 12 years, it is extremely likely that everyone will be faced with the question of finding a new answer to their mobility needs. And even if these needs remained unchanged, the landscape of choices and the rules that govern it will have changed in the meantime. And even if these requirements remained unchanged, the landscape of choices and the rules governing it will have changed in the meantime. Much has already changed, and much will change again, it is not yet clear in which direction.
The problem facing us will therefore be a totally new one compared to the past. So changed in its conditions that it will be necessary to reconsider the possible solutions from scratch. Rather than reasoning in individual watertight compartments – the four-wheeler, the two-wheeler, the bicycle – the problem will be considered as a whole: mobility needs / available solutions.
It does not necessarily mean that there will be no more barriers or boundaries between the different means and that everyone will be ready to abandon the car for two wheels. For example, in Italy in 2018, 25% of the adult population rejected the idea of riding a scooter. The percentage of so-called ‘rejectors’ for motorbikes was as high as 39%. For them, the idea of considering two-wheelers as a possible answer to their mobility needs is not plausible.
But it does mean that the paradigms of choice that we have come to know to date may change dramatically. Or at least, it certainly means that it is worth constantly checking how they are evolving.
Since 2008, we have been cyclically observing the demand for electric vehicles as a whole, on two and four wheels. Up to now we have done this in Italy and from this year, together with 7th Sense Research, we are looking at a wider perimeter, with 10,000 interviews covering the five main European countries.
Our intention is to identify and describe the segments of people who are closest to electric versions of the various types of vehicles today, including moped, scooters and motorbikes, those who will get into them in the medium term, and those who will resist the change the longest.
We intend to find the arguments and keys that marketing will be able to exploit to engage each of these segments, and the tools to best operate in this highly complex context.
The point of view we adopt is that of individuals: as broad or narrow as each respondent will define it. Above all, we aim to identify the product and infrastructure barriers that currently hold back the choice of electric two- and four-wheelers, and what levels of development the various segments of individuals feel they must wait for in order to unlock them.
We know that such a difficult topic as whether to take part in a revolution deserves a very wide lens. That is why we strive to find the basic traits to describe different types of people and to decipher their views on this issue, within the broader context of their lives.
These years of pandemic and war have shown us that individuals know how to find the resources to move forward, always. And these early years of the electric revolution have taught us that the response they come up with is not necessarily predictable. Not everyone could have expected the success of the electric scooter or that it would draw more from public transport users than from motorists, somewhat subverting the rationale behind it. All this proves that after all, the true innovator, capable of reformulating itself with every change, is the individual. He is the authentic cross-over in circulation: the only one who constantly reshuffles styles and ways of being.
It is to be expected that the same will happen in these 12 long and intense years that separate us from 2035.