The Estonian micromobility sector is at the forefront of the green economy and the liveable world revolution. By creating convenient access points, manufacturing durable products made with recyclable parts, and exploring new avenues to stay green in-house, Estonian micromobility startups are committed to a greener world.
Here is a look at six Estonian startups revolutionising mobility, specifically micromobility, and driving sustainability. However, before we delve in, let’s first examine the secret behind the steady growth of the Estonian micromobility sector.
Maarja Rannama, the CEO of ITS Estonia, attributes the sector’s growth to increased political support for Estonian micromobility infrastructure, COVID-19 distancing needs and younger generations’ environmental consciousness and their less likelihood to see owning a personal car as a sign of status. Not surprisingly, the youth are driving innovation in this sector.
Proudly ‘Made in Estonia’
Tuul is transforming urban mobility by providing convenient access to shared e-scooters across cities. The startup’s scooters, manufactured in Estonia from almost 50% recycled materials, are the longest lasting (5 years) and over 90% recyclable. Meanwhile, Tuul has not discarded a single scooter in the three years since operations began – even those retrieved from rivers by their divers, Liisa-Maria Lillepea, Tuul’s Head of Marketing, reveals.
“Everything we actually say we do, we deliver,” Liisa-Maria highlights. “Every week, we measure the kilometres that users have ridden with Tuul scooters, and right now, it’s over 5.3M kilometres ridden in Estonia and Latvia. Also, our recent customer survey reveals that 41% of respondents have replaced their short-distance car rides with Tuul rides,” she adds.
Providing the needed micromobility infrastructure
‘Why would scooters need to be retrieved from rivers,’ you might wonder. Unfortunately, due to the increasing use of shared e-scooters as a means of urban commuting, an unfortunate downside has been a large number of these ending up in rivers, lakes, canals, and even the ocean, causing damage to aquatic life and offsetting the potential positive impact on sustainability. April Glaser, a Slate journalist who has written on the issue, told CBC Radio that ‘the dockless scooters without centralised hubs come with downsides.’ They’re often dumped in waters, littered, stolen, and obstruct parking spots and handicap ramps. But Bikeep has a solution for that!
Bikeep provides intelligent e-scooter and bike parking and charging solutions used by the private and public sector to reduce the cost and complexities of micromobility infrastructure (and the lack of it) and improve safety, security and convenience. Currently used in over 30 countries across three continents, Bikeep’s solutions are in high demand. Kristjan Lind, Bikeep’s CEO, reveals they are set to expand their network even more in the coming year.
Speaking on their offering, Kristjan says, “in a situation of a gold rush, we are providing shovels. To enable sustainability, there is a push for micromobility vehicles to replace those with high carbon emissions. But before the vehicles we use in the cities change, we must provide the infrastructure for this to be possible. We don’t provide any vehicles ourselves. Rather, we provide the infrastructure.”
Beauty meets functionality
Right in Estonia, Ampler designs, engineers, and hand-assembles smart e-bikes perfect for city commutes but tough enough for off-road adventures too. Its mission? To get more people out of cars and onto bicycles, offering zero-emission commuting for all without compromising on beauty and performance. With several awards to show for it, Ampler e-bikes are some of the sleekest, most lightweight and most durable in the world, with low maintenance. The company currently has showrooms in five European cities and over 20,000 happy riders.
The startup is committed to transparency and sustainability, recently publishing a Life Cycle Analysis report for the Ampler ‘Stellar’ bike. Commenting on their transparency, Tuuli Jevstignejev, Ampler’s Head of Communications, says, “we endeavour to be very transparent. For instance, last summer, we opened our factory to five international journalists. They saw where and how our bikes are built and with what materials. They could also walk around and talk to our employees for full insight.”
95% reduction in CO2 emissions
Think cargo bikes are the human labour-intensive rickety vehicles from ages ago? Think again! Vok Bikes are the new look of cargo bikes. Voks are revolutionising last-mile and on-demand delivery markets. They are up to 60% faster than small cars and vans within city limits, have 61% cheaper upkeep and offer a 95% reduction in CO2 emissions. Voks are also lighter, causing less wear and tear to roads. In addition, they provide better working conditions for couriers.
“Being eco-friendly and local is quite important to us,” says Kadri Sundja, Vok Bikes’ COO, as she reveals 95% of their components are sourced from the EU. A testament to their efficiency, Omniva, Wolt, and Tuul are part of their clientele. Tuul’s service specialists use Voks to get around and service their e-scooters.
Kadri notes that “by default, Vok has nothing to do with greenwashing because the emissions stemming from the vehicle are very low, from the production to actual use of it.” She, however, notes that the complexities do differ for their clients. For instance, achieving optimum in-business sustainability is more than just having a fleet of Voks. Some internal changes would also need to take place.
Full ownership of the production process
Founded in 2021, Äike, the sister company of Tuul and Comodule, provides e-scooters to individuals who’d rather have their mobility vehicles and sustainability-inclined fleet operators. The startup’s latest e-scooter, the Äike T, is a pretty, IoT-integrated, weatherproof scooter with interchangeable parts and multiple features and offers a great riding experience. It is also the first vehicle in the world to be chargeable via a USB-C laptop charger.
Äike is vertically integrated, with its entire production process handled in-house, using local recycled materials and renewable energy, Kaja Aulik Äike’s Head of Brand and Communications reveals. According to her, most people say that it’s impossible to make vehicles fo r an affordable price outside Asia (where about 99% of scooters come from), yet, Äike’s price point is the same if not cheaper than some of the ones made out there.
For transparency, Äike plans to launch an audited Life Cycle analysis report in 2023 Q1 with a public introduction of its supply chain partners. Speaking on the company’s agenda, Kaja says, “our mission is to have over 3 billion green kilometres travelled in 10 years. We don’t have a specific goal of reaching a certain valuation; instead, we are more focused on the real impact of our product. We want to make sure that our vehicles are not just bought and kept in people’s garages, but actually used as a replacement for car journeys.”
Consolidated commuting services
Bolt offers a scooter-sharing service which is affordable and readily available, encouraging people to switch from private cars to more sustainable alternatives. In addition, Bolt consolidates its multiple ride services on one platform, providing a full set of other options — e-scooter sharing, car sharing, and ride-hailing — to reduce the need for personal cars. As of this season, the company has 230,000 scooters in 25 countries and across 230 cities in Europe.
“For somebody to agree to give up their private car, you need to offer them a full set of alternatives for every purpose. So you need public transport, but you also need alternatives for shorter and longer trips. And this is exactly what Bolt is doing,” Karin Kase Bolt’s Head of PR says, describing their solution.
Karin also points out the company’s commitment to sustainability through strategies such as offsetting CO2, adding electric vehicles to its fleets, using renewable energy within its offices and implementing sustainability practices. Notably, Bolt invested over €10 million to implement its Green Plan in 2019. And last month, the company announced the successful planting of 11+ million tree seeds in Kenya. Karin notes that delivering periodic reports on their environmental impact to their Board of investors is one of the ways by which they maintain transparency.
Seamless multimodal mobility
Commenting on the state of the Estonian micromobility revolution, Maarja Rannama notes Estonia’s car-centric culture and the challenge of offering alternatives to private cars. “An important question in mobility is ‘how to give people alternatives to private cars.’ We Estonians just love our private cars – there is almost one car per every adult citizen in Estonia. So it is not the easiest of tasks to make them choose alternative options for moving around,” she says.
She stresses the importance of seamless multimodal mobility, enabling people to move conveniently without owning a car. According to her, integrated multimodal mobility options would be the best way to get people to embrace sustainable mobility. She reveals that Tallinn and Tartu are currently procuring MaaS (Mobility as a Service) solutions that combine public transport, private micromobility options and other transport modes.
Additionally, mobility hubs, where people can switch transport modes – like moving from scooter to bus or tram to self-driving shuttle – are being established to give people alternatives to private cars. The ultimate goal, she says, is to get families to reduce the number of personal vehicles they own, even if there’s a need for one. Whatever the case, micromobility is the next big thing in urban mobility.