Su$tainable Mobility, Volume 5
This newsletter aims to separate the signal from the noise for making money in all things sustainable transportation: Electrification, mode shift, active and public transit, and mobility aggregation, across both people and goods movement.
Feedback is always welcome. Feel free to DM me on Twitter or send an email with your thoughts on what else you might like to see as content.
This week’s deep dive (at the bottom) is on reallocating urban real estate for micro-fulfillment centers.
Disclaimer: This newsletter represents my own thoughts and not those of any employer. I will always disclose when I have a financial relationship with a company cited.
QUICK HITS: Fast takes on notable news from last week
🛢 The US Treasury Department shared guidance for multilateral development banks (MDBs) on financing fossil fuel projects.
This guidance will provide cover for MDBs like the World Bank Group to stop or decrease the financing of new oil or coal projects. It also increases the likelihood of MDBs buying stranded assets like coal plants for decommissioning purposes. The cost of staying in the fossil fuel game continues to inevitably rise.
🚲 Protected bike lanes result in 80% higher bike-share ridership.
There’s a huge difference in social, economic, and environmental benefits between conventional bike lanes and protected bike lanes.
This underscores how philosophically different Tesla is versus legacy automotive OEMs when it comes to their role in their energy space.
🚗 In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it may reinstate Obama-era level penalties for missing fuel efficiency targets.
Even under the more expensive level of penalties, any US penalties are much smaller than the equivalent EU penalties.
Congestion pricing is inevitable, even in the US. It’s just a matter of how quickly we get there.
⛽️ An update on the ban on building new gas stations in Petaluma, California.
Just like congestion pricing, it’s hard to see how this doesn’t spread to other cities over time, especially given the environmental remediation needed for shuttered gas stations.
💰 2 alums from Maniv Mobility have announced a new mobility fund: RedBlue Capital.
Their book gives a good sense of investment priorities.
🤳🏽A California judge rules that the state’s gig worker law is unconstitutional.
The longer this drags on, the bigger the window of opportunity for ride-hail models like Alto (W-2 employees) or the Drivers Cooperative (worker-owned).
🛵 Honda has launched a $475 seated e-scooter, but only in China for now.
At US prices, that’s cheaper than many iPhones and almost all e-bikes.
🚲 Bird launched its first e-bike for sale at $2,299.
Shared micro-mobility networks are increasingly looking into the sale and leasing of devices to reach profitability.
STARTUP WATCH: Sustainable mobility startups (generally pre-seed or seed) to keep an eye on
🚲 Byco Mobility (Kenya): Digital bicycle marketplace plus doorstep bicycle repair
🔌 Electra (France): Ultra-fast EV charging network
🛰 GoLocate (UK): Multi-modal fleet management platform, including carbon offsets
🛵 Pony Delivered (Israel): Delivery-centric electric motorcycle/scooter, designed for heavy and bulky cargo
🚦RapidFlow (Pittsburgh, USA): Carnegie Mellon spinoff doing advanced traffic signal control systems
DEEP DIVE: Re-allocating urban real estate for micro-fulfillment centers
Back in the day, warehouses just outside the city shipped goods to stores in urban areas (grocery, department stores, etc), at which point consumers would purchase items in-store and take them home.
We no longer live in this world, even if our real estate allocation still reflects it. What changed?
Amazon ignited the trend of last-mile delivery to the consumer’s home, bypassing the store
Planners put more restrictions on large warehouses, with more and more warehouses located ever further from the urban core, increasing the carbon intensity and cost per delivery
Last-mile delivery further exploded as a result of the pandemic
The market for office space slumped during the pandemic
All of that leaves us with a surplus of office and retail space, and not enough warehouse space close to the consumer.
One of the resulting market opportunities is the rise of micro-depots for last-mile delivery goods, the equivalent of “dark stores” instead of “dark kitchens”. In the goods delivery space, several startups like Bond (NYC, USA) or Zapp (UK) are combining micro-warehouses stocking fast-moving goods with last-mile delivery via e-bike or e-moped.
Even traditional retail and grocery stores are likely to re-allocate space, with less and less of the store being customer-facing and more being dedicated to micro-warehousing and logistics fulfillment. Darkstore (California, USA), for example, turns extra brick-and-mortar and storage space into micro-fulfillment centers for other stores.
As startups evolve in this space, expect a wide range of models focused on delivery logistics, fulfillment operations, or consumer relationships, among other factors.