A growing number of Millennials are ditching their cars for a more practical alternative that is healthier and cleaner for the environment.
Has America’s love affair with the car come to an end? According to a recent survey by Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, car ownership for Millennials is the exception rather the rule. Their first paycheck after graduating is more likely to go toward travel, luxury goods and student loans, than a shiny new car. Only 40% of those surveyed consider car ownership “Important” or “Extremely Important.”
Kaitlyn, 35, just returned from 2 years in Europe earning her MBA. “When I first moved to Europe I was apprehensive about not having a car, but I quickly learned to adapt and by the end it was liberating not having to deal with parking, repairs and refueling.” Kaitlyn used public transportation and bicycled during her studies abroad. “When I returned to San Francisco I briefly considered getting a car, but the parking hassle, traffic and costs didn’t make sense,” she said.
Like a growing number of Millennials, Kaitlyn now rides an electric bicycle. “Ebikes are very popular in Europe, and I’m seeing more and more here in San Francisco. As you know, San Francisco is a very hilly city so you have to be a strong cyclist to pedal a regular bike. My ebike’s electric motor helps me up even the steepest hill, and during rush hour I zip by cars like they’re standing still.”
In nearby Silicon Valley, startup Tempo Bicycles is fueling America’s ebike revolution. Van Nguyen, who’s spent her career in Silicon Valley’s software and electronics businesses, is Tempo’s Founder and President. “Few of my friends knew what a hybrid electric bike was when I started this company,” she explains. “I described how our bikes are powered by a combination of pedaling and electric motor assistance, but it doesn’t really sink in until they try it. Then, the reaction is ‘Wow!’.”
Nguyen went on, “California is full of hard core cyclists, but we wanted to build bikes for the rest of us who want a practical alternative to cars, something healthier and cleaner for the environment. We also wanted to leverage our experience in high tech to make a smart bike that adapts to the rider and uses advanced software to make it easier to use.” One example is smart phone integration that lets riders use their smart phones to adjust the bike’s performance, monitor remaining battery and even unlock the bike. “We carry our smart phones everywhere and use them for everything, so ebike integration was a natural development. Search engines today use smart algorithms to predict what words you want to search for; we use similar predictive technology to detect when you need more motor assistance, like when you’re pedaling uphill or into the wind. When you’re going downhill we’ll automatically reduce the assistance to make the battery last longer.”
When asked about trends in the industry, specifically Millennials’ declining car ownership, Nguyen had this to offer, “I hate to paint with too broad a brush, but it’s my observation Millennials face more financial challenges entering the workforce, namely housing costs. They weigh social media more heavily than advertising, so they’re more likely to hear about trends like ebikes, and less likely to be swayed by big money spent on car advertising. Factor in their elevated emphasis on health and the environment, and it’s no surprise ebikes are surging in this demographic.” She added, “All that said, we’re also seeing strong growth from women and seniors, two groups who have traditionally been undeserved by the bike industry. It speaks to a broader, pent up demand for a practical, cleaner, healthier alternative to cars that cuts across a broad swath of Americans.”