“We want to see continued investment in micro mobility infrastructure”
E-scooters don’t have the best reputation: some think the scooters create more problems in cities than they solve. They block sidewalks and are a hazard, especially for people with visual impairments. We asked Lawrence Leuschner, a founder of TIER Mobility – the ones with the turquoise e-scooters – what can be done about the scooter chaos in the streets and what solutions offers micro mobility.
topos: Lawrence Leuschner, on your LinkedIn profile you write: “I am convinced that every sector must take actions today to protect our planet.” You founded TIER, a shared micro mobility service. What social responsibility do you take on with TIER? What do you stand for with your companies?
Lawrence Leuschner: We are a mission driven organisation and our mission at TIER is to Change Mobility for Good. We want to change the way people traverse and explore cities. We want to help people swap car journeys for greener options in order to decarbonise urban transport as a means of fighting climate change. I feel it is my responsibility to provide citizens with more sustainable transport options to help them make these choices.
Micro mobility: how sustainable are e-scooters?
In addition, we are committed to helping cities reimagine public space to improve everyone’s quality of life. We advocate for prioritising infrastructure for active travel and for repurposing some of the huge amount of city space currently dedicated to polluting cars, through parking spaces, roads. For the benefit of all citizens by the creation of more green spaces, play areas for children and pedestrianized areas.
The carbon footprint of e-scooters as micro mobility is always under criticism because of the material extraction and manufacturing. In addition, the scooters are picked up by transporters and then recharged. How green is an TIER scooter on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 very green, 10 very not green)?
I would say that a TIER scooter is currently a 3 out of 10 — pretty good but we are always looking to improve. However, it is important to note that we offer a full range of vehicles in our multimodal fleet. This includes e-scooters, e-bikes, e-mopeds, bikes and cargo bikes. So we really focus on the sustainability of our fleet as a whole.
For the e-scooter, material extraction and manufacturing have by far the largest impact on their carbon footprint. To minimize these impacts, we continuously strive to close material loops, avoid the use of virgin materials in material sourcing, and maximize the lifetime of our scooters. Currently, our scooters already consist of 22% recycled and 90% recyclable materials. We are working closely with our suppliers to further increase these values. For our new scooter models which will be rolled out this year we are in close contact with our suppliers to further increase the share of recycled materials.
“All e-vehicles are charged with 100% green energy”
In addition, to extend the lifetime of our scooters and prevent waste by enabling easy repair, our scooter design is fully modular, comprising 83 replaceable components and thus allowing for seamless exchange, repair and reuse of spare parts.
With regard to our operations, TIER has led the industry in rolling out a green operations model for the distribution and charging of e-scooters. We were the first operator to fully roll out a fleet with swappable batteries. Also, we pioneered a battery and vehicle design which enables riders to swap depleted e-scooter batteries with charged ones. This allowed us to eliminate the need for daily inhouse charging, thus significantly reducing the kilometers traveled by our servicing fleet of ops vehicles and ultimately reducing operating emissions by on average 89% over non-swappable models
To further reduce the emissions of our operations fleet we are increasingly relying on fully electric operations vehicles. This includes e-vans but also e-cargo bikes. All e-vehicles are charged with 100% green energy which we use for all our warehouse operations.
“we are investing in game-changing technology”
For cars there are parking spaces, for e-scooters there are pavements. The fact is: e-scooters are often in the way, this is especially challenging for people with a visual impairment. How do you deal with this at TIER? Do e-scooters need extended infrastructures in the city?
Safety is our top priority at TIER – of riders and the wider public. For that reason, we have been leading the way when it comes to protecting people with sight loss. For example, we have multiple visual impairment charities represented on our independent Safety Boards, we integrate with a navigation app dedicated to low-vision people and we have initiated and are funding the pioneering development of an industry-standard sound for e-scooters to alert people of an incoming vehicle. TIER’s work to help people with visual impairment has even been recognised with a national award in the UK.
More broadly, e-scooters should not be ridden on pavements and we want to see continued investment in micro mobility infrastructure to ensure that cities can meet their net zero goals and people can stay safe. At the same time, we are investing in game-changing technology to detect pavement-riding and now offer the world’s most accurate parking system that doesn’t rely on the widely used – but wildly inaccurate – GPS. Our Camera Positioning Software – combined with dedicated parking spaces in cities that support such an approach – is reducing street clutter associated with e-scooters and removing hazards for people.
“There is a lot of work to do”
You were already selling products at the flea market when you were nine years old. Later you founded ReBuy, TIER Mobility and two years ago BLUE IMPACT. Your goals: To develop technology against climate change. How satisfied are you with your success so far? And: What are your goals for the coming years?
I am really pleased with the development and growth of my previous businesses. Being an entrepreneur from such a young age, I learned a lot that really helps me now.
With TIER, the speed at which it has grown has been incredible. There is very clearly a desire from consumers in cities across the world for a transport revolution, which is great because the more people choose bikes or scooters over car journeys, the lower our emissions, the better our air quality and the closer we are to maintaining 1.5°C in global warming
However, the challenge we face is enormous. All the reporting from the IPCC is that things are worse than we thought and developing faster than we predicted so we mustn’t be complacent. There is a lot of work to do.
“I believe that micro mobility has the potential to transform cities”
That is why I pledged 100% of my shares in TIER to Blue Impact – an investment fund. I started to support and fund early stage companies focussed on developing climate tech solutions. With TIER, I am focussed on bringing urban transport emissions down. But I also want to make sure I am supporting solutions for the myriad other challenges we face with climate change too.
My primary goal for this year was to expand into the North American market which we achieved a couple of weeks ago with the Acquisition of Spin.
For the rest of the year, I am focused on working closely with cities around the world to create a more sustainable environment and pave the way to a zero-emission future. I believe that micro mobility has the potential to transform cities as cities around the world look for ways to make their transportation networks safer and more environmentally friendly.
“The choices we make today will determine what kind of world our children will grow up”
With TIER’s mission to Change Mobility for Good, we want to transform the way people move around cities and enable cities to rethink spaces by making them more accessible, more environmentally friendly, and therefore more enjoyable for all citizens. If we can reduce carbon emissions, congestion and noise pollution, we can repurpose public space. We can create an urban environment where our children can play in the streets. Now is the time to take real, meaningful and sufficient action. We must work for more sustainable urban infrastructure, cleaner energy, greener transportation, and climate resilient development.
The choices we make today will determine what kind of world our children will grow up and live in. We should only think about their future and not our present.
Micro mobility: who do you think needs to take responsibility?
Speaking of the spirit of innovation. We don’t have an Elon Musk like that in Germany yet. And somehow there hasn’t been any real progress yet in terms of the mobility revolution. Who do we need for the mobility revolution? Who do you think needs to take responsibility?
In short, we all need to take responsibility. As consumers we need to proactively make better choices about when and how we travel. Policy makers need to take responsibility for rewarding and supporting sustainable businesses and green practices. And for building the infrastructure that makes it easy for consumers to choose greener mobility options. And businesses need to take responsibility for making their practices as sustainable as possible. Businesses need also to take responsibility for offering high quality, reliable services to customers to support them in making more sustainable choices.
Google Mobility Reports: learn here how Google tries to help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 via mobility data.