The Unprecedented Growth of Sustainable Mobility, Re-commerce as the Future of E-commerce Marketplaces: The Example of Upway

Origins Fund
5 min readNov 20, 2023

By Lara Fakhry and Salomon Aiach

In recent years, the landscape of European e-commerce has witnessed a significant shift towards sustainability, driven by the growing concern for the environment and a desire for more ethical and responsible consumption. As sustainable mobility in Europe has become a key focus in the last several years, policymakers, cities, businesses, and tech companies have recognized the urgent need to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, alleviate traffic congestion, and promote alternative modes of transportation.

Amid this transformation, Upway, who just raised a massive series B, has emerged as a trailblazer, spearheading the movement by building the largest marketplace for reconditioned e-bikes. In this article, we delve into the extraordinary growth of sustainable marketplaces in Europe, using Upway as a prime illustration of how the integration of sustainability into e-commerce can make a profound impact.

The Rise of Sustainable E-commerce in Europe

With the advent of the digital age, e-commerce has become an integral part of modern consumer culture. However, the convenience of online shopping has come with a hefty environmental cost, with increased packaging waste, carbon emissions from shipping, and an ever-growing pile of discarded products. This has led to a collective call for sustainable practices within the e-commerce sector, as consumers demand more eco-friendly and socially responsible alternatives.

European consumers, in particular, have become more environmentally conscious, seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint and support businesses that align with their values. According to a 2022 survey conducted by Eurostat, approximately 72% of European consumers actively look for sustainable products, as well as shipping, and packaging, when making online purchases. This growing demand has spurred the rise of sustainable marketplaces, which offer an array of environmentally friendly, second-hand, and upcycled products that appeal to the eco-conscious shopper.

“Recommerce” has emerged to define the selling of previously owned items through online marketplaces to buyers who reuse, recycle or resell them.

Upway: Pioneering Sustainable Mobility and E-commerce with Reconditioned E-Bikes

Upway, a European mobility marketplace, stands out as a true innovator in the realm of ecologically conscious marketplaces. Focused on transforming the e-bike market, Upway is on a mission to make electric bicycles accessible, affordable, and environmentally friendly to a broader audience globally.

Upway’s model is unique and positioned to capitalize on multiple trends. It offers refurbished e-bikes, tackling sustainability on two fronts — promoting green transportation and contributing to the circular economy by giving second life to products.

E-bikes are one of the fastest-growing segments in the transportation sector. A Deloitte study predicts that globally, over 130 million e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2023. In the EU, e-bike sales saw an impressive 23% increase from 2019 to 2020 alone. Riding this wave, Upway not only offers e-bikes but makes them more accessible by providing affordable (up to 60% cheaper than new), refurbished options.

Reconditioned E-Bikes: A Sustainable Solution, Empowering Sustainable Practices

The cornerstone of Upway’s approach is the emphasis on reconditioning. By offering high-quality, pre-owned electric bicycles that have been carefully inspected, refurbished, and certified, Upway extends the lifespan of these products, reducing the need for new manufacturing and curbing electronic waste. According to a recent study by the European Environment Agency, extending the life of a product by just one year can lead to a 5–10% reduction in its overall environmental impact.

Upway’s marketplace encourages circular consumption by enabling customers to trade-in their old e-bikes for newer models. This trade-in system incentivizes the continuous recycling of e-bikes, fostering a culture of responsible consumption and resource efficiency. As of 2023, Upway has facilitated over 10,000 e-bike sales and trades across Europe, avoiding over 1 million kg of CO2 emissions and preventing an estimated 100,000 kg of electronic waste from ending up in landfills.

The Impact and Challenges Ahead

The growth of Upway and similar marketplaces in Europe has showcased the immense potential of responsible ecommerce in mitigating environmental issues while offering competitive products and services. By focusing on reconditioned e-bikes, Upway has demonstrated that sustainable practices can align with economic viability and consumer demand.

However, the path towards sustainability-focused ecommerce is not without challenges. Some of the key obstacles include:

  • Consumer Awareness: Despite the increasing interest in sustainability, many consumers still lack awareness about the benefits of reconditioned products. To overcome this, Upway invests in marketing campaigns to build awareness, while also engaging with national and local authorities to promote the benefits of buying professionally-refurbished products. They also engage with national and local media to encourage them to visit their operations and share their assessment of reconditioned ebikes.
  • Logistics and Scaling: As Upway expands to cater to a broader European and recently US market, logistics and supply chain management will become more complex. Ensuring efficient operations while maintaining sustainability goals will require innovative solutions, such as the use of electric delivery vehicles and strategic warehouse locations.
  • Competition and Market Penetration: As the demand for sustainable products grows, competition in the sustainable ecommerce space will intensify. Differentiating and gaining market share will require continuous innovation and strategic marketing, and Upway is actively collaborating with local authorities to promote sustainable transportation policies, further differentiating their brand. Today, the French government subsidizes the purchase of an e-bike when one meets certain criteria and recently expanded the subsidy to second hand e-bikes sold by professionals.

The unprecedented growth of sustainable marketplaces in Europe, exemplified by Upway’s remarkable journey, signals a transformative shift in ecommerce. By pioneering the reconditioned e-bike marketplace, Upway has demonstrated that sustainability can be a driving force for positive change in Europe. As consumers increasingly prioritize eco-friendly options, the rise of sustainable ecommerce presents a unique opportunity for businesses to align profit with purpose.

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