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The future of mobility

Stuart Donnelly
TMC, The Miles Consultancy.
Special series

For the third interview of this series, we have interviewed Stuart Donnelly, President of TMC, The Miles Consultancy. 

TMC’s mission is to help drive more sustainable mobility through creating transparency on our mobility footprint and using AI to make better decisions based on cost, carbon, clock and calories. 

In his interview, he shared his insights on how we can change our mobility behaviors and the role technology can play. We also discuss the credible alternatives to vehicle ownership and what is still needed to facilitate a wider user adoption of shared mobility. 

1. A question we ask all our experts in this series, what are the key trends you see in the mobility sector?

The key trends we hear all around is the need to move to electrification and the carbon neutrality goals. But with the current challenges we are facing, like the increase in energy costs, we expect to see a renewed focus on cost. 

Urbanization was also a big trend before Covid and I still think it’s a big topic. During Covid, people have moved outside of big cities but we already see traffic flowing back to major cities at the same level as before, and actually even greater. I was in the Netherlands recently, and public transport utilization is still 25% below where it was pre-covid but the used cars market has boomed. 

The move towards electrification and carbon neutrality has in reality slowed as we can’t order the needed electric cars at the volumes required and we have more people buying used cars. This means less shared mobility and more people driving alone in their second-hand cars, which are by definition older and more polluting.

But of course, we have to consider the last trend which is the increase of hybrid working which has impacted our lifestyles. I think people have realized they don’t need a car as much as before and turned to the used cars market because their perceived value is lower.  

The key is then to show the wide range of mobility solutions available outside of privately owned cars to answer different mobility needs depending on where you live. 

2. We all agree that our mobility behaviors have to change, who in your opinion should be at the forefront and take the initiative: mobility providers, corporate, lawmakers & regulators, technology companies, etc.? 

I don’t think it’s the supply chain. A service provider like a car rental company or ride-hailing operator is always going to prioritize their core business and focus on maximizing their profitability from their cash cow. 

For me, it’s always going to be regulators & lawmakers, especially for the corporate market. They can provide incentives to companies that buy or lease electric vehicles instead of ICE for example. In Germany, you get a 70% discount for choosing an electric vehicle and it’s almost 90% in the UK. But in most countries, there is little or no stimulus for people to give up car ownership in favor of other mobility solutions. Having said that, the recent initiatives in Germany, now finished, and Spain until the end of 2022 to offer discounted or free public transport is a great way to encourage change of behaviors and at the same time, greatly reduce carbon emissions. 

But having said that, when it comes to EV incentives, the number of corporate vehicles compared to privately owned cars is a small fraction. In the UK, there are 32M vehicles on the road of which only 800 000 are company cars. So governments are not really losing out on a lot of money by encouraging companies to go electric, but clearly it helps change behaviors massively.

So the forefront of change is always going to be the law makers and regulators but of course everyone will play their part. 

3. What are the credible and attractive alternatives to vehicle ownership?

Well, I believe that we have the foundations to give people a credible alternative to vehicle ownership.

For example, our mission at TMC is to give users transparency on their cost, carbon and calorie output per minute and per km according to their mobility option. Based on various data I collected during my research, the cost per minute of a privately owned car due to idle time typically is upwards of €3 but the best mobility option often costs as little as €0.30. If you could save 90% on your mobility costs, how long would it take to change your behavior?

To create the movement, you need to give people data and visibility. It’s the same principle as when you see a weight you don’t like on a scale and the time it will take before you start acting on it. I recently did a survey on LinkedIn and 68% of people have daily step goals. This doesn’t mean you will reach your target every day but at least you have access to the data and you can track your progress. 

So the key is to provide transparency on all the alternatives there are to vehicle ownership.  If you are able to understand your mobility footprint and you can compare all mobility solutions available, we believe this will go a long way to help change behaviors. 

4. What role will technology play in this according to you?

Technology can play a huge role by steering people to change their mobility behaviors.  

You can’t expect fleet management companies to drive the change and influence mobility behaviors. They want to monetize mobility solutions as they earn money if people drive cars.  

But technology and data companies can aggregate content on mobility and make it as easy as possible for the end-users to choose the best mobility solutions for their needs.  If you aggregate all content in one place with the ability to search, book and pay for a range of suppliers, it can really trigger change.

In the corporate world, according to a recent survey by the GBTA, 88% of business travel managers said that sustainability was their number one priority in the next three years.  And 14% of that audience said that the industry wasn’t doing enough to help them, so there is space for data and technology providers to steer them in their fleet and travel programmes. 

5. What are the elements needed to facilitate a wider user adoption of shared mobility?

I think the key is to promote sustainable shared mobility and change the behavior of ‘driving alone’. 

According to Worldometers, as a population today, we are averaging almost 5 millions tons of CO2e and the goal is to go to 2 million by 2050 to meet the GHG Protocol. In order to do that, we need to do more than just changing ICE to EV or increasing recycling, we need to change behaviors.

Clearly you have to consider geographics but if you look at pre-covid statistics from McKinsey, 70% of the world population will live in urban areas by 2030. So you can concentrate on the 70% living in urban areas to drive change and you can also encourage the 30% to play their part too by sharing a ride, taking a train, etc. 

There are different elements that can help with a wider user adoption of shared mobility: 

  • Giving access to intelligent data on cost, carbon footprint, time and calories. 
  • Aggregation: technology is an enabler to aggregate content on various mobility solutions to help people to make the right decision each time they move from A to B to C etc. 
  • Collaboration is the key: we need more people in the industry working together to really change mobility behavior and make mobility-as-a-service become mainstream. 

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