The concept of ‘new mobility’ was the final topic discussed at the GreenFleet EV roundtable, with delegates agreeing it provided “massive opportunities” for easing congestion and improving air quality, as well as helping to drive up electric vehicle awareness
At the end of 2017, the government launched an inquiry into Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and the benefits it can bring to the UK and how to overcome barriers.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is where multiple modes of transport are brought together for one journey, and accessed as one service. In theory, this has the potential to make getting around via public and shared transport so convenient that it will negate the need for people to own a car. This could help reduce congestion and air pollution, which are major aims for the government.
This concept of ‘new mobility’ was the final topic discussed at the GreenFleet EV roundtable discussion on 15 September 2017, with delegates agreeing it provided “massive opportunities”.
A more efficient way to travel
In reality, many cars are only used a portion of the day, meaning they are under-utilised, take up space, and contribute to congestion and air pollution. Looking at alternatives ways to travel other than through car ownership can unlock many benefits.
Andrew Hickford from Leeds City Council explains: “People own a vehicle which is often only used 90 per cent of the time, and the rest of the time it is parked up somewhere taking up space in already congested city centres. But using a ‘new mobility’ model, you’ve got cars that are constantly moving and being utilised. This has massive opportunities for urban development, retail and green spaces.”
Matthew Morgan from the Phoenix Works explains how Mobility as a Service could work: “You could pay into a monthly service which gives you access to a car‑club vehicle for a certain number of hours, alongside a number of hours of train‑usage, bus-usage and bike-usage.”
For many city dwellers, car ownership is not practical due to lack of parking, congestion and emissions-related penalties.
Ben Wicks from Go Ultra Low explains how he does not own a car yet he makes it work: “I live in East London and I don’t own a car, but I am a member of a car club which is a two minute walk away. While there are times when I need to use a car, I don’t need to buy one.”
The need to return a car club vehicle can act as a barrier, however, as it could “defeat the object”, Andrew Hickford comments.
This issue is being worked on however, with Zipcar introducing a service that allows members to drive one way across London without returning the car to its original spot. The new service is designed to bring more flexibility and convenience to its members in the capital, allowing shorter journeys such as running a few errands.
A single way to pay
The way new mobility solutions are accessed and paid for is key for future take-up. The idea is that a single app is used to plan and book the whole journey from door to door in the most efficient way possible, using real-time service data across all the transport modes.
It would also allow you to pay for that entire journey in one transaction, taking out the hassle of separate ticketing.
While these new mobility options are an attractive proposition, delegates agreed that it is more suited for cities, rather than rural areas, where dependency on a car is a lot stronger.
Electric or other alternatively fuelled vehicles fit well into the future mobility mix. Many car clubs have EVs on their fleet. These work for the short urban journeys that car clubs are suited to.
Having electric vehicles on a car club fleet can open peoples’ minds to electric mobility, as they get to drive an EV without having to commit to one.
Research by Enterprise Car Club last April showed that one in five (20 per cent) members had already driven an EV, with around half of those (47 per cent) admitting they chose the car deliberately as they were curious to try out one of these vehicles.
Andrew Hickford agrees that new mobility creates opportunities for electric vehicles because it takes the risk factor out. He says: “Mobility opens up chances for EVs as it takes the worry away from having to find charge points.”
Creating self‑driving vehicles seems like the next logical step for future mobility options. Lex Autolease’s Chris Chandler believes that an autonomous vehicle could work well in the future mobility mix. He said: “In the future you could call an autonomous vehicle and it will come to where you are and pick you up.”
The government has put in £20 million funding for research and development into the next generation of autonomous vehicles in the UK.
One such trial that has received a portion of this funding is the GATEway project. This is trialling electric driverless pods around Greenwich to transport people for the first and last leg of their journeys around the area.
Event chair John Curtis summed up the discussion: “Joining up different transport assets should be relatively straight forward; you’ve got buses running already, hire cars, bikes in cities, car clubs. You’ve just got to be able to join them up in a way that is easy. Mobility as a service will come but there is a lot of work to do.”