Insights from Planet-A Mobility Consultancy on the Pandemic’s Impact on the Personal Mobility Industry

Pandemic Impact on the Personal Mobility Industry

Planet-A Mobility Consultancy

Planet-A is a mobility consultancy company, founded in 2017, offering all of its experience to improve mobility solutions targeting mainly corporate and state customers. The main objective of the company is to provide sustainable mobility solutions for the overall public and specializing in commuting solutions, sustainable fleets, and smart mobility planning and execution. After only three years of existence, we have experienced a fast growth rate year on year. We have a solid customer base, both corporate and government, having actively participated in the design of mobility plans both for urban areas and companies alike. Our solutions include all type of mobility solutions, shared, active mobility, e-mobility, pay per use, flexible schemes, incentives, and others.

Francisco Pontón, Co-founder of Planet-A, has more than 30 years’ experience within the mobility world, OEMS, Leasing, Fleet Management, Public Transportation, and Urban planning. He has worked mainly in Spain but with years of experience in the UK, France, Italy, and Germany.

Inkwood: How do you think the Coronavirus pandemic is going to affect the personal mobility industry, and to what extent? (Short & long term implications)

Planet-A: The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted mobility, personal and corporate, beyond anything we had experienced previously. The lockdown in most countries has halted almost all mobility. We are now experiencing the comeback but still far beyond ordinary. The personal mobility industry has been keen to innovate and to provide users with alternatives for their mobility needs and thus has been able to grow at high rates compared to other mobility solutions. We believe that with the “new normality,” arising from COVID, the personal mobility solutions will continue to grow, given the sense of security they can provide, avoiding other mobility options where social distancing is not possible. So, all in all, we believe that there will be no adverse impact whatsoever but probably an increased growth rate for the industry during the coming months/years.

E-bikes are becoming more expensive than the standard motorbikes, and the high costs of batteries and replacement of the same are also hindering its adoption. How do you see manufacturers or providers of e-mobility solutions tackling this challenge?

Planet-A: E-bikes are becoming more and more an alternative for city mobility needs and also the fact that cities offer their own E-bike sharing solutions is strongly contributing to their rapid expansion. E-bike costs have indeed gone up as technology options have improved, battery life, autonomy, different types of E-bikes for different activities, commuting, sports, tourism, etc. But it’s also true that the opportunities they provide today are very similar to many of the standard city motorbike options. Regarding how will the future be handled by manufacturers and suppliers, we believe that the growing importance of this mobility segment will continue to be key as more and more urban areas will favor this type of mobility (reducing congestion and pollution, freeing up space and positively contributing to peoples’ health by adopting active mobility patterns) and thus the increasing volumes, and the synergies arising, will be determinant to avoid increasing costs/pricing.

Inkwood: What are your views on E-cargo bikes? With the growing trend for e-commerce, the e-cargo bikes are being considered an idle option for goods delivery. Does it have a huge potential, and what future does it hold?

Planet-A: Indeed it has a huge potential. In recent years, we have seen how big urban areas around the world have started to implement higher standards and regulations to fight city pollution, reduce traffic jams, and to be proactive towards sustainable mobility. This, linked to the growth within the e-commerce sector, is forcing all distribution players to rethink their fleets and capabilities. E-cargo bikes are an optimal solution for specific areas and tasks, obviously within urban areas, and we can already see that happening today. We expect it will be one of the fastest-growing segments in the e-mobility world.

Inkwood: Does proactive/supportive initiatives undertaken by government and pertinent associations are expected to drive the e-mobility solutions market?

Planet-A: Governments always play an essential role in developing and shaping different trends. Today, aside from the Coronavirus pandemic, most people are conscious, and especially the new generations, that we need to act to avoid the possible negative consequences of climate change. E-mobility can be of great help, and with the ongoing innovations even more, for governments to target two of the main issues that people face in urban areas today, congestion-pollution and sedentarism. Also, as this is already happening in many countries, governments will play an important role in driving the E-mobility solutions (purchasing incentives, favorable taxation, environmental regulation, other). But, not only the government, even companies will play a critical role for their commuters (providing charging solutions at company sites, promoting healthy mobility habits, financial support, other).

Inkwood: Which region is the key investment pocket for e-mobility solutions? Also, which product type is expected to be most successful in the coming years?

Planet-A: From our perspective, Asia is key for e-mobility, and it’s much more developed than Europe or the US in the solutions they currently offer and also in terms of market penetration. China alone is the world leader in e-mobility solutions (specially E-bikes) both in usage but also in terms of exportations. We see a rising market, encouraged by the government, in India as well. This is attracting star-ups and consolidated players to invest in production and innovation capabilities to serve the market demands. Other markets will see rapid growth, especially in Europe, but at a slightly slower pace in the US. In terms of product development types, innovations will focus on extended battery ranges, ultra-rapid charging capabilities, security based on IoT connectivity, and the expansion of the personal electric scooters.

Inkwood: What steps have you taken to keep consumers interested in your company during the Covid-19 crisis, and what is your strategy for the post-COVID-19 period?

Planet-A: During the COVID-19 crisis, we thought that it was of the maximum importance to be in touch with our customer base and consumers in general through an open and clear communication policy. We maintained communication channels, via the web, phone, mail, etc. to respond to different doubts that were impacting our customers, both related to their current mobility solutions and how to minimize any negative consequences arising from this situation. We also started regular communication feeds with proactive tips to maximize security when having to travel or commute. And finally, we organized different webinars for our customers to discuss various mobility aspects (financial, operational, HR) and how we could best be prepared for the post-pandemic world.

Our strategy for post-COVID has always been based on trying to help our clients in returning to normality but having learned from this dramatic crisis and thus adopting different actions that can help them in case of a second wave that nobody wants. We have developed different tools to provide visibility and planning capabilities to companies regarding their mobility needs (commuting and corporate) like the Mobility Risk Evaluator which presents a risk index, based on the mobility habits, by employee/department/company, and thus allowing for consistent contingency planning, telework organization, flexible hours, space planning, etc.