14.11.2019

5:2 – in football, it would be considered a blowout. In our Nunatak Afterwork yesterday, it was at least a hint of things to come. 5:2 – that was the ratio of guests who came to the Munich Nunatak office by e-scooter (5) vs. private car (2). “New Urban Mobility” was the theme of the evening. The fact that electric scooters, registration of which began in Germany only this past summer, can already compete with cars in the cities shows how much the mobility sector is changing.

New Urban Mobility has various drivers, as the discussions showed:

  1. Electric mobility – the much-quoted mobile megatrend – is just one aspect among many.
  2. Nunatak’s Managing Partner and Co-Founder Robert Jacobi told us what this could look like: “In the last 48 hours, I have flown, used the express train between gates at the airport, and traveled by taxi, bicycle and Uber. And subway and train too.” The foundation of this interconnectedness is the progressive platform economy.
  3. Shared mobility is becoming more important, especially in cities, and often crosses over into ideas of “mobility as a service.” Our new Nunatak Company Bikes from Swapfiets are an example here.
  4. Micromobility – the trend of 2019. These include mostly electrically driven micro-vehicles that compete with conventional means of transport – e-bikes and different types of e-scooters. Our New Urban Mobility Study, published at the event, has just shown how important the latter are: Almost every fifth respondent already drives an e-scooter regularly, as Nunatak’s study author Jerome Nonnenmacher explained.

In keeping with this, the first speaker of the evening also came from one of the major scooter suppliers. Torben Rabe is responsible for Bird’s business in southern Germany and Austria. (By the way, Bird is the company that achieved worldwide unicorn status – i.e. a market valuation of  over 1 billion dollars – the fastest.) In some large US cities, the scooter is already replacing the car for over 50 percent of road users, at least temporarily, Rabe reported. Our study has shown that in Germany it is still more in competition with local public transport. However, Rabe believes that as parking and congestion problems increase, more and more drivers will switch to electric scooters.

Three topics are currently of particular interest to e-scooter providers: The first is finding intelligent strategies to get through the winter. The second is further developing legal regulation, together with the cities. And last but not least: to hold one’s own against strong competition (there are around 5,000 scooters here in Munich alone) and to survive the looming consolidation. “In the long term, there will be fewer suppliers,” says Rabe, “and this will already be noticeable next year.”

Digital mobility: The car becomes a smartphone on wheels

Competition is also a topic that occupied the second speaker of the evening: Daniel Medawar. He is one of 80 employees – just in Munich alone – of the Chinese e-car manufacturer Byton. “Building e-cars is not innovative enough per se in the future,” said the charging-technology expert. Most models would have a very similar driving experience anyway, and by 2020 the market would be flooded with new e-cars from major manufacturers. Byton wants to set itself apart from the competition by marketing its vehicles not so much as cars, but more as a platform – in the truest sense of the word as a “vehicle” for the consumption and sale of digital content. Huge video screens in the front make the car a “fully integrated smartphone on wheels,” as a blog recently wrote. “It’s about making the time you spend in the car or in traffic more pleasant and productive,” says Medawar.

Especially when it comes to automated and later autonomous driving, new approaches like this are important in order to be able to offer customers a full-fledged digital experience in the car as well. His vision: “The driver’s seat as an entertainment center instead of a cockpit for pure locomotion.” Even the charging time during long journeys would lose its deterrent implications, because you could make yourself comfortable in your car just as you would in your home: reading, working, eating, watching videos. It’s a scenario that seems to be far away – in cultural terms as well – at least at the moment.

Hyperloop: Ready for the mass market in 10 years?

The presentation of the third speaker of the evening featured even more visions of a faraway future. Gabriele Semino, who works in the Hyperloop team at the TU Munich, pursues the vision that Elon Musk once conceived: to let people race in capsules through vacuum-tube systems. The TU Munich repeatedly sets world records for speed in this area – most recently at 463 km/h. The systems are not yet affordable, nor are they suitable for transporting people between cities. “But in 10 years’ time, I can imagine that we could be ready,” says Semino.

The evening’s conclusion: Byton, Bird and TU Munich are just three players who show how rapidly the mobility market is changing, especially in cities – technologically, but also in terms of players and business models. There is a lot going on in New Urban Mobility right now.

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