Micromobility’s big moment – An interview with Jana Bartels Chief Operating Officer at Wunder
The number of people using shared micromobility services right now has gone through the roof. With numbers surpassing pre-Covid levels, we asked Jana Bartels what operators can do to keep up with the demand and get an edge over the competition?
According to the latest Market Research Future report, the global micromobility market is expected to grow at a CAGR rate of 13% from 2022 to 2028.
In 2028, it is expected to get up to 210 billion USD. It’s interesting to look at it from a global perspective, as more and more companies are investing in services not only in Europe or North America, but also in Asia and Africa, making micromobility a budding sector in these countries too.
In order to understand the underlying factors driving this phenomenon, we had a chat with Jana Bartels, the Chief Operating Officer at Wunder.
Micromobility is definitely having a big moment lately: what are some of the exciting trends you see in the industry?
Jana: We are seeing a big wave of popularity for e-bikes, which I think will solve many problems for end users. In fact, you can now take an e-bike for commuting as you can travel longer distances than you can with a normal bike, and all without sweating.
In this way, you get to your destination or to your workplace very easily. Also, we know that most of the people in big cities still use the car for commuting maybe three to five kilometers. You can easily replace these three to five kilometers with a bike, especially an e-bike. Looking at other micromobility options, you can’t do these kinds of journeys with a kick scooter: it’s too far, and you can’t transport anything on it. That is the biggest issue with kick scooters for commuting.
So, for operators, adding e-bikes to their fleet can be a great move? What do they have to consider?
Jana: It’s a great choice, for sure. First of all, you have to evaluate whether the city you want to launch in is ready for your bikes: how many bike operators are already there? Is there a sweet spot or not?
Then you need to figure out what is the best e-bike blend that fits your needs: What is the pricing, the lead time, etc.? Are there special city regulations? In addition, if you already have a fleet of e-scooters, by adding e-bikes you will provide an additional service to your users without making it complicated for them – in fact, they won’t need to upload/have a driving license.
In a sense, you keep it nice and easy, without the need to rethink your whole software and user journey to implement license evaluation as when you want to add mopeds or cars to your fleet.
Knowing your city and its mobility regulations is a very important step when setting up a successful sharing service: what’s your take on collaboration between cities and mobility operators?
Collaboration between operators and cities is key. You can’t just go there and place your vehicles on the street without talking to the city first. For that, it is very important to have some native speakers who also know the culture and to have a good connection with the city’s institutions.
In the end, there is still a lot of relationship management and politics involved in securing tenders, which are the permissions you need in order to set up shared mobility services.
What operators can do is to have their people in the big cities, and to push a strong collaboration between them and the city. What we see right now is more and more cities reducing the amount of different operators which are allowed in one city so as not to let it get too crowded, so positioning yourself as a trustworthy partner is key.
I think it would also be smart for operators to think about joining forces in the big cities and not just competing against each other.
The time for collaborating and thinking about the key problem we all want to solve, i.e. to make it easier for people to get from A to B, has come, and developing these sustainable solutions together is key.
Over the next few years, I would love to see operators adopt this mindset and join forces to find the best solution for cities and people whilst earning enough money to maintain their businesses.
When it comes to vehicles, do you have any advice for operators when choosing the best ones?
One of the most important factors for good vehicles for shared mobility is reliability. You need to have vehicles which can run all the time, day and night, in every weather condition.
It is more and more important to keep your utilization of the vehicles high and to understand how the vehicle is developed and what has been tested.
Right now, we are seeing more and more cases in vehicles for sharing, which have been developed, but are not yet proven for sharing use cases. So, for example, within development, you can do some tests of your own, to put high stress on the single components, on an ECU, or different components of a bike, for example.
When choosing the right sharing-ready vehicles and hardware, you should look into the results of stress testing and reliability testing from the manufacturer within development, and not just rely on the quality inspection at the end.
In the first moment, the vehicle looks shiny, it looks pretty, everything is fine, but after we use it, it could look very different. So it’s best not to just rely on what is out there, but really focus on what has been done to prove that the vehicle is reliable enough for sharing in different weather conditions.
When it comes to our vehicles, we saw what our co-development partner Yadea has been doing: they do all of these tests in house during development, so they can show each and every testing protocol and test procedure to the clients. That’s definitely something we are pretty strong in.
We also do testing for different weather conditions, such as for our London-based client Human Forest who needed e-bikes that could stand up to the wet and windy weather.
Another thing operators should take care of is looking into the total cost of ownership of a vehicle. Many operators only look at the purchasing price of an e-bike, for example, but in the end it may not come with warranty, high support, spare part availability, etc…
It can be a hell of a maintenance effort. This is all stuff you need to consider. With a Yadea vehicle, for example, you can be sure that you will receive the highest level of support from our side. Investing a bit more upfront, you will save money in the long run. Finally, you need to ask the right questions to the vehicle manufacturer to really understand after the purchase: what are the costs coming up over the months of use?
After making all these considerations, when do you think is the right time for operators to expand their fleet?
It’s always a good time to grow! However, I think having a look at revenues and operations is key to making the right decision. Operators need to evaluate if the whole business case is working in their city: if people are using vehicles, if their business model in terms of pricing and terms of operation is sustainable, where to place vehicles in the morning, where to place them in the afternoon to get the highest utilization.
Once all of this has been assessed, it is a good time to expand because you have already figured out the operations, the flows, how to charge vehicles, etc. Then you can only earn more money by having more vehicles on the streets. Once you make your assessment and you are ready to go, you should order your vehicles ASAP. To be on the safe side, four to six months prior to their launch on the market.
What we also see is that the prices are increasing all the time. Every two weeks, you get a new price from the vehicle manufacturer. Unfortunately, this is due to the increasing cost of raw materials and the on-going supply chain crisis.
With this in minds, the sooner operators order their vehicles the more likely it is that they can secure a good price because it will definitely not be lower in the next month – I believe it will just go up at least for the next year.
What are the features of Wunder’s vehicles that can help mobility providers go to the next level?
We offer kickscooters, mopeds and e-bikes with a really high range to save the operator costs in the long run, such as swapping costs, and we make sure they need a small amount of extra batteries for their whole operations. This means that they have lower insurance costs for the warehouses and need less space so they can save money on operations set up, insurance and warehousing.
Plus, by partnering with Yadea, we offer the highest and fastest support and also massive production capacities. So, even if you want to launch 10,000 e-bikes, for example, we won’t run into trouble with the production capacity.
We also offer very smart and customizable features. For example, regarding the e-bike, we offer a customized acceleration for the vehicle. If you want to use an e-bike in a very hilly area, for example, you can choose an acceleration program which kicks in earlier, so that your users don’t need to pedal on the lower part of the hill and have a smoother ride when it gets tough.
You can play around with acceleration and use it as a differentiator against your competitors in the same city: if you choose an own profile and make the riding much more fun for the user, the user will choose your service rather than that of your competitor.
Here’s one final big point: if you choose to use our software together with the hardware, it comes all together in one solid system.
As we say, here at Wunder, we offer operators a one-stop shop solution for their shared mobility services. As a consequence, if you run into trouble in your operations, you only need one party to understand the issue and evaluate the root cause.
If you choose the software from one provider and the hardware from another, quite often every party involved will say “it’s not my problem.” That is the time you will lose as an operator and time = money. With our combined solution, you save money, time and, hopefully, a lot of frustration.
Thank you Jana.
Are you ready to take your shared mobility service up a gear? Get in touch with our team today and see what our software and vehicles can do for you.