Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Modern cities have been shaped around the automobile, which now occupies a large part of urban roads. Over time, the increasingly massive use of private vehicles has led to a gradual degradation in air quality and a waste of resources. Therefore, in order to build the cities of the future, more sustainable and respectful of the environment and people, revolutionary initiatives have emerged that seek to reinvent the concept of urban mobility. One of the pioneers is Zity, a carsharing service that was born in 2017 to offer citizens a new way to move around in a free, smart, affordable, clean and shared way. Behind this innovative solution is industrial engineer Javier Mateos, the company's current CEO, who has dedicated his career to improving energy services and creating new, more digital and sustainable infrastructures that will better suit the needs of futures societies.
Compared to other collaborative models born of the digital revolution, electric carsharing – the model you use in Zity and in which you have been pioneers –has not generated any controversy. Moreover, it has even been applauded by entities such as the DGT. What differentiates this model from others?
We are talking about a mode of urban transportation that, by including 100% electric and zero-emission vehicles, has a minimal impact on the environment by avoiding the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere. In our case, since we launched the service four years ago, we have avoided more than 6,000 tons of CO2 emissions. It is a mode of transportation that is responding to the sustainable demands of increasingly demanding citizens. In Madrid alone, our fleet annually avoids more than 2,500 tons of emissions into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the energy consumption of almost 300 Spanish households per year. In addition, the energy used to recharge our vehicles is certified with a guarantee of origin from renewable sources.
On the other hand, the Zity model encourages mixing and matching with other means of transportation, such as public transportation, and is eight to ten times more efficient than the private model: though they occupy the same space in the city as a private vehicle, shared vehicles are used more frequently. Finally, our vehicles modernize the Spanish vehicle fleet, as they are replaced after a maximum of 4 years of use, and are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. This technology monitors the use and location of the vehicles in real time, providing an additional layer of security as a standard for new vehicles.
Does carsharing only contemplate electric mobility or do you also see the incorporation of other types of sustainable mobility such as hydrogen or gas (NGV or Autogas) as feasible?
Anything that involves improving the service from a sustainable point of view is welcome for a business model that seeks to provide a flexible and responsible mobility alternative. We are therefore open to expanding and innovating our fleet with zero emission vehicles powered by other types of environmentally friendly solutions.
Travel restrictions during 2020 particularly affected your sector, which now seems to be regaining its strength What steps have you followed in this recovery?
The pandemic has given rise to a new consumer profile, one that is more concerned about the environment, fights climate change and therefore seeks greener and more responsible alternatives when moving around their city. This is precisely what we offer at Zity, so we could say that we are in a very privileged position if we take into account that this new citizen has helped us to accelerate our implementation as a mobility alternative for the near future.
Faced with a future that seems difficult to predict, can the flexibility of the model, which avoids long-term commitments on the part of the user, contribute to its resilience?
No doubt about it! It is still a subscription or pay-per-use service, a formula that was already working in other sectors and with which consumers feel more at ease. In fact, Boston Consulting Group forecasts that the vehicle subscription market will reach between $30 billion and $40 billion.
What would the streets look like in a city where carsharing is consolidated as the main mobility option?
Although the private car is still the predominant option in cities, it is clear that the trend has changed in the last year: sustainable mobility is here to stay. The government itself is promoting it with different measures, including discouraging the use of private transport in the city.
In addition, it is a proven fact that large European cities are adopting and implementing mobility plans that limit or prevent the use of private vehicles in the most central areas. As an example, the City Council of Madrid, in its mobility ordinance Madrid 360, establishes clear restrictions and calls with equal clarity for the promotion of models such as Zity's 'carsharing’. The consequence of these types of measures is clear: the private vehicle has its place, but it is not in the center of cities. Far fewer vehicles, primarily electric and shared, would meet current needs in these cases and many others.
The carsharing model is already turning urban mobility on its head, but could it connect cities (and especially towns)?
Several researches claim that a shared car is capable of replacing up to 20 private vehicles, which implies a significant drop in traffic and a reduction of parking spaces, in addition to eliminating emissions in cities. That is why carsharing is the ideal and sustainable solution for connecting cities and towns, although there is still a long way to go to achieve this goal. Among other aspects, the electric car is still one of the unresolved issues in Spain due to the limited vehicle autonomy, the high price or the insufficient network of charging points. At present, our country only has about 150,000 electric vehicles, far short of the electrification target set by the European Union, which aims to reach five million by 2030.
Faced with the technological revolution in a context of climate change, most cities see the 'smart city' concept (a city in which people, businesses, data and energy come together in an intelligent way) as a model to be inspired by. How can companies like Zity contribute to building these smart cities?
Sustainability and innovation have been part of our DNA since the beginning of our service in Spain. As you rightly say, these are the main pillars that make up smart cities, so we are the perfect solution to drive them forward. In terms of sustainability, we do not generate CO2, so our impact on the environment is zero. And from the point of view of innovation, there are many initiatives in which we have collaborated and intend to collaborate. For example, a year ago we carried out a safe driving pilot project in collaboration with Telefónica Empresas, Geotab and Mobileye through which we installed telemetry and driving assistance solutions in 100 vehicles in our Madrid fleet to prevent accidents and, at the same time, obtain more information about our fleet in order to increase the safety of our users.
A few years ago, buying one's own car was one of the major investments in a person's life. Now, shared-use models are permeating the urban mindset. How might this diminished attachment to property influence the societies of the future?
We recently conducted a survey on this subject and found that eight out of ten users want to continue using our service in the medium term and have no plans to buy a private car. Zity offers all the advantages of a private car – and other benefits – without the commitment of ownership. Therefore, although the private car is still the protagonist when it comes to moving around the city, it is clear that the purchase of vehicles is declining in pursuit of other models such as leasing, whose registrations grew by 34% in September 2021, according to the Spanish Association of Renting. We are faced with consumers whose habits have changed, especially as a result of the pandemic: they are more aware of the impact that cars have on the environment and are therefore looking for other alternatives to move around in a more responsible and sustainable way.
From your point of view, what do you think sustainable mobility and, in particular, carsharing and carpooling systems can contribute to the energy transition?
If we are talking about a service that does not generate emissions and, in our case, a model where all the energy used to recharge our vehicles is certified with a guarantee of origin from renewable energy sources, its contribution to society's energy transition is very high.
In short, it is a mobility alternative that could help to promote the fulfillment of the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda, something in which we are still lagging behind, especially as a result of the pandemic that has delayed the progress of the Agenda by years, as stated in a recent United Nations report.