A New Mobility Landscape Is Coming (but not fully yet)

Joris Lochy | August 18, 2021

A sector which has been heavily disrupted in the last years is the mobility sector. Following decades of "car being king", we have reached a saturation and mentality shift. People want to be more healthy and more ecological (sustainable) and also avoid losing precious time in traffic jams. As a result a whole eco-system of companies has been created to find solutions for this.

This article tries to provide an overview of the trends in this market, with a focus on the Belgian market.

First of all when looking at mobility and the offers on the market it is important to make a distinction between private and professional displacements. This last category can additionally be split up between the daily commute and professional displacements during working hours.

When looking at private mobility (the so-called B2C market), the car remains an important pilar. Especially for families with (young) children it remains difficult to do everything without a car. Obviously, there is a trend to be more sustainable, which is reflected in more sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, more usage of (e)bikes and (e)steps and an increasing usage of shared mobility options (like shared bikes, steps or cars).

Statistics from China, which is already the furthest in the post-Covid era, show that most mobility options have lost terrain (compared to pre-Covid), with the exception of the car and bike. The car, although still not very sustainable, is still the most flexible and has the least chance for contamination. Especially the flexibility will become more important as office hours also become more flexible. Additionally due to the increased home working, in some cities traffic jams have considerably reduced, making room again for more people to switch back from public transport to their car.
Additionally there is the bike. This is a very flexible, individual, healthy and sustainable mode of transportation that many have discovered during the crisis. Furthermore with ebikes becoming more and more common, bigger distances can be covered without needing to be in excellent physical shape.

The professional mobility (i.e. B2B(2C) market) is however even more in evolution, as governments provide all kinds of fiscal incentives to change the mobility habits of employees and employers. Furthermore employers want to offer more flexibility (in working hours, in working location and in mobility options) and less administrative burden to their employees, allow them to profit from those fiscal incentives (resulting in an increased buying power) and become more sustainable.
As a result a variety of new offers to be more flexible and optimally profit of those extra-legal advantages has come to the market. This makes it very complex for an employer to find his way in this tangle.

Obviously, every company is unique, with multiple axes determining which mobility options are possible and best suited for the company:
  • The location of the company, i.e. Is the company situated in a city with a lot of mobility difficulties (traffic jams)? Is the company situated near public transport options? Is the company situated in a city where a lot of shared mobility options are available? Are the employees typically living close or far away from the company? Which kind of parking facilities does the company have? Does the company have multiple offices geographically spread over the country?
  • The type of work done at the company, i.e. Does the work require physical presence at a specific location (i.e. time- and location-dependent work)? Is remote work possible? Does the work require a lot of displacements to customers (and/or partners, suppliers…) during working hours?
  • The type of employees working at the firm, i.e. Are the employees typically living close or far away from the company? What is the age distribution of the employees within the company (e.g. lot of young people, lot of employees with children…)? How strong is the war for talent for the desired employees, forcing the employer to offer a lot of extra advantages to attract people?
  • The size of the company, i.e. a bigger company has the means to setup more complex mobility plans/options, as they often have dedicated people within HR specialized in these setups.

This makes it difficult to define a "one-solution-that-fits-all" approach, but rather a more tailored approach is required, with some degree of customization per customer.

Some examples:
  • Promoting commuting by bike via bike leasing and a bike allowance is mainly interesting for companies with employees not living too far away from the company and not requiring doing customer or other professional displacements during working hours. Additionally it depends on the profile of the employees and the safety of the trajectory between the home of the employees and the office. Note that 54% of Belgian employees does not want to use a bike to come to work, with the main reason people finding it too dangerous. At the other hand a similar percentage of employees indicates they would be very interested in options like bike leasing and bike allowances.
  • Shared mobility options are of course only interesting in the bigger cities, where those options are also strongly available. As a result incorporating those options in a mobility plan does not make much sense when the employer is situated in a location where those options are (almost) not available.
  • The same applies for "multi-modal transportation" (and the associated multi-modal route planners), which are also only interesting in the larger cities where multiple mobility options are readily available. Furthermore a company introducing this multi-modal mobility concept should be able to put a whole change management trajectory in place, as it requires discovering new mobility options and changing existing commute habits (for most employees the commute is a routine activity, which they do in "auto-pilot")
  • Setting up a Cafeteria plan or Mobility budget can be quite complex, making the costs and effort, especially for smaller firms, not always outweigh the benefits. New digital solutions can provide a (partial) solution to this, but they typically do not take away the uncertainties for employers to deal with something they do not fully understand.
  • Electric cars are still difficult for people doing large distances on a regular basis, due to their limited action radius and the too low number of charging stations (especially in the South of Belgium). On the other hand for companies where employees come to the office the whole day and that have the required space to setup charging stations, this can be a very interesting option both fiscally and ecologically.
  • Collective organized transport is typically only economically viable for large companies, for which a large number of employees are coming from the same region. Platforms exist to manage this cross-employers, but this raises a number of other concerns and reduces the added-value.
  • Options like "no-mobility" (i.e. home working) and "less-mobility" (flex-offices / co-working places) depend on the work culture and the type of work to be done. For some companies the shift to homeworking during the Covid-confinements was already a serious stretch, which will take years to get fully absorbed. Introducing new concepts like "flex-offices" (co-working places) is probably a bridge too far, especially as there is still a lot of unclarity of who will be paying (and what the fiscal implications are) for the office space (employee paying out of his mobility budget or employer paying) and even more for the added-services like drinks, snacks, catering…
  •  …

In general employers have a big interest to do something around mobility, but when having to deal with all complexity (fiscal and operational concerns like policies, load administration…), many employers drop out. Employers fear especially all exceptions, as they often represent hidden costs and lot of extra effort. E.g. what happens if an employee leaves the company? What if someone is fired? What about the liability in case of accidents/theft/vandalism? What will be the exact total cost for me as an employer? How do I need to manage VAT? What is the exact value of benefit of all kind for the employee? Which proofs do I need to collect for the tax authorities? Does it fit with the agreements made in the collective labor agreement of the joint committee?…
These questions mainly originate from the existing unclarities in the fiscal regime, which is due to the fact that many HR managers are not yet acquainted with these new offers, the fact that new mobility offers are created continuously (making it impossible for the government to stay up-to-date) and the continuous change in regulation (e.g. "Mobility Budget", "Company Car Legislation"…).

This lack of maturity in the industry puts a break on the adoption and this maturation might take years to unfold. E.g. meal vouchers took 40 years to arrive to a market penetration of 50%, while this is a much simpler HR product than most mobility options. Until this maturity level is reached, resulting in more well-known, better integrated, more frictionless and cheaper offers, the traditional company mobility options of reimbursing public transport subscriptions and salary cars will remain mostly used. Those are still most widely known by HR managers, are fiscally still very interesting and fit well the needs and desires of most employees.
This last argument is important, as no mobility option will become mainstream unless employees are happy with it. This means the mobility option should not only give a solution for "Professional displacements" but also for the "Private displacements" (in evenings, weekend, holidays…), often with the whole family.
Nonetheless we see the market is maturing and transforming, as millions of euros of VC money are invested in promising new start-ups. Almost all of those start-ups are not profitable yet but given the market potential a few of them could grow out to become unicorns. Today’s students are more acquainted and open for these new mobility services, so likely some of them will become mainstream in the next decade.

Today a whole eco-system of young start-ups and existing incumbent players are offering mobility services, like
  • Car leasing companies: Alphabet, ALD Automotive, ING Lease, KBC Autolease, LeasePlan, ARVAL…
  • Car rental companies: Sixt, Avis, Dockx, Hertz, Rent a car…
  • Car sharing companies (in the form of cars that can be easily used for individual trips up to platforms facilitating sharing your private car or co-driving): Cambio, Poppy, Partago, Zipcar, Cozywheels, Getaround, Dégage, Share Now, Stapp.in, Tapazz, BlaBlaCar, Klaxit, TooGethr, Carpool (Mpact)…
  • Taxi services: Uber, Wave-a-Cab, Taxi.eu, Heetch, Bolt, Free Now, Allocab…
  • Bike leasing companies: Ctec, O2O, Joulebikes, KBC-Fietsleasing, B2Bike, Cyclis, Lease-a-bike, Cyclobility, Cycle Valley…
  •  (e)bike, (e)step and scooter sharing & renting: Lime, Dott, Bird, Felyx, Scooty, Villo!, Billy Bike, Mobit, Blue Bike, Swapfiets, Spinlister…
  • Fuel card and Electric charging card issuing companies: Network Fuel Card, Modalizy, Fleetpass, Belgian Fuel Card (BFC), XXImo, EDI (Electric by D’Ieteren), New Motion, Plugsurfing, Blue Corner, Luminus, EVBOX, Cenergy, Eneco, Dats24, EV-Point,…
  • Parking companies (either companies providing public parkings or platforms to share individual and company parkings): Yellowbrick, Indigo, QPark, BeMobile, BePark, Pasha, ParkOffice…
  • Companies helping to define mobility plan and manage setup of policies and mobility plans/budgets: Social Secretariats (SD Worx, Partena, Securex, Acerta, Liantis…), Payflip, Mbrella, MaestroMobile (Espaces-Mobilités)…
  • MaaS (Mobility as a Service) players: Modalizy, Skipr, Optimile, Olympus, Be-Mobile, MyMove, Vaigo (Eurides), Moveasy…
  • (Inter-modal) Route planners: Google Maps, Coyote, Waze, Mappy, Jeasy, Skipr, Stoomlink…
  • Co-working place companies (either companies providing co-working places or platforms allowing to reserve spaces over multiple co-working places): Bar d’Office, Workero, Cowallonia, Burogest, Regus, Welkin, Meraki, Frame 21, Fosbury & Sons, Start it, Coffice, Spaces, House of Innovation, Ampla House, WeWork, Betacowork, Startbloc, SilverSquare…
  • Expense management solutions for local and international (mobility) expenses: Rydoo, XXImo, MobileXpense, N2F, Certify, SAP Concur, Travel Perk, Trippeo, SpenDesk, Splendid, Declaree, SRXP, Dicom, WebExpenses, Notilus, Expensify, ExpensePath, Abacus, ExpensePoint…
It will be interesting to see which of those companies will still be around in 10 years (i.e. which of the start-up have sufficient funding to bridge the long-time gap to profitability) and to which form they have evolved. Clearly regular pivoting will be required as this market is in full evolution.

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