Mobility Re-Imagined — My Two Days at MOVE23 London

In an event that boasts with 36 conference stages and almost a thousand speakers, the offering of content can be overwhelming. The event centers around mobility, but in practice this can mean anything from mining technology to electric vehicles, MaaS (Mobility as a Service) or city planning. This is my take on the two day event.

Teemu Korpilahti
8 min readJul 5, 2023

If you have never been to the event, this short article will give you an idea what to expect and help you consider whether or not it is worth attending to next year. If you are either a car dealer concerned about EV/hybrid sales or someone working with MaaS, you will get a good insight into the hot topics that other companies and people in the field were talking about.

Going into the event, my goal was to focus on the adoption of electric/hybrid vehicles and MaaS. Two topics that are strongly connected — MaaS can be an enabler for people who are curious about trying out an EV without the risk of owning one. For the same reason, providing EVs in MaaS services can make them more appealing and competitive compared to regular car ownership. My own agenda was also to promote a customer survey we conducted about the adoption of EVs and hybrid vehicles, which highlights how consumers select the power source of the car they are buying, and what kind of anxieties or uncertainties they have about EVs and hybrids. The summary of the results is available for free on crasman.fi/move23. Other Finnish representatives in the event were Beely (a subscription portal for pre-owned cars) and the city of Tampere.

Slightly exaggerated, in an event like this there are two types of presentations — those that aim to offer genuine insight, advancing the field and the opinions of the audience, versus those that border on shameless self promotion. Unfortunately, you only find out which type of presentation you are going to get once it has already started.

Starting with Rentals

My day started with the keynote presentation by Olivier Baldasari – Group Chief Operations Officer of Europcar. The topic was the rental company’s transition to EVs. Over the last couple of years, I have personally been Europcar’s customer multiple times, and I have noticed that, at least in Finland, there aren’t many hybrids or EVs available. Apparently the situation in some other countries is getting better. Europcar is committed to electrify its fleet. In 2022 the share of EVs and PHEVs was 6%. This will be doubled to 12% this year, and the goal for 2024 is 20%. In the consumer market it is not only a question of supply — the consumers’ attitudes also need to change. One common hurdle is the unfounded “range anxiety” (definitely a buzzword in MOVE23) experienced by many customers. However, in reality 1/3 of rentals in the UK are for distances shorter than 300km. For them, range should not be an issue.

Range anxiety of rental customers. Suorce: Europcar / MOVE23
Range anxiety of rental customers. Source: Europcar / MOVE23

One often overlooked fact is that rental companies are the true pioneers of MaaS. Europcar has been in the business since 1949 — the initial idea being that people who couldn’t afford to buy a car could rent one. The environmental comparison of rental vs. owned cars comes down to one number — asset utilization. For a rental car it can be around 75%, whereas privately owned cars average about 5%.

Gapgemini also had a presentation on the stage, in addition to a big stand on the exhibition floor. Their presentation was one of the once that I was mostly looking forward to. Unfortunately it was a bit of a let down… a hypothetical case study of the business decisions of an EV startup based on a collection of real projects for real companies. I saw some people in the audience nodding their heads in strong agreement, so maybe I just didn’t get the brilliance, or maybe they were people hoping to work for Gapgemini 🤷‍♂.

Smart Cities

One of the main themes of the event is city planning, and how local and central government can work towards more sustainable mobility. The city of Oslo is certainly one of the leaders in the EV transition. Sture Portvik — the Manager Electro Mobility from the Agency for Urban Environment of Oslo — gave an update on how far Oslo already is on this journey. In the last ten years I have lived in London, Tallinn and Helsinki, and at least by comparison to these cities Oslo is lightyears ahead of us.

The focus of development in Oslo is currently more on commercial vehicle fleets rather than personal cars. This is probably because advances in passenger cars are already on a very good level. Currently nine out of ten cars sold in Oslo are battery electric. Portvik emphasized the three factors that have been crucial to succeed in this transition to privately owned EVs.

  1. Cheap to buy
  2. Cheap to use
  3. Convenient to use

To achieve the goals a carrot-and-stick approach is needed. In Norway, electric cars are sold with 0% VAT, whereas petrol and diesel cars have additional CO2 and NOx taxation. The end result is that the retail price of an electric VW Golf is effectively the same as that of a petrol Golf. Free parking, free charging and free passing on toll gates are incentives that make electric vehicles considerably cheaper to use. Convenience is perhaps the most tricky part to maintain. Access to charging stations and the free use of bus lanes can become difficult to maintain as the number of electric cars skyrockets.

What About Used Cars?

Second-hand cars is a topic that has not been sufficiently discussed in the context of hybrid and electric car sales. Jamie Caple gave a presentation that was probably the most entertaining of the entire event. Caple is something of a serial entrepreneur with a long history in car sales. His current dealership (Car Quay) has gradually shifted more and more towards the sale of electric vehicles. This is something that many UK dealerships are hesitant to do. The same can be said about many Finnish dealerships. There is a lot of uncertainty and hesitation about how to deal with these products in the used car market.

Caple suspected that the volatility of the resale prices of electric vehicles has been one of the reasons that many dealers are holding their distance. 2022 saw the peak and collapse of prices in the UK. Some dealers have been forced to sell out vehicles for prices that are lower than what the acquisition price was. There have been many factors resulting in the price crash. Teslas price cuts have had a knock on effect on used car prices, and the increase of energy prices has reduced the demand for electric cars. The overall inflation and the increase of interest rates have also had a negative impact.

Transition from ICE to EV

Battery production continues to be one of the major obstacles in the ramping up of EV vehicles. Lars Carlstrom –founder and CEO at Italvolt & Statevolt — somewhat surprisingly called for patience in the transition to full EV. The two companies are major manufacturers of EV batteries in North America and Europe. He noted that the 2030 target for transitioning to full EV is brave but quite challenging. Even though EV adoption is gaining momentum, for instance in the UK ICE (internal combustion) vehicles are still leading in the registration statistics, and the number of registered petrol vehicles increased from 2022 to 2023.

Key figures in the future transition to EVs. Source: Lars Carlstrom / MOVE23.

As battery electric vehicles are still unattainable or unsuitable to many consumers — hybrid vehicles play an important role in the transition. They also help introduce the concept of electric vehicles to new customers and alleviate range anxiety and concerns about charging time and the lack of charging infrastructure.

Carlstrom also raised concerns that an aggressive advance into EVs, mandated by governments, can be harmful for the battery industry in Europe. It can force manufacturers to increase battery import from China, which in turn puts European battery manufacturers at risk of falling behind.

The top 5 barriers to EV adoption that Carlstom presented were quite similar to the concerns that our consumer study raised (crasman.fi/move23).

  1. Lack of charging infrastructure
  2. Lack of appropriate EV type
  3. Capital cost of EV’s
  4. Operational change impacts (e.g. charging times)
  5. Uncertain/underdeveloped policy landscape for EV’s

Source: The top 5 barriers to EV adoption reported by EV100 member companies https://www.iea.org/

From Car Ownership to Car Usership

EZOO’s Lash Saranna presented some compelling statistics that emphasized the drawbacks of owning a car in comparison to the potential benefits of need based usership models. Ezoo is a short term electric car subscriptions service.

For the most part people drive their cars alone (82%), the drive distances are short (Avg. 8.4 miles), and the speed of the traffic is very slow (Avg. 23.2 mph). Yet, as car buyers we demand large SUVs with +300 mile ranges that can do 0–60 in three seconds and have a 150+mph top speed.

How Do We Travel vs What We Drive?. Source: EZOO / MOVE23
Flex As Your Needs Change. Source: EZOO / MOVE23.

Adoption of MaaS is still a work in progress, and the recent years have seen both success stories and surprising drawbacks, as Drive TLV’s Raz Mayshar highlighted in his presentation. On the side of the manufacturers, Volvo has seemingly had great success with its flexible leasing services that it launched in 2017 — showing constant and continuous growth. On the other hand, BMW and Audi closed their programs already in 2021 due to low demand.

Cazoo — one of the major players in the MaaS startup scene — only recently closed their subscription plan as a part of their “business realignment plan”. Meanwhile, the all-inclusive car subscription service FINN, operating in Germany and USA, has gained 30 000 subscribers and a €100m annual recurring revenue.

Final Thoughts

The transition to EVs is inevitable, but the speed of the transition is dependent on many external factors. EVs have to become affordable to buy and use. Additionally the daily use should be as convenient as it is with traditional ICE vehicles. EVs and hybrid vehicles also have a growing importance in the used car market. For the majority of consumers, a brand new EV is not a financially viable option at the moment. As Norway and Oslo have shown us, governments can also have a huge role in speeding up the process, and there is a lot of work to be done.

The momentum of MaaS is similarily growing, but progress also here is still too slow. The manufacturers role as subscription service providers is an interesting one, especially if they can invent new business models that bring in revenue that is generated throughout the vehicle’s life time.

If you ask the consumers, it is clear that they are ready to buy subscription based services IF they are flexible, convenient and available at an affordable price. But this is not an easy promise to deliver. It would also be nice, if such services would exist in less densely populated areas.

In the end, the event gave me cause for hope. There are a lot of smart people and promising companies that are driving the change for all the right reasons.

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Teemu Korpilahti
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I am a user-oriented service designer whose workload includes projects related to the digitalisation of the automotive industry and car online shopping.