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sustainable

Sustainable mobility: walking the talk

eCabs co-founder Dr Andrew Bezzina says that eCabs has reprioritised its vision towards a long term sustainable and cleaner platform.

March 2020 changed the trajectory of many businesses the world over. However, an uncontrollable situation that gave us eerily quiet roads, also gave us cleaner oxygen and clearer air. Nature was given the time and space needed to blossom with balances restored on land, air and sea. We learned to love what we miss so much in our country. The countryside walks with our families and the nature that we have come to take for granted over the years.

In many ways that situation contributed to the resetting of our thinking around the boardroom table. It saw us reprioritise, amongst many things, our vision towards a long term sustainable and cleaner platform. This is at the core of our Environmental, Social & Governance agenda. Having a local operation that runs entirely on Electric and Hybrid vehicles by 2025 is no mean feat. It presents many challenges and relies on multiple stakeholder responsibilities.

Earlier this year we launched a pilot project. We invested in a multi-branded fleet of fully electric vehicles to test and to determine the operational and commercial suitability of EV’s in a 24/7 operational context on our challenging road network.

In eight months, we test covered 150,000kms, consuming 18,000KwH of electricity, translating to 0.12KwH per kilometre travelled. In the process, we saved 7.3 tonnes in CO2 emission versus an internal combustion engine (ICE). Additionally, we also benefited from economic savings of 65% of the fuel costs. With a fully electric eCabs fleet, these CO2 savings would go up to over 650 tonnes p.a. More than quadruple that had we to manage to incentivise and convince all our partner drivers to follow suit. The process also saw us benefiting from 60% in cost savings for maintenance and servicing.

Incentives for all ECO rides

Having over 1,000 partner drivers on our platform in Malta, we launched a financial incentive for all with a reduced commission rate charged for all ECO rides. We thereby made a direct financial contribution towards the attainment of these goals. In doing this, we have added more incentives to the existing government grants for partner drivers to invest in cleaner vehicles. As we work at gradually decommissioning ICE vehicles and replacing them with Electric Vehicles (EVs), we will continue to incentivise our partner drivers to do the same with their vehicles. Our goal is to complete the full transition by 2025.

Of course, no project of this sort comes without challenges. The largest challenge we collectively face as a nation revolves around the county’s charging infrastructure with vehicle range coming into play.

A long term sustainable solution

To give some important context, between the EV brands tested, we resulted with an average range of 290kms, running a half-day on a full charge. That is 55% less than a full tank of fuel in an ICE, and just about serves our range requirements today. By this summer we will need to close that 55% deficit. On a positive note, we have commenced tests on a new set of EVs. These tests are estimated to solve this range issue . However, the long-term solution comes in the form of a mix of fast and normal charging cycles for a healthy battery lifetime – an important factor with manufacturers’ battery guarantees covering eight years or 160,000 kms, whichever comes first.

The country’s charging infrastructure would therefore be best planned for fast charging. This would leave the 8-10hr charging cycle at the base, or the home in the case of consumers. It will however also come with its trade-offs. Existing parking spots would need to be given up for EV charging spaces. And we all know that parking is in short supply.

“We need to be more serious about this vision”

For larger fleet operators, there are also limitations on how many chargers can be installed on a standard 3-phase electricity meter. Fleet operators will inevitably have to invest in their own substations, with a hefty investment of around €150,000. We are already drawing up outline plans for an electricity substation at our logistics centre. Additionally, ee have held discussions with the government. They have confirmed plans for such substations to be partially funded via grants or tax credits.

As a country, we need to be more serious about this vision. With a growing population and with consumption on a constant long-term growth rate, we need to acknowledge that these important changes are an absolute must. This will require national commitment and the execution of a plan which doesn’t waver every year or two. Greenwashing and skin-deep changes will not cut it. All stakeholder at multiple levels need to address a national transition to EVs.

Build and shaping tech for a sustainable future

As the main orchestra conductor, the Government does not have it easy. However important stakeholders also include consumers who ultimately affect demand, and by default shape supply. Fleet operators will need to be ready to invest in and anticipate the demand generated. In the meantime, we will continue to build and shape the technology that addresses our industry’s challenges, remaining committed to the investment needed in EVs and the infrastructure required to make it work.

Let us however make no mistake. Sustainable efforts by single companies will be futile unless all stakeholders complement them by a concerted effort and commitment. As we remain committed to the cause, we are also confident that all stakeholders can and will come together to effect change and walk the talk.

In the press:

The Times | Malta Business Weekly

Green

The green way forward

By Matthew Bezzina, CEO of eCabs

It had to take a deadly pandemic to finally get the world population out of its slumber and embrace the need to save our planet from irreparable damage. Green seems to be the most common buzzword to emerge out of the ongoing pandemic but, by all means, it is justified. Of course, this is not a sudden change but a result of a slow process which has now reached tipping point.

For a few months, last year, around March and April, we were able to witness what it meant to have very few cars on the road as economic activity slowed down. The air was clear; the country, although eerily deserted, more beautiful than it was for ages. Asthma sufferers breathed a sigh of relief.

That seems to contrast heavily with the stark warning coming out of an NSO publication earlier this year highlighting the fact that this country has reached a staggering 400,000 registered vehicles on our roads. That number, being close to Malta’s population, is a wake-up call to all of us that we must now take the decisive step to move towards a truly green economy.

European Green Deal

This pandemic has taught us an important lesson: when faced with severe and immediate health risks, people responded. Because we believed that the virus posed such a risk, we took action, collectively. Previously, while most of us are, to a certain extent, aware that the world faced a climate emergency, there was no feeling of immediate concern and action was slow. This has now changed.

Sustainability has been abused as a term for a couple of decades at least but it lies at the heart of the changes we will need to embark upon. Our future and that of our children will be significantly affected by the flights and trips we avoid, the quality of the household goods we choose to buy (or not to), the kind of electricity we use and how we dispose of our waste. Each to his or her own but that will drive real change on a large scale.

The good thing about all this is that, as a nation, we are not alone in this vision. Over the past months, the European Union has pushed forward an unprecedented Green Deal, which has tied considerable EU funding to the green transition. This will hopefully provide us, as a country, with the necessary boost, resource and financial-wise, to prop up the measures we take locally.

However, no government can bring this change alone and neither can a handful of private companies. This will require collective action. While, at eCabs, innovation and change are a raison d’etre of our own existence, we have witnessed the rapid transformation in people’s minds throughout the past months.

A ‘Cleaner eCabs Future’

The experience of people sharing stories of what should have been a normal thing to do – like walking through a popular promenade without soaking up exhaust fumes from the hundreds of vehicles slowly moving along the road’s traffic – inspired us to take our innovative efforts further.

The events of the past year strengthened our resolve to cement our vision for reducing our impact on the air quality in our country and spearhead a ‘Cleaner eCabs Future’ in everything that we will be doing going forward, including in the future development of our owned spaces.

We are kickstarting this off by committing to an ambitious goal of fully electrifying our fleet by 2025, an investment that will be a substantial one.

I believe this is the future that beckons. Covid-19 has made us all more conscious that green is the way forward. Every business will, ultimately, take this road. If it is not because of intrinsic belief, it will happen because our customers, advisers and banks will, at some point, question our sustainability. We are committed to take a leading role in this drive.

Our nation, our families, deserve this.

In the press:

The Times of Malta

Green

eCabs to be 100% Green by 2025

Mobility company eCabs is embarking on an ambitious project that will see it run entirely on green vehicles by 2025.

eCabs CEO Matthew Bezzina announced this initiative in the presence of Minister for Energy, Enterprise, and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli.

Minister Dalli welcomed this investment as a strong signal by the private sector that wants to be part of the Government’s vision to decarbonise the economy by 2050.

“The private sector will find the Government on its side in its transition towards a more sustainable economy. My Ministry, together with other government entities, is working hard on a holistic strategy that will help encourage the take up of zero and low-emission vehicles,” Dr Dalli said.

She explained that a further take up by the private sector will help Malta reach its targets. “We can only reach our national targets if everyone is onboard. The Government is doing its part to encourage and facilitate the use of methods that are less harmful towards the environment, both financially and logistically,” the Minister said.

On his part, Mr Bezzina welcomed the commitment from Government adding: “The project to electrify our whole fleet and install all the required infrastructure will mean a significant investment by eCabs, which does require equal commitment from Government to ensure that the infrastructure to support electric mobility be implemented. This support given to this vision is welcome and encouraging”.

eCabs’ ongoing vision towards becoming more green

The electrification process has started with the launch of a number of fully electric vehicles including models from KIA, Hyundai and Citroen that join the existing hybrid vehicles in the eCabs fleet.

Mr Bezzina continued that positives could be taken from the sacrifices all had to endure in 2020, “The restrictions during last year’s lockdown sent our industry into a spiral, but on a more positive note less traffic meant reduced air pollution and cleaner air for everyone. The country although eerily deserted, was more liveable than it was for ages. This strengthened our resolve to cement our ongoing vision towards becoming even more sustainable and inspired our eCabs Greener Future initiative,” stated Matthew Bezzina.

“We are seeking more sustainable and cleaner operations in everything we are doing, including the future development of our owned spaces as well as a sustainable framework which includes incentivising and supporting our partner drivers to follow in these footsteps,” added Mr. Bezzina.

Concurrently and in support to this commitment, eCabs will also be launching a scheme to incentivise its partner drivers to invest in EVs or Hybrids including an improved financial model and other frameworks.

eCabs officially launched its Partner Drivers initiative late last year following the Public Service Garage reform concluded and launched by Government. The initiative offers self-employed drivers the opportunity to work for Malta’s leading home-grown mobility provider non-exclusively, essentially allowing drivers to increase their revenue stream possibilities, much needed in these troubling times.

In the press:

The Times of Malta | Who’s Who | Lovin Malta | Bay.com.mt | Gozo News