All the interviews, articles and blogs to do with mobile sustainability and sustainability at eCabs on the eCabs website will fall under this tag.


No driving license No problem

No driving license? No problem!

I’ve been working in the mobility industry for over eight years now in various capacities. Yet I don’t have a driving license.

When I mention that I don’t drive, there’s a consensus that it’s strange and bizarre – to them. Not to me.

Allow me to explain.

I’m a TCK – a third-culture-kid. A TCK is someone who was raised in a culture other than their parents or the culture of their country of nationality. And also lived in a different environment during a significant part of their developmental years.

I was fortunate to grow up in Singapore, in a Russian/Ukrainian family. I also attended an international school that had representation from over 90 different countries.

This exposure fosters adaptability, resilience, and a unique perspective on cultural norms.

Riding around the world, without a driving license

Growing up in Singapore, I took advantage of the fantastic transport services, buses, underground railway (MRT) and occasionally cabs if I was in a hurry.

Driving a car in Singapore never crossed my mind. Not only did I deem it unnecessary. There was also the fact that Singapore’s Certificate of Entitlement system mandates a minimum payment of 190% of the vehicle value to simply be allowed to drive it on the road – even before you buy the vehicle.

From Singapore I travelled to the UK, to complete my undergraduate degree in London.

I found no need to have a driving license in London. I was lucky enough to spend my four years there in central locations. Everything was within walking distance, or just a tube ride away.

Part-way through my studies, in 2015, I lived in Casablanca, Morrocco. Casablanca at the time was seeing the introduction of Uber (which had seven drivers and I met them all).

My friends recommended I embrace the local red-coloured petit taxis. These were usually smaller older cars (pre-2000) that operated like an on-demand bus service.

At the time, a trip almost anywhere in Casablanca was less than €0.50. And taking an Uber was less than €2.00.

Arriving in Malta

I then moved to Malta to start an executive chauffeur service company. And frankly – when you have your own fleet of vehicles and drivers – I found no need to drive or have a driving license.

Now I work at eCabs, the leading ride-hailing company in the country. And lo and behold, I book eCabs whenever I need to go somewhere.

Malta has the second highest road density in the world, with some 18,000 vehicles per square km of road. Why would anyone want to go through the hassle of driving here? (Yes, I consider my colleagues who sometimes give me a lift ‘brave’).

How I justify it; or just do the Maths

As Kara Swisher points out in one of her NYT pieces, the ownership of a private vehicle will one day be as quaint as owning a horse.

Following Kara’s thoughts, I too don’t see the point in owning a personal vehicle.

Financially, vehicles can’t be considered an asset. They start rapidly depreciating in value the moment the vehicle leaves the showroom.

There are far too many risks involved in driving/parking it.

And frankly – even if you use it for an hour daily, that’s less than 5% of your entire day.

Invest in a good bed instead.

With the availability of micro-mobility, if I need to get somewhere, I ride an electric scooter* or walk (we have a great climate for that here in Malta).

If you’re spending less than €400 a month on cabs, you don’t need a car.

The business perspective

It’s been called ‘ironic’ as I work at a ride-hailing company, but is it?

Our clients come to us for mobility solutions. And corporate clientele are moving towards commitments to sustainability and providing eco-friendly solutions for their employees.

How can one truly understand a client if you don’t walk a mile in their shoes?

When it comes to eCabs, I use our cabs to attend meetings – and go through the same journey/experience that our customers do.

This ensures that I can keep a pulse on how our ride-hailing service is performing.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been able to point out simple things that would ensure a better service for corporate clients.

Such as ensuring that their Google Maps marker is registered correctly to allow for better route mapping and more accurate pick-up locations.

If I had driven myself to the client, would I have experienced this? No, but their employees using our services do, and it would have been overlooked from the get-go.

With Malta being what it is, I believe that every little effort helps in decongesting our roads and ensuring that we instil better mobility habits into future generations.

While others preach about change, I prefer to “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Ghandi).

Looking ahead: the future of personal mobility

I believe we’re at the precipice of how mobility will be defined for the generations to come.

If we plunge into the future with the right mindset and considerations for the environment, the urban setting and start correctly factoring in the costs of owning a private vehicle, we are going see a continuous adoption of greener, shared and even, perhaps, viable autonomous solutions.

*This blog was written a day prior to the Government of Malta announcing a ban on rental e-scooters from the 1st of March 2024. Private e-scooters will still be allowed.

The crucial role of mobility operators in urban planning

The crucial role of mobility operators in urban planning

Urban planning is the process of developing and designing urban areas to meet the needs of a community.

There are far too many considerations to list them all and dive into them in a blog. Yet – the practice draws from quite a few disciplines; architecture, engineering, economics, sociology, public health and more.

‘Sustainable development’ as an idea has been around since the late 20th century, as advocated by the United Nations-sponsored World Commission on Environment and Development in Our Common Future (1987).

As I discussed in my Policy Development blog, the mobility operator is once again a key stakeholder that is still being left out of the dialogue.

Enhancing efficiency and connectivity

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been used to map existing urban systems and attempt to project the consequences of change.

This approach is a slow-burning exercise. Whereupon historic data may no longer be relevant with the rapid change in consumer behaviour in relation to their mobility use.

Once again, real-time data that mobility platforms and operators have access to can be evaluated, to ensure that the behaviour of the citizens who are the key stakeholders of urban planning is being taken into consideration.

It’s currently estimated that the percentage of people living in urban areas has increased from 64% to 83% since 1950.

With cities becoming more populous, we must consider more than ‘how does one get from A to B.’ The question must consider how people navigate their urban spaces, for work, leisure, shopping, dining out and so on.

Antoine Zammit, an urban planning expert, highlighted the need for further collaboration among stakeholders in Malta at the Sustainable Transport: Adaption and Resilience in the Maltese Islands conference.

Leveraging the data

Mobility operators generate vast amounts of data related to usage patterns, peak hours, and popular routes. This offers valuable insights into urban mobility trends.

Urban planners can leverage this data to make informed decisions. Such as optimising public transportation routes, identifying gaps in infrastructure, and implementing demand-responsive services.

Tying in with the same pain points addressed with policy development, mobility platforms need to be integrated into the process of urban planning.

We have the data to validate decisions and provide guidance and evaluation of emerging trends. Ensuring that we can contribute to the acceleration of decision-making and improving the quality of life for citizens.

Poor infrastructure, congestion, and long driving distances negatively contribute to the quality of life. The more people who can move around without cars, the better for everyone.

Collaborative efforts can lead to optimised routes, reduced congestion, and increased connectivity. This will result in a more efficient and seamless urban mobility experience.

Addressing diversifying mobility needs

Since 2013, the SUMP model has been recognised as the new approach to urban mobility planning.

The model encompasses eight crucial principles:

  1. Plan for sustainable mobility in the entire ‘functional city’.
  2. Cooperate across institutional boundaries.
  3. Involve citizens and stakeholders.
  4. Assess current and future performance.
  5. Define a long-term vision and clear implementation plan.
  6. Develop all transport modes in an integrated manner.
  7. Arrange for monitoring and evaluation.
  8. Assure quality.

While the model has been around for a decade, and we’ve seen partial success in the adoption of the model in Spain, we’re still miles off. The lack of a common agency, institution, observatory or other organisation. It is not easy to know and confirm the successful implementation of this model.

#HarmonyH2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain – Simone Bosetti speaks about Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning recommendations and roadmaps.

An inclusive and sustainable transportation ecosystem

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is developing at break-neck speed. In part thanks to the low barriers of entry in micro mobility.

With the advent of alternative forms of transport, and the low-friction, digitised access – consumers have more access than ever before. And in parallel, mobility operators have more data to evaluate than ever before.

Access to this varied data can help develop an inclusive and sustainable transportation ecosystem that caters to the needs of all residents, including commuters, tourists, and individuals with mobility challenges.

Collaborating with urban planners allows for the integration of sustainable transportation infrastructure, such as charging stations, bike lanes, and pedestrian-friendly zones, resulting in reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality.

Different generations may have varying preferences for transportation modes. Baby boomers might prefer traditional public transit. While younger generations generally favour a mix of public transit, shared mobility, and active transportation.

Mobility platforms can offer insights into the demand for different modes of transportation, allowing urban planners to design infrastructure that encourages and supports multimodal transportation choices.

By considering the diverse needs of each generation, cities can create comprehensive transportation networks that seamlessly integrate various modes of transportation.

Ensuring equitable access

Generational differences can also manifest in terms of access to transportation services. It’s important to consider that not all generations have equal access to smartphones, digital platforms, or private vehicles.

Mobility operators can provide valuable insights into areas with limited access to transportation options, helping urban planners identify areas where public transit or shared mobility services should be prioritised.

I’ve used the example of ‘food deserts’ (an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food) before. The same argument still stands for mobility and the underrepresentation of access to mobility. Whether it be due to poor urban planning, lack of digital access or not having the right type of mobility available to use.

By involving mobility operators, cities can work towards creating equitable transportation systems that ensure equal access to mobility options for people of all generations.

Incorporating the diverse needs of each generation, cities can create transportation networks that meet the expectations of boomers, millennials, Gen Z, and future generations, fostering an accessible, sustainable, and technologically advanced urban mobility landscape.

How to travel sustainably and help save the planet

How to travel sustainably and help save the planet

The worldwide travel sector accounts for about eight percent of global carbon emissions. There are ways to travel sustainably and help the environment, and we need to make a difference.

What is sustainable travel?

As awareness of climate change intensifies, people are becoming more informed and concerned about the negative impact of travel.

They are consequently more willing to make a change to their usual travel habits. And they tend to choose more eco-friendly options, in aid of more sustainable travel.

One approach which is gaining traction is the concept of ‘slow travel’. This means that travel should be based on a connection to the local culture, people, and food of the place you are visiting. It also advocates less frequent but longer trips.

Moreover, it also entails travelling by more sustainable means, such as trains instead of planes, for instance.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, people started looking at travel in a different way. Perhaps there is a way of travelling more responsibly in the future, while reducing our carbon footprint.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses that a company or individual emits. These emissions have a detrimental effect on the environment.

They make the temperature of the planet go up, which results in various effects. These include the rising of sea levels and ice caps melting, as well as the increase of natural disasters such as floods, extreme heat, and hurricanes.

Travel sustainably by making the right choices

There are various ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint by making smarter choices and travelling more sustainably. This can be done in a number of ways, such as using public transport or walking/cycling instead of driving.

  • When travelling short distances, try to avoid using air travel. Trains and ferries have a smaller carbon footprint than planes.
  • Walk when at all possible, especially short distances.
  • Use public transport if possible.
  • Try to use multimodality options such as bicycles, taxi services, electric scooters, e-bikes and even ferries.
  • When booking a ride-hailing or taxi service, choose the ‘green‘ or ‘Eco‘ option.

Reduce your carbon footprint when travelling by air

If you have no choice but to travel by air, it’s important to consider the environmental impact of your flights. One way to do this is to choose airlines that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions.

Many airlines now offer ‘carbon offset programmes’, where passengers can pay a fee to offset the emissions generated by their flight.

This money is then used to fund projects that help reduce carbon emissions, such as reforestation or renewable energy projects.

Apart from airlines, other companies offer carbon offset programmes, which help to fund projects that help reduce carbon emissions.

These projects can include reforestation or renewable energy projects, for instance. This is another relatively ‘easy’ way to help mitigate the environmental impact of your travel.

Choose sustainable accommodation

When choosing where to stay, try eco-friendly hotels or guesthouses. These kinds of establishments are designed to minimise their environmental impact, for example, by using renewable energy sources, reducing water usage, recycling and energy efficient lighting measures.

Choosing to stay in smaller, locally-owned accommodations can have a positive impact on the local economy.

Another way to be more eco-friendly is to limit the use of air conditioning in your accommodation, as well as to be mindful about the amount of water you use when abroad. It might be a small thing to you but the energy savings can be quite substantial.

Reduce waste when travelling

Reducing waste is an important part of sustainable travel. When travelling, try to avoid using single-use plastics and instead take a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, and shopping bag.

Additionally, try to choose products with minimal packaging and dispose of waste properly, using recycling facilities where possible.

Give your support to local communities and businesses

Supporting local businesses and communities can have a positive impact on the environment and the local economy. Try to eat at local restaurants that use local and seasonal produce, and buy souvenirs from local artisans.

Go for sustainable activities

When planning your travel, choose activities that have a minimal environmental impact, such as hiking and cycling.

These are great ways to enjoy the natural environment while lessening your impact on it. You could also choose to visit places such as national parks and protected areas.

These kinds of locations often have strong commitment to sustainable tourism.

By following these tips for travelling sustainably, you can help reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying all that travel has to offer.

How to travel sustainably with us

Through its cutting-edge tech solutions, eCabs Technologies has given incentives to its drivers to opt for more environmentally-friendly vehicles by charging them a lower commission rate on the rides they perform, to encourage them to move to a more more eco-friendly solution.

To determine the commercial and operational feasibility of an all-electric fleet, it launched a pilot research project that involved testing various all-electric car brands in a 24/7 operational context.

The aim was to collect data that would shed light on the viability of using electric vehicles in such an environment.

When booking a taxi with eCabs, one can request the Eco category. This category is made up of 100 percent electric or hybrid vehicles, ensuring a ‘cleaner’ journey. Eco ride prices on the platform are at par with the lowest rides among all available options. 

eCabs’ own fleet is also leading the way into a more eco-friendly future by setting into motion an ambitious project for more sustainable travel which will see it run completely on green vehicles in the near future.

No change without political consensus 2

“There is no change without political consensus” – eCabs Technologies CEO

Speaking at a Times of Malta event titled ‘The Road to Reliable Public Transport’ held on Wednesday 22nd February 2023, eCabs Technologies CEO Matthew Bezzina said that the time has come for certain measures to discourage the ownership of private cars.

However, in order for these measures to be consistent, there needed to be political consensus between the government and other political parties to ensure longevity.

Mr Bezzina stressed that it is no use for one government to agree to implement certain measures only to see them ignored or buried by the subsequent government.

“If we’re going to introduce paid on-street parking, it cannot succeed if it clashes with the car-centric policy we’ve been implementing,” he stated.

Mr Bezzina compared the situation to separated parents who have custody of a child, saying that they both must agree on certain rules. “For instance, if they both say no to junk food, the child benefits overall. This is the kind of political consensus that we need.”

The real cost of ‘public real estate’

Mr Bezzina also highlighted that parked cars are taking up an overwhelming amount of public space. Here again, political consensus was needed to find a solution, he said. He noted that parking spaces take up two-thirds of Maltese roads. Moreover, 75 percent of parked cars are on public land.

“Those could be bus lanes, scooter lanes, wider pavements, or avenues of trees. We have to see the opportunity in these spaces and truly consider the cost of this public real estate. What can we do with all this space that cars are occupying without contributing anything?”

One solution could lie within the ride hailing industry, as part of a transport mix towards sustainable multimodality that can unclog the roads on the densest country in the EU.

No change without political consensus

Other speakers at the event included Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Dr Aaron Farrugia, economist Marie Briguglio, Malta Public Transport General Manager Konrad Pulé, and Head of Geography and Director of the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development at the University of Malta Professor Maria Attard.

You can read more and watch the full event here.

eCabs record growth

Record growth and innovation at eCabs

eCabs’ CEO Matthew Bezzina met The Malta Business Weekly for an insight into how the company’s business has changed since the onset of the pandemic, and the way forward from here. “eCabs registered record numbers throughout the summer months, defying the general economic and tourism downward trends. This success boils down to strategic focus and an incessant investment in people and technology,” he says.

Business wise, do you feel eCabs are over the worst of the pandemic hit? 

The pandemic hit us worse than most other sectors because our business thrives on mobility and connecting people. Two elements decimated through social distancing restrictions. But we believed the crisis was temporary and we bounced back, gaining tremendous growth and market share. An independent survey ranked us as the leading local ride-hailing service provider in Malta. This summer, we managed to exceed 2019 volumes (incidentally a record year) in a summer market that has seen a 75% drop in incoming tourism numbers. Throughout Covid, the team showed impressive stamina and commitment. And we are now reaping the benefits of all that hard work with healthy double-digit growth over the best year the company has ever had. The indicators couldn’t look any better. 

What do you attribute this post-pandemic success to? 

We stuck to our vision without allowing the pandemic to disrupt us. We amplified our focus on every tactical decision, optimised costs, tapped into new sources of business, and ensured we kept adapting to evolving circumstances. Furthermore, the team’s all hands-on-deck commitment, complemented by shareholders’ determination to accelerate investment in technology was another factor. So, 17 months on, we are stronger than ever, with a much-improved product and a best-in-class fully-owned mobility tech platform used daily by over 800 partner drivers with a consistent growth of 5-star customer rating. 

What do you think of the new normal? 

Smooth seas never bred skilled sailors. Covid made us bring the best in us all both emotionally and commercially. From an HR perspective, the new normal ushered in a new breed of determined team members and today, we are together stronger, grittier, faster and more motivated. Of course, there was collateral damage but we also learnt some great positive lessons.  

What are your predictions for the coming months? 

From a business and market share perspective we are expecting the same growth patterns of the last quarter. Covid has readjusted travel and behavioural patterns, so we expect to see the same positive tourism numbers throughout the rest of Q4. Locally, decreases in costs and subsequently in pricing have driven further adoption of our service. We are committed to remain the ride-hailing service with the shortest waiting time at the best prices as we strive to reflect these optimisations on customer prices. The medium term is looking even better as mobility grows but we are excited by our north star: the internationalisation of our technology operations into multiple regions as of next year. 

eCabs has been increasingly focusing on the technology side of business. Does this now define the organisation?  

eCabs today is a mobility product and technology company employing over 50 technologists with ten nationalities in five different countries. The number increased substantially over the past 17 months and will be exponentially growing in the medium to long term as we continue building our fully IP-owned tech platform drawing upon 11 years of invaluable experience operating in one of the world’s most dense road networks. We see the future in our mobility business as one that is defined by data aggregation and machine learning. To enable machine-made decisions at speed and scale as well as exponential improvements and product automation. This level of intensive optimisation will enable us to be always faster and cheaper, without ever compromising on service levels. 

eCabs record growth

The concept of sustainability increasingly dominates the agenda. Where are you at with your project launched earlier this year to operate a fully Eco-friendly fleet by 2025? Is this project really feasible? 

To date, our Eco cab category in our app allows clients the option to order Eco vehicles. We also added 120 Partner Drivers using Eco vehicles by giving financial incentives, so they keep investing in green vehicles. Furthermore, we have added three fully-electric cabs to our existing hybrids. This is part of a pilot project to assess industry adaptability and feasibility. Government needs to invest more in the right charging infrastructure and to incentivise fleet-conversion. We also need constant communication with all stakeholders, especially government and regulators, to design incentives for partner drivers and fleet operators to shift to cleaner vehicles. The project is as feasible as all the stakeholders make it.  

eCabs currently operates with over 800 partner drivers. Why do you call them ‘partner drivers’?  

The term ‘partner driver’ replaced the industry term ‘self-employed driver’ and reflects the relationship we want to have with our drivers. Our partner drivers are crucial stakeholders just like our clients. Although our group owns a fleet, many other fleets work on our platform. Today, the majority of trips are fulfilled by our growing list of partner drivers. They go through a rigorous onboarding process to be allowed to offer our service. We nurture consistent and open communication with all our partners because this is the only way a sustainable industry can thrive. 

What kept you back from implementing the partner driver model before? 

Unlike others in the market, we always worked within the parameters of the regulatory framework. This took a long time. It was only in October 2020, following a period of consultation, that the new regulations for “Light Passenger Transport Services” were launched. This consequently regularised the position of all partner drivers. We also started onboarding partner drivers. And in a matter of months our success was beyond expectations. Success that is due to our approach where partner drivers are not considered as numbers, but business partners who invested in their vehicle and want to provide an exceptional service to our joint client-base. 

What other milestones have defined eCabs’ operations over the past year?   

The past year was all about technology. We launched our own very successful and advanced in-App-based loyalty scheme eCabs Circle, whilst re-building and enhancing our own App with multiple iterations. Most of our new tech made our system more robust and scalable and led to the new partner driver platform which was inexistent. The future should bring us more technology to keep on reinventing the next mobility game-changer. 

In the press:

The Malta Business Weekly

The green way forward

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.