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Roadmap for Future Mobility: Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)

19 Jul 2023

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) brings with it the promise of finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our times. Nations, the world over are seeking to find ways of transition to clean fuels, and mobility is no exception. While electric mobility and other clean fuel powered variants have already demonstrated the feasibility of such a transition, the need is to look beyond just vehicles. 

A truly sustainable mobility ecosystem warrants resource sharing and certain tenets of circularity, which ensures higher levels of utilisation, while meeting the aspirations of an ever-increasingly nuanced commuter. The same also needs to be equitable and inclusive to be truly sustainable. 

MaaS foregrounds the principle of sustainability, as optimising the use of each form of transport makes it possible to save resources and avoid emissions (Iberdrola, 2023). Most definitions of MaaS share a common vision built around a few central ideas which also define its philosophy and components (Bianchi Alves et al, 2021): 

Inefficiency of the classic mobility paradigm.
Addressing inefficiencies through multimodal travel.
Technology-driven single user interface, often utilizing smartphone apps.
Empowering customers through a customer-centric paradigm shift.

Unlocking the Potential of Electric Mobility-as-a-Service (eMaaS)

The thrust on Electric Mobility-as-a-Service (eMaaS) unlocks avenues to improve the collective understanding of associated aspects of mobility transition such as vehicles, batteries, charging infrastructure and ancillary services. 

One particular point that will drive eMaaS will be the role played by battery technology. Requirements for battery technology for MaaS services will be different compared to personal use vehicles. Given the evolution of electric vehicle battery technology, there are various uses emerging for vehicle batteries, especially for two-way interaction with the grid. That brings in various additional demands that need to be considered when designing batteries for vehicles. 

Strategy for Unlocking MaaS Benefits for India

In India, the evolution of the MaaS ecosystem is still at a nascent stage. Talking of eMaaS is crucial at this stage because there is an opportunity to create a technology leapfrog in the process which benefits various stakeholders – vehicle manufacturers, battery manufacturers, MaaS operators, aggregators and others. 

However, there are a series of barriers – technological, regulatory, financial – that need to be addressed around the deployment of eMaaS as a service in India. There is a multi-dimensional approach to bring together the benefits of Mobility as a Service and electric mobility and the various trends surrounding these two facets of mobility. Therefore, unlocking the benefits can be achieved with a five-pronged strategy. This approach must encompass regulatory, financial and technological domains.

Regulatory Approach:

In terms of a regulatory approach, a series of steps need to be undertaken at varying levels of governance, thanks to the nature of governance structure in India. While some steps have been taken to address gaps, more needs to be done by relevant authorities. This includes the following: 

Clarity on policy formulation, including regulatory approaches for bike taxis and deregulating the passenger three-wheeler market.
Integrated transport planning supported by a robust legal framework.
Collaboration with electricity regulators to facilitate the growth of public charging and battery swapping infrastructure.
Reframing Development Control Regulations (DCR) to encourage charging infrastructure utilization, clarifying ambiguous areas like the definition of “common spaces.”
Establishing low emission and ultra-low emission zones in cities to promote electric mobility, particularly in shared mobility.

Infrastructure and Technology Requirements:

Infrastructure and technology requirements have to be tackled on priority basis to achieve the full potential, with a particular focus on the charging ecosystem for vehicle and/or battery swap stations. This is critical particularly when it comes to integrating electric vehicles into the MaaS framework in this, a series of steps can be extremely helpful: 

Ensuring land availability through land banks and concessional land for charging infrastructure development.
Establishing a collaboration framework among stakeholders in the charging ecosystem, defining roles and implementation methods.
Promoting technology integration through voluntary data sharing standards, enabling an open platform for data exchange.
Facilitating financial integration into existing technology platforms to fully unlock MaaS benefits, emphasizing openness, inclusivity, and data sovereignty.

Financial Integration:

Financial sector also has a role to play in unlocking the benefits. It is imperative to present options that can help adjust the cost suitably and bring it closer to the cost of contemporary internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, especially in larger form factors. Some steps that can be considered in that direction are as follows: 

Introducing additional benefits under the Scrappage Policy for commercial vehicles transitioning to electric adoption.
Making financing more affordable through interest subvention schemes, financed by a small cess on petrol and diesel sales.
Establishing a first loss fund mechanism to support increased lending for electric vehicle purchases.

Roadmap for Future Mobility

Over the last decade, vehicle electrification has occurred mostly in the personal vehicle segment. Considering the rise in air pollution, governments and policymakers are increasingly focused on electrifying high-mileage vehicle applications like MaaS. A new emerging extension of MaaS is electric MaaS (e-MaaS) which combines MaaS, electric mobility ecosystem, and shared electric mobility services. It aims to ensure that the future of MaaS is “eco-friendly” along with being shared. There has been evidence showing the potential for EVs to improve the business case for MaaS. The EV market in India is at an inflection point, and it would be much easier and cheaper to define standards that ensure future readiness and offer an integrated and environment-friendly solution to the Indian consumer.

This article has been derived from the CII and OMI Foundation report on “Roadmap for Future Mobility 2030”.