Uber looking to expand in Belgium
But a recent study in US cities revealed that services, like Uber and Lyft, lead to more congestion. While this is true in some cases, according to Heywood, it is because the public transport offering in those areas is insufficient. “Our service completes public transport offering. In London, just like in Brussels, the main focus of Uber’s activity is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. during weekends.”
Heywood says Uber’s relation with the Brussels authorities is good. “We are regularly in contact with them. Given the recent elections, there are certainly different contacts, but the ambition around mobility seems good.”
But Heywood also sees the need for changes, especially in regulation. “For example, we can’t launch Uber Pool, which makes it possible for different people to share a ride. It exists in Paris and London, but in Belgium, it is illegal to rent just one seat. The whole ride has to be reserved by one single client.”
Meanwhile, Uber wants to expand its Jump bike service in Brussels, which today counts 1.200 bikes. “The city lends itself to the service because it is compact and commuting distances are relatively short compared to other cities.” A third of commuters in the city live less than 10 km from work, which is ideal for an electric bike. “The growth of Uber Jump is interesting, but the big test will be the coming winter.”
Uber doesn’t fear competition, according to Heywood. “We are quite open. In many cities where we don’t have Jump, we work with Lime. If there are more actors in the market, it is because people want this kind of transport.”
While Uber doesn’t have competition from companies like Bolt, Kapten, and Vivian in Brussels, it doesn’t necessarily simplify business. “Our real competitor is the private car. The challenge is to change user habits, and it often helps to have competitors which spread the same message,” says Heywood.
London: completely electric
In London, Uber has an ambitious objective: only working with electric cars by 2025. Being Uber’s biggest market, the city has an ideal framework to realize this ambition. “The new mayor has evident ambitions to reduce pollution. There are restrictions and taxes to avoid congestion in certain areas and more low emission zones,” says Uber Clear Air Fund and Transit manager, Fred Jones.
Uber can also count on favorable market conditions. “At this time, half of the cars registered on the platform is a hybrid.” But the company is trying to stimulate drivers to convert to an electric car. “Since January, we charge the customer an additional tax of 0,15 pounds per mile. This amount will be given to the driver to help him buy an electric car. The system has already managed to collect 40 million pounds,” says Jones.
Uber is confident in its electrification strategy and is skipping an intermediary phase of stimulating hybrid car usage. It is not seen as a real solution in the long term. For Uber, this electrification helps its marketing, but according to Jones, it is more than that. “When we do something well, we want to talk about it. The problem of pollution is quite simple: either you are part of the problem or part of the solution. We don’t want to play a bad role.”