Born and raised in Uruguay, Jorge Bialade commenced his automotive career more than 10 years ago in South America covering all aspects related to this industry. He moved to the GCC back in 2015 to lead YallaMotor. Now, the largest automotive site in the region with more than 14 million unique car buyers, more than 30+ million purely automotive sessions and 150+ million page views a year. Jorge’s vision is to empower every driver and passenger in the Middle East to make informed decisions across the entire car buying, selling, maintenance, and transportation process.
We had the opportunity to ask Jorge a few questions on the electric and smarter mobility industry before Smarter Mobility World 2020. See what he had to say:
SMW: How do you think the electric and smarter mobility industry in your region will perform in the next 1 - 5 years?
JB: We are definitely seeing more choice in the industry, with mainstream manufacturers such as Renault, Chevrolet, and Audi joining the EV segment here in the Middle East. Despite being a relatively small segment of the automotive market at this point in time, with the initiatives the UAE Government has in place, along with increased knowledge and awareness from buyers coming mainly from other countries which are a lot more advanced; there is definitely room for a lot more growth in the EV sector. However, the UAE alone won’t cut it. To speed up this transition we need everyone in the region on board.
SMW: What are the top burning electric and smarter mobility challenges faced by manufacturers and consumers?
JB: Manufacturers and buyers are much like two sides of the same coin, they both eventually want the same thing: faster charging times, lower prices, more convenience. The challenges are connected, and they generate a cycle that is hard to break. It starts with consumers finding it expensive and inconvenient to convert to electric vehicles. That’s because the production of such vehicles is still low, infrastructure not developed enough and consumer education is not there. Governments don’t spend on developing infrastructure because there aren’t enough numbers of vehicles on the roads. While Manufacturers can’t reduce prices by increasing production because people aren’t buying enough EVs.
SMW: What are the key trends in your region that drive the electric and smarter mobility industry?
JB: The rise in fuel prices over the past few years was a major trend that drove electric and smarter mobility solutions ahead, for example look at the number of Hybrids and EVs sold in Jordan and Lebanon. The GCC was less affected by that trend, but the emergence of Tesla as a trend of its own pushed a percentage of people to start enquiring more about alternative ways of mobility. Having said that at this point in time, there isn’t enough push for individuals to purchase an EV. The majority of the push is from the Government to make a majority of its fleet electric in the coming years. There is also a push to increase EVs in the public transport sector (electric buses, hybrid taxis etc).
SMW: What are the key opportunities and challenges?
JB: There are plenty of opportunities for manufacturers and governments to work together and make the prices of EVs more attractive. Currently, the price of an EV is simply not justified and this is where there is room for improvement with, for example, subsidies. The big challenge also lies in educating the masses. The consumer is demanding that an EV should perform as an ICE. Something that just, now, won’t happen. Without compromising much and aligning our lifestyle accordingly, I will say that a massive percentage of the regular car owners will be able to comfortably live and commute with an EV.
Using an example coming from mobile devices. Back in the days, before 2007 when the first iPhone was launched, most of the mobile users were used to charge their devices every 3 to 5 days. However, the iPhone, which had to be charged in less than 24 hours, was a great success due to the functionalities and completely new experience this device introduced. My point here is that consumers changed their “fueling” habits to access something better.
SMW: How do you foresee electric and smarter mobility in the future?
JB: I would like to see a transparent, connected and commercialized electric and smarter mobility industry.
Transparent: meaning actually knowing how much CO2 footprint does the industry produce in making these EVs and mining lithium for their batteries. In addition, how much effect does it really have on the environment and the weight of the automotive industry across the board.
Connected: to really optimize and make maximum benefit of these smarter mobility solutions they have to be connected, imagine all vehicles on the roads communicating with each other to minimize waste and maximize performance.
Commercialized: I think the true effect this industry will have on the environment will only be felt and measured once we see such solutions implemented all across commercial and public transport vehicles. Now we have a very narrow focus on individual vehicles that make a small percentage of the causes of pollution in major cities.
SMW: The top 3 themes you will share/have shared at the seminar/conference?
- Findings in the 2020 Consumer Electric Vehicle Buyer Report
- Compare them to last year’s findings
- Suggestions for what can be done to increase EVs on the roads of the Middle East
SMW: What are the burning issues that keep you awake at night?
The lack of awareness in the market about Electric vehicles, their benefits, and their drawbacks. There is a lot of people talking about it but very, very few actually doing something.
SMW: Forecasts and predictions for the year ahead?
JB: Mainstream brands will introduce more choices when it comes to available EVs in the market, more demand from the public, especially in certain parts of the region. I hope that it will be accompanied by a development in infrastructure as well. Something that will help, charging stations in the buildings.
SMW: What is one piece of advice you'd give to an electric and/or smarter mobility company?
JB: Inform, Inform and Inform, demand and intrigue are out there in public, but what’s missing is factual information about the benefits of these smarter mobility products and how they need to be used.
SMW: What advice would you give to a new fleet manager starting in the electric and smarter mobility industry?
JB: It depends on the usage. But I will say that nowadays, going Hybrid sounds a lot more reasonable.
SMW: What do you see as the most significant threat to the electric and smarter mobility industry and why?
JB: Cheaper and more efficient Internal Combustion Engines that will slow down the adoption of EVs. In addition, we should look at this on a regional level other than on a country-specific one. Volume-wise we are a lot more attractive as a region. This will allow manufacturers and governments to quickly scale it.
SMW: What current innovations are you aware of in the electric and smarter mobility industry?
- Solar Powered EVs
- Hydrogen fuel cell cars
- Electric-powered air crafts
- Autonomous trucks
SMW: What trends in the electric and smarter mobility industry e.g. hydrogen fuel cell technology and/or development do you think will impact the industry the most?
JB: The upcoming Hydrogen-powered vehicles, if they can become mainstream, will give EVs a run for their money as Hydrogen is cheaper, cleaner, and much faster to refill.