Green.org sat down with Mickael Barjoud, VP Expansion at Onto, to learn about how they are revolutionizing the all-inclusive electric car subscription.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
I originally studied civil engineering & urban planning in Lyon, France. One of the things that you learn in urban planning is how cities have been designed for personal car ownership since the 1960s. When you think about it, this represents an unsustainable model in a world where resources are becoming scarce and up to 80% of the world population is expected to live in cities by the 2050s.
These challenges inspired me to join Uber in 2015, as it was one of the few companies at the time that was boldly looking to tackle the perceived need for a personal car in cities by providing affordable & reliable access to mobility at the touch of a button. I developed my career through a variety of roles across Uber and Uber Eats over a number of years, gaining diverse skills at each step to make me a relatively well-rounded generalist with an expertise in scaling businesses. I then joined MyTutor at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic as Chief of Staff, at a time when online education was a lifeline for many teachers, parents and students during repeated lockdowns; but as life started to return to normal I was approached by Onto to drive its internationalisation into new markets as VP of Expansion.
In my current role, I’m responsible for launching our all-inclusive electric car subscription service in new countries, starting with Germany in 2023. In a way things have come full circle – back to challenging traditional forms of car ownership. Through a flexible monthly subscription, Onto is accelerating the shift towards EV usership as and when people need them, without having to commit to owning an expensive asset outright for years to come.
What would you do with $1 Billion dollars?
This is such a hard and yet easy answer at the same time! Climate change is by far the biggest challenge we face as a species, impacting our lives profoundly and the survival of almost every living being on Earth.
Its economic toll alone is estimated to top $178 trillion over the next 50 years. As such, there is not a single facet of the economy that wouldn’t benefit from the extra money and there are plenty of opportunities for budding entrepreneurs, existing businesses, governments and consumers to make a difference. If I have to pick one area though, I’d like to explore technologies and services that can create a leverage effect with that $1bn investment. I see a place for non-profit service(s) that inform consumers and businesses alike on how sustainable various consumables and services are we rely on every day.
I see this as being a way to drive demand towards those companies that truly make a positive impact in the world and forcing the biggest polluters to invest more towards sustainable change within their business models.
Why do you think sustainability is such an important topic today?
I alluded to it in my previous answer, the human impact that has contributed to climate change is becoming ever harder to deny and the topic has never been higher in the global consciousness. Everyone is starting to feel the impact of changing & more extreme weather patterns and the impact it’s having on the raw resources we rely on – it’s becoming crucial to buck the trend. At the same time, I firmly believe that citizens want to do the right thing, but that it’s not always easy, accessible or evident to identify what is the right thing to do. People should be able to rely on lawmakers and businesses to provide & incentivise new solutions that make more sustainable living feasible for most.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
Mobility & the infrastructure surrounding it has been built around the concept that everyone should own a car; it was the definition of freedom, maturity and adulthood for billions of people over the last decades. But a car is an expensive asset that requires lots of mineral resources at production, ongoing day-to-day maintenance and importantly – space. The irony is that a car will remain idle or parked for 95% of its usable life, and about 15% of space in cities is dedicated to parking these vehicles.
More and more people in and around the industry realise this model won’t last and I believe the current decade will be transformational in that respect. We need to produce fewer – and greener – cars and yet manage to transport more people with them over their lifetime. That’s where the concept of car ownership will be replaced by a multitude of services that will replace different parts of the experience.
On one end of the spectrum you have micromobility or ridesharing services for short distances in urban centres; towards the other end of the spectrum you have services like Onto that provide access to a more sustainable vehicle for the time in your life where you need a car on a near daily basis, with insurance, servicing and charging all included to make driving electric a hassle-free experience. Through technology and harnessing data insights, we can then make sure that the cars in circulation are optimally used to move people around – without cars sitting idle, losing value and wasting resources.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
I think what’s key is not to get overwhelmed into inaction because living a more sustainable life feels like too radical a change. Nobody is perfect and nobody will ever be doing everything right when it comes to fighting climate change. The opportunity to make regular progress starts with building new sustainable habits in your everyday life. To start with, people should look for an element in their daily life that isn’t critical enough they wouldn’t be able to live without, but that is meaningful enough that it moves them a step in the right direction.
By repeating this new behaviour over and over, a new habit will be formed and it will feel like no effort at all. When this happens it’s time to move to another aspect of your life. For example, I’ve never been one to shop clothes excessively, but for the past few years I have tried to limit my purchases to what I need, only clothes with natural garments and to buy from more sustainable brands that do not partake into fast fashion. That felt quite easy to start with.
Eating meat on the other hand wasn’t something I could go entirely without just like that, but building on past successes to adjust my ways of living – and regular encouragement from my partner – I’ve now also dramatically reduced my meat consumption, reserving it for special occasions with higher quality produce. I still occasionally fail to follow these habits entirely, but I keep making progress over time and what I’ve not consumed (vs. doing nothing) now far outweighs what I have. Ultimately, I see climate change as everyone’s fight, and everyone can do their part by incrementally adapting their life to live more sustainably. It’s the sum of these behaviours that will eventually make a difference.