What about people today who do not want to or cannot own a car? About half of the Swiss population lives in communities with 100-12,000 inhabitants with little or at least reduced availability of mobility services. Often, family members play driving service for people who cannot be mobile themselves in these communities. They take the grandfather to the hairdresser or drive the daughter to football training.
We enable people to be independently mobile without a car.
In doing so, we combine the three themes of mobility, new technology and sustainability in small communities, in the countryside and in the Alps.
The idea for mybuxi was born in January 2018 during the first mobility meetup of the open innovation platform: “innolab smart mobility”. The question was: “Why is public transport still supply-oriented in times of “on demand”?”
Only, is that a really relevant question? In Swiss cities: no. Dense tram, bus and S-Bahn networks as well as taxis cover needs around the clock. The situation is different in the countryside.
We quickly experienced this ourselves: a meeting with the representatives of two interested communities, Höchstetten and Hellsau, had to be moved to Herzogenbuchsee because there was no connection to these villages, 30 km north of Bern.
So, the need is real. A call from a representative of a Catalan start-up called Shotl a few weeks later brought us closer to a trial: with that we had a solution.
The next step was to raise the funds for a pilot. The innolab did not yet have any funds of its own. We therefore submitted an application to the “Coordination Office for Sustainable Mobility” (KOMO) of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC), with the municipalities of Herzogenbuchsee and Ostermundigen as partners.
The application was approved in June 2018 for three pilot regions. Now the rest of the funding still had to be secured: the Engagement Migros development fund became aware of our project and our innovation partner – not only with money, but with their experience and network, they became a “gold partner” for us. The Canton of Bern also supports the project, with the condition that three perimeters must be in the Canton of Bern.
The pioneering region
Parallel to the funding, work started with Herzogenbuchsee for our first pilot perimeter. In a few weeks in autumn 2018, the necessary decisions were picked up in the municipality and the association “EBuxi” was founded in November 2018. The neighbouring municipality of Niederönz decided to participate. The local energy supplier EWK covered the costs for the vehicles. The recruitment of drivers and riders began, then the setting up of the IT system, the training of the drivers and on 27 April 2019 the opening party took place.
Electric mobility in rural areas is not that easy: there are hardly any charging stations there. Therefore, we built two ourselves: one at the train station, where the only physical mybuxi stop is located, and one in the garage.
Battery cars are not optimal for our use: we drive 18-19 hours a day, and longer charging times during operation are not possible. For mybuxi, hydrogen fuel cell cars that can be refuelled in a few minutes would be more suitable. But where are the vehicles and the H2 filling stations?
The bottom line
The question was: is there a real need for “demand-driven mobility services” in the countryside? In Herzogenbuchsee, the answer is yes. In the first 10 months, over 21,000 people were transported. A second vehicle has been in operation since 24 February 2020. And there have been and still are enquiries from all the surrounding municipalities as to whether and when the service can be extended to their area.
The communities in our operating areas have received a better service for a fraction of the cost of a local bus: the average waiting and journey time is significantly less than a scheduled local bus and the service spans 18-19 hours, 7 days a week.