with Nicolas Gorse, Dott’s Regional General Manager for France and Belgium
The Business of Mobility is a series of articles penned by business leaders in sustainable mobility.
Dott, headquartered in Amsterdam, operates a fleet of e-scooters across 9 European countries. In October 2021 it expanded beyond e-scooters and started offering e-bike services in Paris among other major cities. Dott’s vision ‘to free our cities with clean rides for everyone’ foresees inner cities free of cars, congestion, and pollution.
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We (virtually) visited Nicolas Gorse at the Dott warehouse in Paris, which is used for repairs, maintenance and battery charging to ask him about the business of Dott.
Autonomy: You come from an automotive background; what can the micromobility platform business learn from automobiles?
Nicolas: I would not call us a platform business; our value chain is integrated and we are primarily a service provider for micromobility solutions. But to answer your question, the automotive industry understands things like service intervals and life of parts; and they know exactly how to keep a vehicle functioning optimally on the roads by changing the right parts at the right time. So, that’s something we emulate. However, it should be noted we do not manufacture our own vehicles, yet.
Autonomy: Okay, so tell me what makes your e-mobility service different?
Nicolas: Like others in the business, we promote the idea that cars can easily be replaced by these smaller devices. However, unlike other businesses, we’re very particular about specifications. For example, we place a big emphasis on safety, repairability, and recyclability. Eventually, our ambition is that in the near future we will sustainably make all our own scooters from our large hardware hub in Amsterdam.
Autonomy: Whether you make the scooters or not, you’re rather fanatical about getting them to last?
Nicolas: Yes, we’re very particular about maintenance; for example, most of our e-scooters have lasted three years already in Paris and in various other cities where Dott operates. Those that were badly vandalised (e.g. thrown into the Seine) and cannot be repaired, we ‘vampirize’ for spare parts. We’re almost militant about reuse. When a scooter can no longer be put back on the road, every last nut and bolt is stripped out and sorted into categories. Thanks to our employment model, every mechanic has the same reusable parts conveniently close at hand, incentivising them to reuse as opposed to getting up and barcoding for a new part.
Autonomy: You have some interesting uses for all scooter parts…
Nicolas: We don’t like to throw anything away. Waste is our first KPI at weekly meetings. Pallets are turned into furniture, tyres are used to protect edges and scooter handlebars are repurposed into holders for water-hoses. Let’s just say it’s our contribution to Paris being not just the world’s fashion capital but also the world’s mobility capital in sustainability.
Autonomy: On the topic of KPIs, what’s the second KPI at your weekly meetings?
Nicolas: Health and safety for our warehouse, field teams and of course our service users. As a micromobility operator, our offer to the public is a cleaner, more engaged way of moving around the city. Furthermore, we like to practice what we preach. So, we are laser-focused on safety here at the warehouse in terms of the way we work. And that culture feeds into operational excellence and to give users the best possible experience.
Autonomy: What’s the most common workplace injury that concerns you?
Nicolas: We’re very good about engineering out the risks of collisions and falling tools in the factory; and so perhaps a more common injury are ones created by repetitive tasks, like back strain for the mechanics. We have these special adjustable work benches and we’re very particular about the design of the work area, to ensure we limit strain and awkward movements. The mechanics have everything close at hand and they can adjust their position easily, without the need to bend their back.
Autonomy: And one of the upsides is healthy and happy mechanics…I assume?
Nicolas: Yes, that’s important. Part of the ethos of Dott is to ensure employees feel like they are valued members of the organisation. Everyone here is a shareholder in the business. The team spirit is strong and we’re fortunate to have very little staff turnover, in fact none since August 2020.
Autonomy: Everyone is talking about climate change, carbon neutral, and net zero. What’s Dott’s position?
Nicolas: Firstly, it’s important that we distinguish between carbon-neutral and net-zero carbon. Since we launched in 2019, Dott has offset all its emissions through carbon credits and the like, which means we are currently carbon neutral. However, net zero is different; that means reducing our emissions to zero, including the so-called Scope 3 emissions, i.e., indirect emissions that are part of our value chain.
Autonomy: Yes, on your website you mention that your warehouse and battery charging runs on renewables and of course your vehicles are all electric, so that more-or-less covers your Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
Nicolas: That’s right. Calculating carbon is complex, so we’ve partnered with an independent third-party label, CO2logic, to model our footprint. In 2021 we reduced emissions by 40% per kilometre ridden, with the aim of less than 20g CO2 per km. To put that into context, just the tailpipe emissions of an average ICE vehicle are ten times this amount. And that’s not factoring in the full value chain, as our calculations do.
Autonomy: And when you factor in the full value-chain, what’s your biggest challenge in terms of reaching that goal.
Nicolas: Electric mobility has one major challenge before it becomes truly sustainable, and that’s the batteries. This is the least environmentally friendly part of the vehicle. We’re very proud of our battery room here at the warehouse in Paris. We can charge around a thousand batteries here, in safe and optimal conditions. We’re very particular about following the safety protocols and about how we treat the batteries to ensure we maximise their use. We find we can get about 1,000 charge cycles before capacity drops to 75%.
Autonomy: And then what?
Nicolas: At that rate, the battery is operationally sub-optimal. And now it becomes an environmental challenge. One that we are yet to master. The good news is that the battery reuse and recycling industry is evolving fast. Currently, some of our old batteries enjoy a second life storing solar power on a farm in the south of France. But for a long-term sustainable solution we must change the actual design of the battery. In other words, they must be specifically designed for repairability and sustainability.
Autonomy: That sounds like a complex story?
Nicolas: Yes, it’s not our core business and so we’ve partnered with French battery innovator Gouach on a new project to make batteries that are fully sustainable.
Autonomy: That sounds exciting; please keep us updated on developments there. And finally, where do you see the micromobility sharing industry going?
Future of micromobility sharing
Nicolas: Micromobility is like a form of decentralized mass transit. We can geofence our fleet and control for speed, parking and fines. Within the new mobility space, micromobility sharing hits the sweet spot because it combines three key features of the new industry: shared, connected, and electric. We’re also seeing micromobility operators pushing the envelope on environmental and social concerns; I think there is a feelgood factor to what we do. And I think companies like Dott not only want to change the way people move, but also the way they work. So, ethics and sustainability are part of this new mobility revolution. Which is why it’s such an exciting place to be.