Hi Veronika, how are things? What are you working on these days?
Hi Andrew, great to speak with you and thanks for having me! Lately, I’ve been fully focused on setting Mileus up for success in our plans to expand to the UK. And to introduce Mileus shortly, we build intermodal technology for a seamless combination of public transport and ride-hailing services that ride-hail operators integrate in their apps to provide this combined transport service to end users. This way, we take the hassle out of everyday commute.
Can you tell us about how you ended up at Milieus?
After having worked for and with companies of various sizes, from early-stage startups to scale-ups to large corporations like Accenture and Google, I felt I wanted to get back to the dynamic culture of a startup; full of freedom, agility, and that excitement of building something new.
When Mileus was looking for a CMO, and I was in discussions with our CEO Juraj Atlas, it did feel like my next passion project. Mileus really spoke to me with its vision to motivate people to leave their cars at home - with a viable and comfortable alternative. One that is not bringing yet another new mode of transport, disconnected from the others, but one that seamlessly integrates existing ways of getting around, specifically public transport and taxi services, utilising each where it works best to create the perfect commuting solution. So, you can leave your car at home without a worry.
How did you end up living in Prague?
With my now husband, we are both originally from Slovakia, and with previous international experience, we felt the capital city Bratislava was a bit too small for us, business opportunities-wise. We were looking to make a move to a large European capital, and Prague came out to be the perfect place, all perspectives considered.
It’s large enough business-wise with lots of international companies operating from here, but still small enough to feel at home - and we did have a special place in our hearts for Prague. We just love its vibrant city centre where its unique historic architecture and spirit blends with the modern culture, experiences, and gastronomy. And practically speaking, it’s one of the few European capitals where you can afford to live comfortably, even luxuriously, in the heart of the city and not have to go through the troubles of commuting which Prague, with its size, obviously also has.
If someone is curious and casually walks up to you asking about electric vehicles in Prague, how would you describe the local scene?
You will see EVs in Prague, but unfortunately not too often yet, especially when talking about 100% electric vehicles; hybrids are more frequent. Czechia overall is lagging behind with EVs adoption - in terms of the growth in the number of new EVs, Czechia has ranked last in all of Europe for the past year, sadly.
But for Prague, the plans are ambitious, and I believe the future is bright and green. According to some estimates, every third personal and small delivery van in the city will be electric by 2030. Although much more, including incentivisation programmes, could be done, there are several initiatives to support the rollout of EVs, most importantly extension of the charging network. This should include not only public fast charging stations, but also residential parking chargers and streetlights converted to EV chargers. I believe this will play a major role in supercharging (pun intended) the rollout of EVs.
In general, do you feel that the locals are open to the idea of switching to electric vehicles?
In general, yes although more on the theoretical level - we however don’t see it yet, this positive attitude towards electromobility reflected in the numbers. And of course, the opinion varies socioeconomically. For instance, people my generation often do not see the need for a car altogether, which is an amazing mindset change, or if they do, they are mostly open to EVs. Going higher up the age scale, adding different family needs, and different backgrounds, this may change. I feel this is a lot about mindset change, and education as well as support in rollout and incentives for it are necessary.
How do you think you’d be able to convince someone who lives in the outskirts?
From what I hear, there are a few obstacles that people living in the outskirts, and not only them, perceive. A basic one is the question of the need for EVs “Why would we need EVs when we’ve had combustion engine cars for so long and we’re happy with them?”, but this is thankfully just the minority. There, we need to do our longer-term job spreading awareness of the environmental and sustainability issues.
What I often hear, and that is the major part, are questions about battery capacity “Will I be able to use the car without charging too often and being limited by it?”, infrastructure “Will I be able to charge my car easily whenever I need, without going on detours or having to plan too strenuously?”, and how economical this will be going forward “What if the prices go up in the near future and driving an EV won’t be any cheaper than driving a combustion engine car?”. All of these questions make sense if you live in the suburbs - and it may also be one of the reasons people choose a hybrid when they do make their EV decision. And while it may be a bit of a compromise to your comfort, nowadays it’s possible to manage well even with a 100% electric car when it comes to battery capacity and charging points availability. There, I think better information, incentivisation, and consultancy to help select the right EV for the given use case could help convince people living in the outskirts.
But ultimately, what it comes down to is not just seeing the need for electric mobility but perceiving it as urgent. Many people buying a new car see the need, they just don’t buy an EV now and leave it for their next car purchase. It’s really the early adopters who buy EVs in Czechia.
How would you rate the city’s electric and smart mobility infrastructure compared to other European cities? Is there any specific city you’d say Prague resembles when it comes to its progress?
Well, in Czechia, we’re honestly far from Sweden in the EV landscape. The adoption rate of electric mobility has been slower than expected as I already mentioned - and with it, also the rate at which electric mobility infrastructure is being built. What’s positive, though, is that public transport operators are also electrifying their fleets and local cities are supporting the extension of the electric charging network.
I would say we can see nicer progress in terms of the more general smart mobility and its infrastructure. Bike lanes are being expanded, especially in the wider city centre, with much potential beyond. Hybrid shared cars and e-scooter and bike sharing are quite popular. Where I really see the potential for new mobility services growth is intermodality (solutions like Mileus’s which should be one of a few in the mix) and demand-responsive transit. These could help motivate people to leave their cars at home and open the way to changing the infrastructure to a smarter-mobility one.
While I can’t think of a specific city that Prague would resemble progress-wise, I can say that for example Vienna, Rotterdam, or Hamburg, European cities with a similar population size, are at a more advanced stage and Prague is and should be looking to them for inspiration and best practices.
Shifting back to you, how did you end up in the automotive industry? Was there anything specific that triggered your curiosity?
It was Mileus that lured me into the world of mobility. I was honestly not looking to enter the industry consciously, but one of the criteria I had for my next career adventure was working on a project that really had an impact on people’s everyday lives, more broadly speaking. And Mileus’s focus on sustainability and making cities more liveable coupled nicely with that.
How would you rate your experience so far? Can you share your biggest win or learnings in the industry so far?
It has been an amazing ride! There have been so many wins and learnings but to share one, given how few women there are in the industry, and not just in leadership positions but at all levels, I am very happy and proud that at Mileus, we’ve been able to go from a small all-male team when I joined to a half-male, half-female team with brilliant ladies in all functions of the company. It’s great to be able to show women that mobility is not just for men, and we need more of them here.
Before we let you go, we just have to ask… do you drive an EV at the moment? If not, what would be your dream car if you could pick any electric vehicle in the market?
I don’t drive one yet, but for our next family car, an EV is the clear choice. We may go for another Mercedes - EQC is my favourite, although I also love the timeless design of the Lucid Motors models. But if I were to pick a dream EV, that would be Porsche Taycan that my husband just introduced me to - well, a dream car really!
Photos courtesy of Veronika Giacko.