For this edition of The Shared Journey, we sat down with Luca Placi and Yoann Loetscher, the co-founders of Enuu.
BIEL. December 3, 2020 Enuu, a Vulog-powered all-electric shared mobility service that is currently operating in several cities throughout Switzerland. Together, we discussed the process of developing their unique vehicle, key criteria to consider when launching, their decision to partner with Vulog, and what is next for the beloved shared mobility service.
Tell us Enuu’s story. What motivated you to launch your company and how did you personally become involved in mobility?
We met in 2011 studying automotive engineering in Biel, the only city in Switzerland where you can study automotive engineering because in the late ’50s there was a GM factory. There, we discovered something called “Formula Students,” an international championship where teams must design and build electric race cars to compete in a worldwide competition. We created a team of engineers to develop and build these vehicles, which became our first experience as entrepreneurs.
From then on, we were fascinated by mobility. At some point, we said, “Okay, we want to revolutionize micromobility, but the bike is not the solution.” It should be something that merges the advantages of bikes and of the conventional car. This realization motivated us to create a vehicle that has the advantages of the car: you have the comfort, you’re seated, you’re protected, you have stability, you have safety, you have space for luggage; but at the same time, all the advantages of the bike: you can use it on a bicycle lane, you don’t need a car driver’s license, and so on. Putting this together, we came up with the solution of Enuu.
Tell us more about the development of your vehicle. I understand that you did the design yourselves?
In 2017, we did a first MVP (minimum viable product), but being a startup in the early phases of development, we had to make a choice. We decided it was more important for us to go to market as soon as possible with the whole solution, so we found an OEM and worked with them on some modifications to make the perfect vehicle. Now that we have raised more funds, we are developing our own vehicle, which we hope to implement by the end of 2022, beginning of 2023.
What did you change exactly to create this “perfect vehicle?”
Obviously, we connected the vehicle 100%, we implemented a swapping system for the batteries so that we can change them rapidly. We also changed some features on the inside so that it is more user-friendly: some commands, the way the seat is positioned, etc.
What was the most rewarding part about working on the vehicle in this way?
It gave us a deep understanding of what people need when it comes to micromobility: how they behave, what they actually would like to have, how would their ideal vehicle look. It was not just about reproducing a proven business model with shared vehicles, but it was really to understand, “how can we operate a fleet all year long and give as much comfort and as much value to the users?”. You have to go back to the vehicle to answer those questions because it’s the vehicle that makes the difference.
What are the unique benefits of your vehicle in comparison to others existing on the market?
It is the most inclusive vehicle for micromobility because it’s not only addressing people who are young and dynamic, but also people with disabilities or people who wouldn’t feel at ease on a traditional two or three-wheeler. They have comfort, they have safety, they have space, and it’s easy to use. The benefits of the vehicle give us a broader audience — our oldest user is 88 years old! We say we are the perfect combination between e-bikes and cars so you’re getting all the pros from e-bikes and are also protected against bad weather, and in case of an accident, have a seat belt protecting you.
What makes your service stand out in comparison to other operators?
A very important aspect that came from our research is the safety factor. In micromobility, people are searching for a solution that is fun and easy, but also very safe. We also have businesspeople using the vehicles to go from one meeting to another, so they don’t want to sweat on the bikes, and if it rains, they want to be protected.
Describe your typical customer. Who are they? What type of trips do they make? Why do they use Enuu’s service?
We have a few commuters, that’s one of the use cases. We have another interesting use case which is shopping, mainly to do the groceries, which is why we also partner with big commercial centers. We also have a lot of night activity because the service is open 24 hours around the clock. It is mostly a spontaneous trip and it is often used in combination with public transport. About 40% of our trips are combined with public transport.
How has been your experience building up relations with the city officials in three different cities?
Currently, we are in Biel, Basel, Zürich, and will soon be opening in Geneva. Regarding micromobility, cities are trying to be as open as possible. On the other hand, there are some cities that started with a very liberal approach and are now trying to ban operators because they had too many vehicles on their streets and, therefore, had a difficult time managing them.
What we learned is that it is very important to understand the needs of the city, to understand where there is a lack of public transportation, because this is also where our solution could make more sense. As a young company, we need to remain strong and know that what we are offering is something that people need and something that people have the right to use. Sometimes it is difficult to make all involved parties happy, so you have to stand out and say, “We really want to disrupt mobility, let us do it and let us try.”
You mentioned that Enuu is operating in several cities. When you are trying to identify a new city to launch operations, what factors do you consider?
We have different factors we are looking at. First, the population should be at least half a million people. Next, we consider city density. The city should not be too sparse because the vehicle can only drive at 30km/h. Then we also have the weather factor. If the city is too hot, it is not ideal for our current version. We are working on a new version for hotter cities like in southern Europe.
What sort of challenges and opportunities come with being a multi-city operator?
One of the biggest challenges currently is the lack of coordination when it comes to regulation between the cities. To address this issue, we are working with cities, like Biel, to develop a legal framework. The huge opportunity that being multi-city brings is that we have users who are, for example, living in Biel and working in Basel, and they can use our service in both cities. Therefore we see a certain multimodal use because people would take the vehicle, go to the train station, take the train and then from the new train station, take the vehicle again to go to their point of interest.
You recently transitioned to Vulog’s AiMA platform. Tell us about that experience: what was your motivation to partner with Vulog and what did you appreciate about working with our team?
I think there are many reasons, but one of the most important factors was that Vulog’s solution is agile, broad, and engrained with a deep understanding of how operations must be executed. Those at Vulog definitely know what we need, how we do it, what we need to do, what we need to see, how it needs to be done in order to be efficient. That was something very impressive when we compared it to other providers. The difference was huge. You are bringing a complete, end-to-end solution in order to scale. The ability you have to develop very specific features and the discussion you bring when it comes to new ones: do you want it now or maybe we can see with all of our customers? You put it in your roadmap and organize these exchanges between many industry actors. That is very important. It is shared knowledge, and that’s something that we value. Of course, everybody in the team is very nice and very professional in everything they do and trying to make the most out of our partnership and this is something we can find a lot of value in.
What does the future look like for Enuu?
Of course, we will continue to develop in Switzerland, but from next year we want to be in Germany and launch all over Europe. On a long-term view like 2025, we have decided to go to the US. Every year, every month, trying to master and make our operations better, while investing more and more effort into the vehicle itself. Making it more user-friendly, sexier, safer, something with a very long-term vision. Considering that, we would like to have these Enuu vehicles as drones so that you can call them, they come to you and you can drive them and then when you are finished with your ride they can rebalance themselves, they can come back to the warehouse for maintenance or for changing the batteries. This is something we are already working on.
Vulog, the world’s leading tech provider, is proud to power Enuu, the first micromobility service based on e-pods. Already operating in Zürich and Basel and launched two years ago in Biel, the Swiss vehicle has also officially come to Berlin, Germany.