Knook #1: Mevo
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
In my line of work, there’s a lot of meeting people.
Relationship building is something that matters to me but it can mean a lot of time on the phone, regular after-work events, waiting in airports and on planes, and sitting in traffic, trying to make passable small chat with taxi drivers.
Recent discussions at work had been looking for an alternative to work vehicles, paid carparks, taxi trips etc, and we landed on Mevo.
Through various roles, and the way the Wellington business community works, I had the good fortune of meeting Mevo’s co-founder and CEO Erik Zydervelt a couple of years ago.
Mevo is a free-floating car sharing service - like a car rental but way better - allowing users to reserve a car for up to 30 minutes, unlock it with your phone and then drive to where you need to. Costs covered in the hiring fee include petrol, insurance, cleaning and perhaps most usefully - especially given how expensive it can be in major centres - parking.
One of Mevo’s main selling points is how nice the cars are. For the car enthusiasts out there, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is, rightly so, the flagship of the Mevo fleet. A modern plug-in hybrid EV, and recipient of a World Car of the Year award, the e-tron can travel up to 40km in pure electric mode, before switching to petrol hybrid mode.
Definitely an upgrade from my own car ownership experiences (not that that was particularly difficult but nonetheless an upgrade).
Erik and I met up for a coffee at a cafe facing one of Wellington’s main roads and while sitting there we spot several of Mevo’s vehicles driving past.
I asked Erik what inspired the idea behind Mevo.
“The world has moved to on-demand. Look at how quickly things shifted from DVDs to Netflix, CDs to Spotify. Mevo is looking to do the same thing for car ownership.”
“Car-shares have grown substantially around the globe, but nothing meaningful like that was present here in New Zealand. It’s important for cities as they develop to have these sorts of arrangements as one of the suite of transport options.”
“Mevo provides the same benefits and access to mobility as car ownership but at roughly quarter of the cost.”
It’s been an effort to get to this stage. Mevo sits in a somewhat strange space of being a business requiring the cooperation of local government to get things moving. And anyone who has had any dealings with local government knows these things take time.
“We started with three cars in December 2016. Wellington City Council policy formally reserving car-share exclusive carparks came through in June 2017, and policy allowing free-floating use of carparks [meaning users can park in any metered space without needing to pay for parking in the indicated zones] came through in May 2018.”
It was worth the effort putting the time into Wellington though. Erik says the rationale behind choosing Wellington as the place to start building Mevo was based on the ability to cover a decent portion of the CBD. Investment wise, it also needed to be somewhat capital efficient. The compact city centre allowed for both of these, and thus proving value was more affordable in Wellington. It also serves as an example that car-sharing will work for the rest of New Zealand’s major centres.
Mevo now has a substantial network of cars in Wellington, and are looking to launch in Auckland in the near future.
“Society essentially has a spending problem, only it’s spending in carbon not cash. The majority of us don’t account for our carbon impacts, and as a society, we need to start thinking about future investment, not overspending in the present,” Erik says.
“Mevo is taking one of the biggest drivers [I’m presuming this was pun intended] of carbon creation and flipping it on it’s head.”
Mevo is a carbon negative company (or climate positive as Erik puts it) to 120% - meaning as a company, they empower their users to reduce and sequester more carbon than they emit while driving.
“The aim is to start making the current system consider carbon usage and incorporate lessening its impacts in daily life. Services like Mevo are a valiant start but it’s important to note they are just one step to our end goal. We need to move from thinking about sustainability to regeneration.”
“But from a business perspective, part of the key to all of this is thinking about how to outperform the competition. It’s not worth pushing this shift if the solutions aren’t done well.”
Erik says a key to their success has been not giving up.
“People said it wouldn’t work out but we kept at it. But it’s also based on facts. Free-floating car shares have seen 30% year on year growth globally, so it’s been grounded in reality.”
I asked what the biggest mistake in this process has been.
“Entrepreneurs are accused of over-optimism which is actually needed but it’s also a challenge to learn to not just hear what you want to hear.”
Businesses thinking about how to change an entire industry’s carbon impact - especially in the transport sector - are fighting years and years of ingrained habits to make a meaningful impact. I asked Erik where he thinks the industry is heading.
“The internet severely disrupted how we do things. I see the next disruption as coming in transport and vehicles. I mean, we’ll be looking at mostly electric vehicles, with more noise being made about the potential of hydrogen.
“There will definitely be a huge shift in the shared vehicles space - look at Volkswagen investing $4 billion into this sector and putting a lot of thought into the future of mobility.
“I think the majority of new vehicles/mobility preferences will be electric, sharable and autonomous by 2021 - think about how disruptive that is to the norms today.
“By 2030, most major cities globally will have shared vehicles. Most mass-market private ownership will disappear and those who do own cars - as we know them today - will use them recreationally, not day-to-day.
“It’s really exciting that Mevo gets to be at the cutting edge of that - it will be interesting to see how the company evolves and develops to meet those changes.”
For more info on Mevo, visit https://mevo.co.nz/