Blog Overview

The Road Is Clear for Enuu in Biel

Author: Interview from Leila Chaabane, SIP BB, with Luca Placi, cofounder of Enuu

It’s not a bicycle, as it has four wheels, a roof, windshield wipers, turn signals and even space for a shopping bag. But it’s not a car either, as you can drive it on bike paths and don’t need a driver’s license. The light electric vehicle (LEV) was developed by start-up Enuu. After successfully completing the test phase at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), it will be on the streets of Biel from mid-September.

How did you come to work today?
Are you asking me that because there is an Enuu vehicle standing outside the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne (SIP BB) FABLAB?

I took the bus. We use the vehicle in front of the FABLAB for demonstrations and test drives. All of the other vehicles are now in the workshop for the final preparations for our big launch in Biel. 

So that means things are about to get serious?
Absolutely. We are due to start with 13 vehicles in Biel around mid-September 2018. We have already conducted tests with over 350 users on the EPFL campus and collected a lot of feedback. We can now offer a service that is certainly capable of delivering on its promise. Of course, we need to remain open and flexible for any eventual changes.

You set up shop in the FABLAB of SIP BB. How did that happen?
It’s difficult for start-ups to find their first office space. There’s always a lot of uncertainty, especially in terms of finance. Many businesses are scared off by high rent costs or long-term contracts. We’ve known about SIP BB and its reputation in Biel for a long time. The coworking space in the FABLAB not only gave us an affordable and flexible place to work, but also the equipment, team and community to help us. 

Do you use the machines (3D printer, laser cutter, etc.) in the FABLAB?
We mostly use tools from the FABLAB. But in future, it is certainly possible that we will need to use the machines as well.

What does Enuu actually mean?
The E stands for efficiency. nuu stands for new. So Enuu stands for new efficiency. A new means of efficient and environmentally friendly transport. 

How do you pronounce it properly?
(Laughs) We don’t mind. People can pronounce it however they think sounds best. Even if different people pronounce it differently, everyone knows what they mean.  

Can you briefly explain how Enuu works?
Sure. First of all, you have to download the Enuu app, which will display your current location and the zone in which you can drive. We agreed upon the zone with the city government. A pin on the map shows the location of the nearest vehicle. If you click on it, you have 15 minutes to go to the vehicle and open it using the app. The vehicle is then yours to use for 10 minutes, during which you can drive freely around the given zone. You can park the vehicle on parking lots for bicycles and mopeds. To end the journey, you then simply click again in the app.

What if I still haven’t reached my destination after 10 minutes?
If that happens, a new journey begins automatically. The first three journeys per day are free. After that, we charge a small fee of CHF 2 for another 10 minutes.

What happens if the fuel, sorry, the battery runs out during my journey?
That will never happen. Our fleet management system allows us to monitor the battery charge in every vehicle. If the charge ever falls below 40%, we replace the battery with a fully charged one. 

If the first three journeys per day are free and every journey after that costs just CHF 2, how does Enuu make money?
Our aim is to finance Enuu via the app and by selling advertising space on the vehicles. We want to keep costs for users as low as possible.

You founded Enuu together with Yoann Loetscher. How do you divide the work between you?
Yoann and I no longer work alone. Our team has already grown to seven people. Only two of those work full time, but everyone is willing to put in extra hours if necessary. We have a very flat structure. Each of us acts as a project manager, which means both big responsibility and a big say in how we do things. As managers, Yoann and I are mainly responsible for organization and strategy.

What are you working on at the moment?
We are currently planning for 2019, when we want to provide our vehicles in other large cities in Switzerland. We also want to do so in a city elsewhere in Europe. Discussions are ongoing with several cities. 

What do you think you need to achieve before you can say: “We’ve made it”?
As an entrepreneur, I don’t think you can ever really say “We’ve made it.” There’s always something to do, always something to improve. We will of course be delighted to see our vehicles driving around in the city.

What hurdles have you overcome so far, and which ones remain?
It’s been a real emotional roller coaster. Oftentimes, we would celebrate a success only to find the next challenge waiting around the corner. But those little successes and the experience we have gained have helped us remain calm to a certain degree. We are confident and we know that we can do it.

I don’t want this to sound like a job interview question, but where do you see Enuu in 10 years?
Hopefully in every big city in the world, with our vehicles covered in cool advertising. Autonomous driving would be a big plus, too.

Are you already working on that? 
Yes. In September, we are starting two autonomous vehicle projects at EPFL. 

And where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
Well, you certainly won’t see me in a comfy chair as a big-shot CEO. I’m a typical start-up guy. I would like to start my own foundation, though, because I place a lot of value on social issues and concentrating on people as individuals.