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NZ electric car start-up Mevo looks to Australia

Wellington-based electric car-sharing start-up Mevo has its sights set on expanding to Australia and is in discussions with the City of Sydney and will be meeting with local councils and governments in Melbourne and Brisbane in August.

The company, which is building up a fleet of hybrid electric Audis and offers people in Wellington a membership-based service, intends to be in five cities across Australia and New Zealand in the next five years, with up to 2000 vehicles on the road.

Co-founder Erik Zydervelt told The Australian Financial Review cities such as Vancouver, Madrid and Seattle already had extensive electric car infrastructure and car-sharing schemes in place. He believes places such as Melbourne and Sydney will need to invest in similar schemes in the coming years, in order to avoid falling behind in the liveable city stakes.

"With over 5000 cities of scale around the world, it's incredibly competitive to be seen as a desirable place for migration. More and more people can live in any city in Australia or New Zealand, so you have to consider why we choose to live where we do," he said.

"It's up to the cities if they want to compete on the world stage and mobility-as-a-service is very much becoming the norm in global leading cities. People tend to vote with their feet or with their phones."

​Mr Zydervelt studied to become an urbanist before moving into tech start-ups. Along with co-founder Finn Lawrence, Mr Zydervelt said he was inspired to create Mevo after seeing how well car-sharing schemes worked in other major global cities.

"We thought, this is such a no-brainer. Cars are the second largest spend in people's budgets, it's a huge cost for businesses when running fleets and there's the densifying of cities happening," he said.

"Every kilometre someone in our community drives has a net reduction of carbon built into it. We actually have a massive reduction just from them using the service because it's electric and it's shared, and then on top of that we offset all of our carbon emissions, which come from the energy generation and the small amount of fuel used at 120 per cent."

Car-sharing grows

Around Australia a range of car-sharing start-ups have taken off such as Car Next Door, which raised $5.3 million in capital, including $2.5 million from Caltex, and GoGet.

But the uptake of electric vehicles has been slow to date, with sales making up only 0.1 per cent of total car sales in 2014, according to the Electric Vehicle Council, which launched in May to help encourage the uptake of the cars.

In Wellington, the local council has supported Mevo by turning 100 carparks across the city – 30 in the CBD and 70 in the suburbs – into electric vehicle and car-sharing carparks.

Mevo currently has just six electric Audis operating in the city, but intends to roll out a full fleet of 50 in the next six months, before expanding to Auckland and Australia.

For users, the cars can be collected from charging stations around the city, unlocked with their smartphone and can also take fuel for car trips that exceed the charging duration. It has three tiers of membership tailored to those who only intend to use Mevo a few times a year, to those who use it on a weekly basis.

With the development of autonomous vehicles, Mr Zydervelt intends to eventually evolve his fleet into electric self-driving cars when the technology and regulations permit and he expects the current norm of car ownership to be turned on its head.

"Car ownership if you're living in the city will be widely regarded as a bad choice," he said. "This is better not just from an environmental standpoint, but better user experience, product, it's more affordable and higher quality."

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