EkoRent Oy was founded in the spring of 2014 and its new rental service was launched at the end of the same year. Design of the service concept had begun a year earlier.
"We have been participating in Tekes' Witty City programme since the summer of 2014 and developed the rental service as part of the programme," comments Juha Suojanen, CEO of EkoRent Oy. The launch of a modern, ecological rental service was based on an idea of Juha's.
"I have long been interested in renewable energy and electric cars."
Electric cars for everyone
Research indicates that cars are driven an average of 42 kilometres a day and stand unused for 95 percent of the time.
"Electric cars are suitable for short journeys of this kind and can be charged when unused. On the other hand, for a normal user it's crazy to own or rent a car by the day if they only need it for a short while. An hourly-based rental service allows the driver to pay only for the time during which the car is used, rather than when it is sitting."
EkoRent's key customer segment consists of city and town dwellers who normally use public transport but might need a car every now and then. Companies form another important target group.
"Both small and large companies already number among our customers from the Helsinki region. However, we have identified activities which we could still develop in order to serve companies even better. I think that the greatest threshold to service use in this segment is the fact that the service concept is new and little is known about electric cars. However, we intend to focus more than ever on meeting the needs of companies."
"By renting a reasonably priced EkoRent car, ordinary consumers too can try out an environmentally friendly electric car with zero CO2 emissions."
The aim has been an easy-to-use application, which has been achieved based on the experience accumulated.
"Despite the fact that this is a totally new service, customer feedback has had nothing to do with electric cars or using the application. The most frequently asked question is where is the handbrake, because the handbrake is foot-operated in our cars," Juha explains.
"To register with the service online, you need a driving licence and a bank or credit card. The application shows you the next available car, and reservations can be made and the doors opened by smartphone or text message."
EkoRent currently has service points in Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa, largely located in the parking halls and centres of shopping centres.
"We have chosen service points that can be easily reached by public transport and that are surrounded by residences and companies."
Internationalisation requires concept development
"A different approach will be needed to break into the international markets. We believe that finding a partner, either in Finland or abroad, would be of major help in distributing our service over a wider area. We are looking for a suitable partner and have held promising discussions with a few candidates. But because the concept is new, particularly the version we are planning for the international markets, any partner will have to be bold enough to try out something novel on the markets," notes Juha Suojanen.
"Tekes funding has enabled development work and has played a significant role in boosting our credibility, which is important to small start-ups. We now have private investors, which would have been more difficult to find without Tekes."
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