While e-commerce giants like Amazon have revolutionized shopping habits worldwide, they remain dependent on gas and diesel-powered vehicles for deliveries. Although more last-mile deliveries are switching to electric-powered bikes and carts, their low load capacities mean they are less cost-efficient. Andalusian startup Scoobic Urban Mobility’s solution is its compact three-wheel EVs that can travel up to 100 km on just one fully charged battery.
Founded in Seville, a traditional vehicle engineering hub and home to Airbus and Renault plants, Scoobic’s EVs also have temperature-controlled storage for last-mile deliveries. They are also designed to overcome logistics pain points like road congestion and restrictive parking in urban centers.
The Scoobic fleet comprises three types of EVs. The Light model can carry up to 420 kg. A Mini version carries smaller loads. The Scoobic Mouse is the first mini-truck for larger loads. Scoobic also produces its EV batteries and charging stations.
Since it launched its first commercial product in 2019, the EV startup, the first of its kind in Europe, has won key accounts with Amazon, Heineken, supermarket giant Carrefour and the Spanish post office Correos. About 50 companies are now using Scoobic for last-mile deliveries across Spain. The company is currently preparing for international expansion.
CompassList caught up with Scoobic CEO and co-founder Jose María Gómez Marquez, who recently presented the startup’s eco-friendly delivery solutions to delegates at the joint 4YFN and Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.
The interview has been translated from Spanish and edited for length and clarity.
How was the idea for Scoobic's vehicles born?
The idea came from one of my sons, Alvaro, who works for the online supermarket Glovo Market. He noticed that there were no vehicles, in-between scooters and vans, being used in last-mile deliveries. The scooters are agile and park easily but can only carry small loads. The vans have a large capacity but lose time in traffic and have difficulty parking. Last-mile delivery is unsustainable economically, socially and environmentally. Because delivery companies are paid per package and not by time or km, there was a need to design small and agile non-polluting vehicles with a van's delivery capacity.
The idea to pilot stage was from 2015 to 2019. Can you tell me about your development team? Was your long battery life a challenge?
I have another company AMG Services that has been delivering engineering projects for F1 and MotoGP for the last 35 years. We used our existing engineers and brought in EV experts from Renault and Toyota, plus some from the new e-category of F1. Now, there are 27 in our development team. The vehicles' long battery life was perhaps the easiest part. We always said the problem with electric vehicles is the charge time, so we decided it was more efficient to have modules with 10 small separate batteries rather than just one huge one. With our batteries, when the delivery personnel arrive at the warehouse to reload stock, they can change the batteries and put the others to recharge, taking only 2–3 minutes to change the batteries instead of waiting 3–5 hours.
Where do you manufacture your vehicles?
Since we started production in 2019, we have manufactured in China. But the pandemic disrupted our supply chain, and marine transport costs increased, so we have decided to manufacture in Spain. We are constructing 80,000 sqm facilities in Seville and will begin production from next March, generating more than 350 jobs. Of course, the production costs in China cannot be matched, but we will have more direct control over the products. I also believe an entrepreneur's responsibility is to generate benefits for society. By 2025, we aim to create 1,000 jobs and generate €1bn in revenues.
I heard you say your business model is more disruptive than your technology?
Yes, we actually copied the business model of Xerox. They give you the printer, toner, paper and charge per photocopy with a minimum commitment for use; so that it's financially worthwhile. We do the same. We include all infrastructure, maintenance and a courtesy substitute vehicle when the EVs are being serviced. The customer can decide between buying, renting or pay per km-used. Each vehicle also has built-in Wi-Fi to provide all monthly data from the trips, which are of great value to customers. It allows them to better plan routes, conduct preventative maintenance, and even know if the driver drove well or not.
How did you manage to onboard major customers like Amazon and Spain's postal service Correos, almost from day one?
Thanks to pilots in city centers, because these companies had an unsatisfied need for the last of the last-mile delivery. The more restrictive the city is or hard to drive in, the more valuable our vehicles are. Our vehicles are exempt from urban street access and parking restrictions. Drivers also don't waste time looking for parking because our vehicles are so compact. Our customers, including those big companies, boosted their delivery rates by 30% per hour and signed on immediately after the pilots. With no long-term commitment, the flexible business model is also a major attraction, as is having post-sales vehicle services included and available everywhere.
Please tell me about the importance of post-sales service and your maintenance partner.
In 2019, we took a strategic decision knowing we could produce 10,000 vehicles and sell them with no problem. But, we also thought it would be a big mistake because our clients require post-sales service, but garages are not equipped for EVs. So, we made a strategic alliance with Bridgestone, which has over 370 workshops in Spain and 3,000 across Europe and the Middle East. We literally stalled sales until we had post-sales service in place, and it took almost two years to pass on all the knowledge and capacity-building to Bridgestone. Now, the entire Bridgestone network is trained in Scoobic vehicles and, without them, it wouldn't be possible to guarantee maintenance across Europe and permit our imminent expansion overseas.
What are your expansion and upcoming product plans?
It will be very soon. In terms of overseas expansion, we now have post-sales service available across Europe. We are doing pilot projects with the French post office La Poste, Amazon in Italy and DHL in Germany, all thanks to Correos. We're also about to open an office in Miami in September, our first overseas. Our objective is to cover all electric delivery needs from scooters to 3-ton trucks.
We research and develop new vehicles with customers like the postal service, which has a wealth of knowledge about deliveries. We have about 100 different plans right now for vehicles, including drones. In the short term, drones are a Utopia because there is no legislation governing their use, but we have already designed drones with Correos that carry up to 200 kg, ready for use in at least 3–4 years. Drones will be essential in urban delivery. In fact, all types of vehicles will be necessary as it's impossible to use just one technology for deliveries.
How have you financed your development to date, and will you open any funding round soon?
Since 2016, we have invested over €10m of our own money from partners and the Spanish Ministry of Industry. InnoEnergy, Europe’s biggest public-private investor in our sector, invested €2.5m last year. In June, we launched a €10m round led by Juan Verde Suárez, the influential Hispanic lobbyist who was the campaign finance manager for Joe Biden. He has now joined our board of directors.