In modern times, everyone talks about the importance of the environment, and how businesses can be sustainable and treat workers fairly. But at the same time we see an enormous boom in car ownership and the toxic emissions they bring. We also seem to have an insatiable appetite for buying disposable cheap products, made by poorly-paid workers and brought half-way around the world. So what’s going on? Are we so brainwashed by cheap prices that we are prepared to throw our good intentions out of the window? Will we ever support truly sustainable businesses and products?
It’s been our goal for Čezeta for the last few years to try and answer this question. After all, the company was founded back in 1957 at a time when Quality was the most important thing. No doubt accountants would be crying into their calculators when we talk about a business built on high-quality local manufacturing, but we believe a sustainable business making sustainable products has other benefits that they cannot count on a balance sheet. The question is if customers believe it too?
To start, our first BIG challenge is to change people’s buying habits and get them out of petrol-burning cars and onto sustainable and efficient electric 2-wheelers. Certainly the petrol bit is easier since 60% of oil production is used for transport and by 2050 it will have practically run out. People will have to change to electric power, it’s just a question of when. The harder thing is convincing people they don’t need to own a car (or at least a second car). The fact is that 65% of EU city journeys are one passenger in a car, travelling only 10-12km per day. We promote the idea that these trips can be done on electric bikes or scooters, which are quicker, cheaper and more sustainable. (Plus roads could be smaller, leaving room on our city streets for other things.) These are very convincing advantages – but still people love the convenience of their cars. Perhaps widespread sharing schemes will finally spell the end of car ownership? We still don’t know, we’re still working on this and only time will tell.
The second part of the question is to actually build and offer a product; and for this we developed the first-series of the ‘Type 506’ between 2015-2017. We aimed high and undoubtedly we’ve made one of the best electric scooters in the world in terms of the quality of its parts, its speed and range. All development and production has been carried out in Europe in cooperation with Czech technical universities and leading auto manufacturers in the Czech/Slovak regions. Surprisingly this is not such a hard thing to do considering we’re located in Europe’s equivalent of ‘Detroit’!
A successful crowdfunding campaign raised 20m CZK (750,000€) to finish homologation and setup production of the first-series of 60 scooters – intended to mark the 60th Anniversary of Čezeta’s founding in 1957. Its launch marked a positive point in history as it’s the first electric vehicle to be manufactured in the Czech Republic – and indeed one of the first in Europe. (And please beware those scooters that say they are ‘Made in Europe’ when they are simply screwed together bikes from Asia!)
The first-series of the Type 506 was sold out during 2018 and 2019, going to 10 different countries around Europe and earned 15m Kc (580,000€) in sales. Most importantly, we gained invaluable know-how on the challenges that face manufacturing in Europe as we try to compete with low-cost Asian products. With this knowledge, our company plans to launch a cheaper ‘second-series’ of the Type 506 in 2020, as well as diversifying into new products that have features that you have told us you want.
This brings us to the last part of the puzzle that we have to solve. How do we reconcile our goal to build a sustainable electric vehicle manufacturer with the demands of investors for high growth and quick profits. Traditional startup capital is simply not available, as shown by the fact that no projects like Čezeta have ever been funded with venture capital in the Czech Republic. Where else can we get funding?
We’d hope that it would be possible to access funding from the government when they would see a benefit in what we are doing. Unfortunately this hasn’t been so with the Czech government’s generosity extending to a grant of just 16,000 CZK (600€). We believe the politicians have a will to change – it has to change! – but unfortunately too slowly for Čezeta.
That’s why today we need to ask your help to survive and continue with our work:
- we have new products in development that are more affordable for everyone, as well as new fossil-free charging plans for bikes and scooters;
- we have a significant number of reservations for the planned ‘second series’ that will be a perfect fit for the market based on knowledge gained from our first-series; and
- most importantly, we’ve already proven that we can deliver a world-class product to the market.
If you are reading this and thinking that you like the goals and potential of Čezeta’s business, please get in touch with us. We are looking to raise around 400,000€ to complete the setup of ‘second-series’ production and pay off the crowdfunder loans (and leave the company entirely debt free!). We are interested in either offering equity or taking a long-term loan.
Neil & the Čezeta Team