Tallinn University of Technology

Spring is already in the air, meaning it is almost an e-scooter season again. The most sustainable and environmentally friendly option, scooter TUUL is created and built by TalTech alumni – Kristjan Maruste, Teet Praks and Heigo Varik. They first came together at TalTech in a project called Formula Student, where they developed and built fully electric racing cars and competed against other universities around the world. In the interview they talk about safety and sustainability, their times at TalTech and a wider vision for sustainable urban vehicles.

Convenient and safe vehicle

We have been in the industry for a long time and we actually see that it is predominantly men, who drive shared micro-mobility vehicles – bikes, scooters, mopeds, etc. When it comes to mopeds the number of male drivers reaches 95,5% . The tendency is very similar when it comes to scooters. Therefore, our goal was to make a very convenient and safe vehicle so literally everybody would drive it, regardless their sex. It is not just a cheap and raw functional piece of metal with the only purpose to bring you from A to B. On the contrary, it is very good to ride. It is equipped with large pneumatic tires, a wider standing area (can ride feet parallel to each other), wider handlebar and lower centre of gravity for more comfort and stability especially in the rain and on uneven terrain. In addition, the braking distance of the e-scooter is significantly shorter than the market standard.

No rocket science

I am still surprised that everybody is surprised with the message of a longer life-expectancy of TUUL scooter in comparison to the competition. If you think about it – a car lasts for at least 10 years or more, and it does not matter which car it is, whether it is very cheap or very expensive. Motorcycles also run for some 15 years. Bicycles last for a lifetime if you properly maintain them. And then, we have one field, called “electric scooters”, in which everybody thinks it’s totally normal that the vehicle lasts for 5 months only, and nobody has ever questioned why all other vehicles have a significantly longer lifetime. So actually, there is no rocket science in making it last 5 years, just so far it has not been built to last but to sell more. And this is a fundamental difference between TUUL and other scooters on the market.

TUUL scooter

TalTech times

Me (Kristjan) and Teet ran The Formula Student for four and two years respectively. The Formula is an international product development competition aimed at the students of engineering and automotive technology with the main objective to design, build and present a single-seat formula car prototype for an amateur weekend racer. Having been a part of it gave us an advantage of gathering managerial experience while still being a student. And not only this, but also lots of pure engineering experience, as it is really the best place to get an idea of a real life outside the university. Overall, roughly 75% per cent of Commodulers come from TalTech.

TUUL Student Formula
One of the Formula Student cars at the TUUL factory

The good old days of Mektory

While studying at TalTech we also founded our first company called Prismatery and with this one we took part in a Startup Garage accelerator. It was the very first initiative at TalTech to work with accelerators on students’ startups. With that same company we were also the founding members and the first tenants of Mektory. We did not pay any rent (laughing) but we were the first company that got an office there. We have actively participated in helping them to figure out what should be there and what they need to purchase. For instance, I remember we put together the list of tools to order for the Electronics Lab. The good old days of Mektory.

TUUL founders
The founders of Comodule and TUUL at their own factory

Unsung heroes

One of the key messages we want to get out there is that air pollution today kills the largest number of people in the world per year, even if we compare it to car accidents or viruses. With this information in mind, if you want to save people’s lives then it is more effective to become an engineer working on clean technology than to become a doctor. This is something I try to remind our people as well – that in this sense we are heroes that are saving lives.

Life is too short to do what makes you unhappy

Company culture-wise we are very laid-back because we trust our people a lot. At the same time, we also expect a lot from them and so Comodule is not the easiest place to work. Yet we hope it is rewarding, because we really try hard so that people would feel fulfilled and happy in what they do. The thing we always say to our employees is – if you are unhappy at your workplace – let us know and we will try to do what we can to change it; and if we can’t – then life is too short to work in a wrong place.

Kristjan Maruste
One of the founders Kristjan with his personal TUUL