Sustainability Outlook recently spoke to Gran Folkesson (CEO) and Anil Arora (India Head), Clean Motion, on re-designing personal mobility for an energy scarce world and introducing Zbees to India.
Most of us arent quite used to the idea of an electric vehicle. Do you think new designs for EVs will displace traditional cars?
Gran Folkesson (GF): I feel that the car is a fascinating innovation.
When we look at the car, it is hugely over-engineered for its current function. The design of a normal car is the end-result of an optimisation based on the presumption that energy is not a scarce resource.
While most people use their cars for commuting, it is designed for a range of other functions that do not occur frequently (e.g. long distance driving or holidays). Who really needs 1.5 tonnes of steel to transport yourself to get the milk and back?
Typical electric cars on the market are hugely expensive. A Tesla caters to a very small, luxury elite audience and selling luxury electric cars cannot drive a large-scale transformation in our personal mobility in India.
More affordable models, such as a Nissan Leaf, which aim to substitute traditional cars, are not much better. Such cars have essentially replaced combustion engine with an electric drive train.
However, this really just combines the worst of everything a 5 person passenger car, designed to drive 150km on one charge, is simply too heavy and creates a massive demand for batteries that in turn makes for an incredibly expensive vehicle with a larger-than-necessary environmental footprint. These sorts of products have a very confused value proposition.
What do you think is the role of electric vehicles as part of a larger transport ecosystem?
GF: Even cars inside some sort of car-pooling or shared fleet arrangements are hugely over-engineered for their purpose.
What we need is flexibility for personal mobility instead of having multiple traditional cars, consumers should be able to retain their normal car for their two-week family vacations but deploy a light electric vehicle for daily purpose commute.
Right now, the outlook for conception of an electric car doesnt allow this flexibility. The auto industry has effectively used the overall body of the car, but with an electric drivetrain, which is so heavy that it kills the economic and the environmental benefit.
How do you intend to deploy in India?
Anil Arora (AA): Right now, we are conducting trials for the Zbee in New Delhi.
We are essentially developing a networked clusters of Zbees that will support the New Delhi Metro stations with last-mile point to point transport.
We are renting out 15-25 Zbees to a single franchisee who currently own fleets of autorickshaws. This cluster size for Zbees is large enough to make a visible footprint in high intensity traffic routes within a 10-15km range. Our cluster operators will rent infrastructure on a franchisee model.
In terms of revenue streams, we expect 40% of the revenues to come from advertising on the Zbee and 60% of the revenues to come from ride payments from Zbee passengers.
Are you looking at other high density routes? What about using EVs as a public transport alternative in Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities?
AA: In New Delhi, we are considering to partner up with a major real estate provider, particularly in the Gurgaon area, in order to cater to point-to-point transport within CyberCity. These sorts of corporate mobility fleets are estimated to be about 100 Zbees per fleet.
We are contemplating Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities as potential markets, but this is not a core area of focus at present. An interesting fact is that most of these Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities are only 10-15km in any cross-sectional direction, which is the sweet spot considering the range of a light electric vehicle. An EV in this context could potentially fulfill all commuting needs in small cities it will not just be a mechanism of supporting last mile commute to supplement public transport.
However, we believe the tipping point for Tier 2 cities is when EVs further exceed their purpose beyond worker commute, for example, for supporting tourist activities in places like Jaipur.
Source: Clean Technica
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