E-MOTION CONCEPTS DELIVERING ON ELECTRIC MOBILITY SOLUTIONS

It is probably fairly safe to say that electric vehicles (BEV) will play a major role in Australia’s automotive future.

A vehicle running on battery power is a cleaner, quieter, cheaper to maintain and cheaper to run option than any vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE), and while there are hurdles to overcome – range anxiety, price, charging infrastructure, charging speed, and the need for renewable energy options to make BEVs truly environmentally friendly, to name a few – these will surely be cleared in time.

However, there is one other factor that does need to be considered as the shift to electrified transport takes place.

Imagine a scenario in which all the perceived hurdles of electric vehicle ownership are overcome and every vehicle on the road is battery powered. Things would certainly be quieter and cleaner, but rush-hour traffic would still be a nightmare, the battle for parking spaces in the city centre would be just as fierce, sizeable delivery trucks would still be charging around the suburbs dropping off groceries and the latest gizmos ordered off eBay or Amazon, and four-door family sedans would still be occupied by just the driver for most of their time on the road, while for 90 per cent of the day they’d be sitting idle and empty.

This scenario is partly why the term ‘mobility’ is used so much these days. The thinking is no longer a case of ‘remove ICE vehicles from the roads and all will be well’. Rather, it is about how the whole automotive and transport environment can be changed to make our lives cleaner, easier and quicker. Infrastructure, connectivity, electrification, transport integration – all are part of this new thinking and full-size BEVs play just a part in that process.

This idea of ‘mobility’ is why, at the Consumer Electric Show this year, Hyundai and Toyota showcased concepts that were not just about advanced BEVs and autonomous vehicles (although they were a key part of their presentations). Toyota revealed it is to build an entire city environment to research mobility solutions, while Hyundai unveiled an integrated concept that included transport hubs, autonomous BEVs and even battery-powered flying taxis.
These are big ideas and big thinking, and it’s easy to believe that this sort of work is the domain of the big players.

Well, not really. There are companies out there thinking about mobility and working diligently to provide the solutions, products and strategies to businesses that can see which way the wind is blowing and want to make a leap into that future.

e-Motion Concepts (eMC) is one such business. The Brisbane-based company was founded just four years ago by Wolfgang Roffmann who, along with company director Harry Proskefalas, has forged partnerships in Europe and China to bring a range of battery-powered vehicles to Australia, each designed to provide a solution to a range of transport issues in the urban environment. The range covers personal mobility vehicles as well as urban transport vehicles and all are either government-approved for use nationally or are on the cusp of receiving that approval.

They include the CT-KARGO and CT-KUBE commercial transport vehicles; the iLark, iTango and iTank three-wheel vehicles and the P1200 and P2000 two-wheel scooters for personal transport; and the three-wheel Zbee that can be used for both delivery or urban taxi operations.

Designed and built for the European market where the uptake of full-size BEVs and smaller electric vehicles is well underway, eMC’s fleet can play a big part in the mobility landscape as it develops here in Australia. They are sophisticated, technologically advanced vehicles that are digitally connected, can be monitored via smartphone apps, have decent range, are easy to charge, safe and simple to drive and, most importantly, fit the bill for just about any envisioned urban application.

THE e-MOTION CONCEPTS CONCEPT

While eMC imports these vehicles, and they can be purchased via the company’s retail arm at emos.com.au, the business is as much a provider of urban transport solutions as it is an importer and retailer, and the team are able to consult and offer innovative ideas that employ the proven technology of their vehicle range to tackle mobility headaches that many individuals and businesses face in today’s fast-moving, efficiency-seeking and environmentally conscious landscape. If a business has a transportation need, eMC has the vehicles and the know-how to meet those requirements.

According to Wolfgang, eMC’s vehicles are garnering plenty of interest from businesses large and small.

“We are talking to a lot of people and a good amount of interest is coming from transport companies, from building developers, dealers, and tourism operators,” he said.

“Initially, we wanted to focus on the transport and commercial sector such as taxis for short distances and for last and first-mile solutions. But we recognised that the area of local deliveries has changed. E-commerce now sees items being bought online and delivered straight to the consumer with some businesses now offering one-hour delivery options or even delivery on demand. The whole dynamic of delivery is changing.”

And that is just one area where eMC’s CT-KARGO and CT-KUBE could be game-changers.

COMMERCIAL MOBILITY

The CT-KARGO has a cargo capacity of 1400 litres, a load capacity of 180kg, has a range of 110km and clips along at 50km/h. The smaller CT-KUBE comes in with a 500-litre cargo capacity, 50kg load capacity, and the same range and speed as the CT-KARGO. With connection to fleet management platforms that give operators the ability to monitor the vehicles and adopt productive and efficient route plans, extremely swift delivery options for customers become easily achievable.

These types of vehicles are already in use across Europe and with eMC having organised government approval for the vehicles’ use in Australia, they are ready to go here and now.

“These vehicles reached the European market predominantly for parcel and postal delivery, and national couriers are now adopting them. Through our talks with companies here, we are seeing a move towards that European model,” said Harry. “All the national couriers are talking about it and we have the approved solutions. Once the demand supports that model here, units like these will be needed and they are ready.”

And it’s not just for package delivery that these vehicles could be used. Available with a refrigerated cargo unit, groceries and the delivery of other perishables is an option too. With supermarkets already essentially micro-distribution centres strategically placed to service a local population, a small fleet of CT-KARGOs could easily deliver orders quickly and on-demand. Extrapolate this idea out to local shopping centres and it’s easy to see how a local business could tap into the online shopping community and take advantage of such a low-cost delivery solution.

PERSONAL MOBILITY

Electric scooters and small electric vehicles seem like a no-brainer for nipping around town on short trips, and the influx of stand-up electric scooter options, and businesses such as Lime, does suggest that such options are catching on.

eMC offers vehicles in this sector with the iLark, iTank and iTango – a range of three-wheel, sit-down vehicles that deliver decent range and are sturdier, safer, and more powerful options than stand-up e-scooters. And there is growing interest in these vehicles from university campuses, holiday resorts and apartment building developers (places where space is at a premium or the ability to move quickly and safely from one place to another is desirable) that are looking to offer mobility options for students and residents using a return-to-base solution – where a fleet of vehicles are kept at a specific location hub and can be used at any time.

In this scenario, a user could reserve a vehicle via their smartphone and use it for essentially any trip – from picking up a basket load of groceries, to scooting across campus, or to get from one resort attraction to another.

And there are business opportunities here, said Wolfgang. While the institutions and developers are keen to have mobility options, they are not necessarily in the game of running those options themselves.

“There are real estate developments where the ratio of parking spaces to apartments is just 0.75, and that means some people will miss out on a car park,” said Wolfgang. “Developers are happy to put space aside which can hold perhaps 10-15 of these vehicles – a space that is about the same as two car parking spots – but they aren’t very interested in running the service itself and they are looking for an operator to do that.”

BATTERIES AND CHARGING TECH

While the main thrust of eMC‘s work is to deliver battery-powered vehicles, their solutions move beyond just transportation. Questions often asked about electric vehicles revolve around range and battery charging and, in these areas too, eMC offers clever solutions.

While the company’s vehicles can be charged via a standard 240v power outlet, there are options beyond just plugging them into the wall socket. The vehicles come with easy-to-change battery packs that can be removed and recharged in the home or at the office via a wall socket, and because batteries are pretty hefty, some clever thinking has gone into making such an option possible.

“In our vehicles, the largest size battery is 6kWh with a weight of about 50kg,” said Wolfgang. “However, we can divide them up into three sections, and that is good from an economical point of view. If we look at deliveries, for example, when you drive out for a job you may not deplete the whole battery and really don’t need to change the whole 50kg, just one section. Do that and you can be up and running very quickly.”

Alternatively, fleet operators could use battery stations – an installation in which a bank of battery packs can be charged and which allows for vehicle users to swap a depleted battery for a charged one in just seconds. Solar-powered charging systems are in the pipeline too, meaning batteries can be charged, and the vehicles powered, for no cost whatsoever.

The ability to swap out batteries or recharge them relatively quickly from a regular socket has another benefit beyond keeping a vehicle on the road and productive. It also tackles the problems of range anxiety and charging point infrastructure – oft-expressed concerns regarding  BEVs in general.

“Downtime and making sure that the commercial application of the vehicle supports productivity is high on our radar” said Harry. “And, realistically, range isn’t an issue. These vehicles can be charged from a standard plug or batteries can be swapped over, so there is no actual need for charging infrastructure to run them. And that eliminates any anxiety.”

The innovations don’t stop there.

“We are looking at partnerships with companies that will result in battery recycling,” said Harry. “Batteries do reach a point where their performance means they can’t be used in the vehicles. However, they are still good enough to provide energy storage for a home. So, we are looking to partner with companies around that technology and being able to offer that solution too.”

THE GOAL

For e-Motion Concepts, the future of logistics and transport is to deliver on high efficiency and clean energy with smart technology. The company provides the vehicles to support that future and is aiming to help others develop businesses around that ideal.

“We are a solutions provider, not just a vehicle provider, and we are looking at a mobility system that makes cities more liveable and healthier,” said Wolfgang. “We’d like people to see these vehicles and recognise the potential they have and the opportunity we can provide.”

Interested in finding out more about BEV mobility solutions? Contact the team at e-Motion Concepts at info@e-motionconcepts.com.au.

Source: Motor Trader E-Magazine (March 2020)

11 March 2020