Every month we select one logistics startup which represents a positive example of innovation in logistics and mobility and has the potential to alter the way the industry operates. This month, Transmetrics selected Open Motors, the developer of open, modular, electric vehicle platform, as the August “Logistics Startup of the Month” for its impressive contribution to the development of mobility and logistics. In order to learn more about the company and what they do, we talked with them about their business, the industry and the future of mobility and logistics.
First of all, congratulations on becoming the “Logistics Startup of the Month”! Can we start by briefly introducing our readers to Open Motors and your EDIT Modular Car? Can you please explain in more details how do you apply the open source concept to a vehicle?
“For the past 100 years, entering in the automotive industry has been impossible due to the high barriers. Companies wishing to enter the market with a new vehicle have to invest millions of dollars in production facilities, hire thousands of employees, spend around five years of R&D and deploy huge resources into marketing and sales. Our open, modular electric vehicle ready-to-use solutions allow new and existing car manufacturers to develop their own models bypassing these entry barriers.”
Thanks a lot! We are very glad and honored to be your choice as Company of the Month! It is, of course, a highly rewarding feeling when our new approach to mobility is understood and appreciated. Open Motors’s main mission is to accelerate the transition to advanced technology in mobility, by enabling companies to develop seamlessly modules easy to integrate into an open and versatile fleet vehicle in white label. How are we doing this? By bringing to the automotive industry Open Data, Open Innovation, Open Source, Open API etc… We also rebranded from OSVehicle to Open Motors at the end of last year to highlight a more inclusive and less radical approach to these technologies.
For the past 100 years, entering in the automotive industry has been impossible due to the high barriers. Companies wishing to enter the market with a new vehicle have to invest millions of dollars in production facilities, hire thousands of employees, spend around five years of R&D and deploy huge resources into marketing and sales. Our open, modular electric vehicle ready-to-use solutions allow new and existing car manufacturers to develop their own models bypassing these entry barriers. We started to ship to our clients in 2015 our open and modular hardware platform for EVs, called TABBY EVO. Currently, we are developing EDIT, the first self-driving vehicle designed & engineered specifically for Mobility-as-a-Service: again, we are are applying the advanced modularity and open approach this time to an entire vehicle. Fleets can last 10X more thanks to an easy repairability & hardware/software upgradeability.
What is the business model of Open Motors, or in other words, how do you sell your cars and who are your target customers?
We are B2B therefore we do not sell to final consumers. To them, our products are going to be available through service providers such as car/ride sharing or governments (eventually involving local suppliers and technologies). Our current customers are car/ride sharing, logistic/delivery, IT companies, real estate/park/campuses, R&D labs/universities, governments, energy companies. We are enabling new players to enter in this industry solving specific needs in their country or industries and by sharing common technologies, we are contributing to defining the new mobility standards. We also provide on-demand R&D and engineering services for our customers’ vehicle finalization, from prototyping, design, road legal tests, to manufacturing/assembly.
We are leveraging a consolidated network of manufacturers and distributors of car & electronic components both in Asia and Europe, developed during 30 years of direct supplier relationships and a top-level automotive engineering team from Italy.
Can you tell us a bit more about the technical specifications of your modular platform?
Our platform TABBY EVO is 100% modular, that means that you can replace, adapt and upgrade the different components. The main advantages are a longer lifetime of the product, a lower TCO and recyclability, which can save up to 70% of logistics costs with the same approach of IKEA. On top of this, we can hack import taxes in many countries: in Nepal for instance, taxes go from 238% for a complete vehicle to 2-3% for components, and as you can see it’s a huge saving, more than 230%! Then, the platform can be easily assembled in less than 1 hour.
What types of vehicles can you create with your platform? How are EDIT and modular cars suitable for logistics related activities?
The new projects under development using our technology include: ultra long-lasting fleet vehicles that can run for more than 20 years, self-driving EVs for urban or agricultural areas, specialty vehicles for peacekeeping & rescue that can be dropped by an airplane and assembled on site, connected cars, last-mile delivery fleets, 100% zero-impact vehicles charged by solar power, car sharing fleets for commuters, multi-purpose vehicles for emerging and third-world countries. For the transportation of goods, a huge advantage is that modular cargos allow the transportation of different types of products, with different storage systems (cooling, warming, drying, etc.) when required.
One of the important aspects of a modular vehicle is that it can be operated for an extremely period of time because you can replace the parts. What are the other advantages that your platform offers to compete with big auto players?
New Mobility companies struggle with reverse engineering and to cost-effectively integrate new technology into the closed design of the traditional car. All technologies in a traditional car are locked: same as for an iPhone if you want a better and more performant one you have to buy the next version. Basically, you need to hack the current vehicles and invest time and money in lots of reverse engineering. By adding non-integrable hardware to existing production vehicles, the interior and exterior designs of these vehicles could seem compromised. That’s why we applied advanced modularity to our fleets: EDIT is a production vehicle, future-proofed and designed specifically to be modular and always upgradeable. The perfect vehicle for Mobility-as-a-Service! Easy to replace parts to make services WAY more sustainable financially and environmentally better than throwing away thousands of vehicles every 2 years and buying thousands of new ones again. This should be the same when you want to upgrade the connected & autonomous technologies.
Currently, the vehicle range and charging times are among the biggest concerns for the electric vehicles. Would Open Motors be able to address these issues through your modular concept?
“Advanced modularity is THE KEY in order to always have the right components and technology that last longer, especially for the mechanical parts like electric motors, battery packs and even chassis parts in case of car accidents.”
Advanced modularity is THE KEY in order to always have the right components and technology that last longer, especially for the mechanical parts like electric motors, battery packs and even chassis parts in case of car accidents. Unlike other companies, we do not want to lock our vehicles to a limited battery technology. The achievements in new battery technologies can enable big changes in the world, where energy generation, storage and efficient use is taking more resources and concerns, particularly if we are aiming to a more sustainable and eco-friendly future. And we at Open Motors are making vehicles ready to integrate better battery solutions that will come along the years.
A big part of your success is your partnerships and an international open-source community surrounding the project. How does it help you to promote and develop the platform? Does it help you to introduce new technologies as well?
We don’t believe we can do everything by ourselves with a closed approach, that’s why we believe in partnership with:
- Service providers like Didi, Uber, Lyft, Ola, Grab and many more.
- Taxi services, Car Sharing and Car Rentals as well as the Last Mile Delivery providers.
- AI providers in different countries, especially in countries like China that will never allow a foreign AI to operate in their territory.
- Part manufacturers & startups that develop new technologies that can be integrated as a module in ‘EDIT‘ and in our platform.
- Open standards: to reduce close to zero the reverse engineering process so we can put in the market new technologies faster, speeding up the innovation in this field.
- The open-source community who can develop and customize the projects experiment new technical solutions and new paths to more sustainable fabrication reducing logistics.
In addition to that, 3D printing and digital manufacturing are amongst the manufacturing techniques we adopt and will make our platform fully compatible with. A great example of this open and participative development is the FabCar, the first vehicle based on one of our platforms that can be built entirely in a FabLab. It’s the first stage of a collaboration between HP, Open Motors and 5 FabLabs around the world (Garagem FabLab – SP. Brasil, FabLab San Diego, FabCafe Tokyo, FabLab Manchester, and Vigyan Ashram in India) along with FabLab Barcelona to design a concept car based on the needs and desires of the FabLab and Maker communities.
You are mentioning that modules can add advanced services such as connected car and self-driving to any car based on your platform. Do you develop those technologies in-house, or do you take them from an open-source community as well?
No, we do not develop our own AI or autonomous driving software or hardware. Clients will be able to install their own autonomous driving hardware stacks, all the way up to Level 5 (fully autonomous, with no driver input), and the build method means the hardware used in self-driving such as sensors and LIDAR can be easily updated, unlike in traditional car types.
Who do you consider as main competitors of Open Motors?
We are a neutral player since there is no company in the industry providing a stable and reliable modular EV platform to everyone. We are not going to be another Toyota or Tesla. Our product is not just an electric vehicle: it is the first complete vehicle with advanced modular technology that allows replaceability & hardware/software upgradability, specifically designed & engineered for Mobility-as-a-Service, and again, available to everyone.
One of the editions of your products is the result of cooperation between Renault and Open Motors – Renault POM. It is titled as the world’s first open source mass-market vehicle platform. Can you please tell us a bit more about this vehicle, how did you get Renault to partner with you and how does this partnership benefit both companies?
Renault is partnering with us to develop and sell POM, its open-source platform based on Twizy, readily accessible to the community. Why us? Because we are pioneering the open and modular approach in the auto industry. Basically, they validated what we are doing at Open Motors and started to embrace a new business model with POM, allowing ultra-customization on one of their EVs to explore niche market opportunities. Unfortunately, as can happen to big OEMs, changes in production lines and models take a long time. We will update the community as soon as POM will be available.
Based on your experience, what are the top 3 trends that are going to change the mobility industry in the next 3 years and why they are important?
“Ownership cars are on shaky grounds and services like Uber, Didi, Ola and Grab, for instance, are definitely rising. In many countries, new generations are postponing the driving license age because they have a good public transportation and MaaS apps. The status symbol for new generations shifted from the cars to smartphones. This is going to change the approach to the business of traditional car manufacturers.”
Indeed Mobility-as-a-Service, which is very fast growing among all transportation forms. Ownership cars are on shaky grounds and services like Uber, Didi, Ola and Grab, for instance, are definitely rising. In many countries, new generations are postponing the driving license age because they have a good public transportation and MaaS apps. The status symbol for new generations shifted from the cars to smartphones. This is going to change the approach to the business of traditional car manufacturers.
Blockchain technology will also be extremely relevant in New Mobility in the data collection, processing and monetization. Its application is going to revolutionize how to manage and compensate citizens/collaborators ensuring transparency and integrity with data governance.
Then, we think that our world is moving towards a technocracy system willing or not. A world where who invest and embrace new technologies quicker is going to lead and influence in the future, while all others will be reduced to followers.
As we are and will stay a neutral player in the industry (we’re B2B and focused on MaaS), our technologies are allowing companies and governments to choose the best solutions for THEIR data storage, security, integrity, ownership granularity and monetization without compromising to technological oligarchs. Furthermore, our vision is to democratize and make openly available the tech we are working with.
And the last but not least, what are Open Motors’ big plans until the end of 2018?
Our current main objective is finalizing the R&D of EDIT, pre-series and go into production while in fundraising. We aim to close the round as soon as possible and focus on execution.
Another great achievement for us this year is the set up of our official presence and the expansion of our team in China Mainland, the №1 market and №1 player in the EV industry.