Squad Mobility's vision for the ideal urban vehicle is a low cost EV with swappable batteries, solar panels and enough range to satisfy the needs of city drivers. It measures 6.5 feet.
The Dutch startup is currently assembling prototypes in Breda (the Netherlands) and recently unveiled the final design for its quadricycle. Squad stated that the base price for the vehicle would be 5,750 dollars ($6,790) excluding taxes. If buyers add extra features such as removable doors, heating, and air conditioning, the price will go up.
Robert Hoevers (CEO and co-founder) of Squad stated that the prototypes will be presented to the public this fall. The car will be delivered by 2022, with pre-production expected to begin in the new year.
Like many new entrants in the EV car market, Squad will require more funding to achieve its goal.
The company raised an undisclosed amount of money from Bloomit Ventures in June. Hoevers estimates that Squad will require an additional $3.5 million ($4.1million) for its next round and another $8 million ($9.6million) to be able deliver its first Squads. Although the company has not publicly announced a round, it says it is in discussions with several interested parties.
Squads allows interested customers to go on their website and pay a $5 reserve fee. However, Squad sees the shared mobility companies as where it can make a real impact in its market. According to the startup, it is currently in discussions with several car-sharing and micromobility operators who might be interested in diversifying their fleets by purchasing a small, smart vehicle.
The Squad is a combination between the words quadricycle and solar. It seats two and can travel up to 30 mph. It is powered by two interchangeable batteries that have a combined capacity of 1.6 Kwh and a range of approximately 62 miles. Similar to electric mopeds' battery range and capacity, this is also similar.
This should provide enough range for the average European city driver. Squad also added a 250-watt solar array to the vehicle. This, according to Squad, adds 12 miles per day to the vehicle given Europe's high sun exposure.
Squad is emerging at the intersection between new mobility categories, EV charging innovation and shared mobility operators. This could appeal to shared mobility operators seeking to solve more use cases.
Shared micromobility businesses are adding electric mopeds and scooters to their e-scooters or e-bikes fleets. Operators who want to appeal to a wider audience and are more comfortable riding in a four-wheeled vehicle could consider the Squad.
Operators may also be attracted by the potential savings that can be achieved from harnessing the sun's power. The labor costs of charging and swapping batteries is a major obstacle to profitability in micromobility. This could be alleviated by a vehicle that is always charged, at least during daylight hours.
Hoevers explained to TechCrunch that the idea is not to directly drive on solar power. It is possible to buffer the battery with solar, and then drive on them. It is a healthy way to charge your battery. The sun drip charges it more or less throughout the day. Your batteries shouldn't be charged to 100%. For a longer battery life, keep them between 50% and 60%.
Hoevers stated that Squad is in talks with micromobility providers and shared riders to pitch the quadricycle. TechCrunch has confirmed that the numbers are within the reach of the Squad car and have spoken with several micromobility operators.
Squad plans to equip its vehicles also with sensors, cameras and other smart features, making it more appealing to shared operators who are looking for fleets that can be integrated into their management platforms. Hoevers and Chris Klok, his co-founder, also claim they have combined their 40-years of mobility experience and shared past experiences at Lightyear, a long range solar electric vehicle company, to create a strong CAN bus/drivetrain that can be upgraded with new features.
It is possible that Squad will sell fleets to car-sharing or micromobility platforms. This depends on which vehicle category it ends up in. The Squad car, with its current speed and weight will fall under the L6e category of light four-wheeled vehicles.
Hoevers said that there are many tax and cost benefits to this segment. Hoevers said that there are no congestion charges, no road taxes, no parking fees, and low insurance fees. Also, a car driving license is not required in most markets.
Hoevers stated that the company is considering making a stronger L7, capable of traveling up to 45 miles an hour. This might be a better option for those cities with higher hills.
Squad is not the only company to have added solar panels on its electric vehicles. TechCrunch was informed by Sono Motors, a German startup that it is on track to start deliveries of its electric Sion vehicle in 2023. The vehicle's exterior is made up of hundreds of solar cells, which have been embedded into polymer rather than glass. This can provide an additional battery life of nearly 22 miles per day.
The Sion is still not available, but the Sono app invites owners to share their vehicle via the Sono app. This will allow them to make use of cars that are otherwise unused and parked for the majority of the day. Sono has expanded this vision to allow cars to be shared through the Sono app as of Thursday.
Aptera Motors in California, which has pledged to produce the first mass-produced solar-powered car this year, raised $4million in a Series B this February. It is using this money to purchase carbon fiber, fiberglass and batteries for its tricycle-like spaceship-looking design. Aptera claims its vehicle is currently available for pre-order at a price of between $25,900 to $46,900. It will feature 34 square feet worth of solar cells, which can provide an additional 40 mile of battery power on a clear day.
Although each player in the solar-powered electric vehicle space has their own style and tech, they all have the potential to find ways to reduce the strain on the grid.
The Netherlands has 25% market share for new electric cars, and this number is expected to rise. Even though it might not be possible for all those cars to plug into the grid, the fact that different industries are electrifying means it may not be practical in the long-term.
Squad and similar companies are working to develop future solar technology, even though it is clear that vehicles cannot run solely on solar energy.