As we get ready to select our semi-finalists for the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, we wanted to check in with last year’s semi-finalists to learn about the impacts they continue to have on the business world. Here, we catch up with Immotor.
Founded in 2016 by mophie CEO and co-founder Daniel Huang, Immotor is the manifestation of Huang’s dream “to redefine the intelligent personal vehicle space, while contributing to a more sustainable world for future generations.” The company seems poised to do just that, since the launch in late 2017 of the Immotor Go – a portable, foldable, high-performance light electric vehicle (LEV) fully integrated with users’ smartphones and powered by a patented “Super battery.”
While the Immotor Go itself is transforming personal transport, Immotor’s Battery-as-a-Service program for businesses could revolutionize delivery and public transit systems around the world. Immotor’s Chief Operating Officer Alex Nesic told us more.
Immotor began with electric scooters and bikes, so let's start there. What makes your LEVs such game-changing devices?
Alex Nesic: The Immotor GO was actually a proof of concept to show off our Super Battery technology, but the GO ended up being an innovative product in and of itself. The three main differentiators that set it apart are its 3-wheel stability; which allows for a much broader user base; the modular, TSA-compliant battery; and the IoT capabilities that provide a feature-rich experience. We saw a need for a device that served as a flexible tool to be used in a variety of circumstances, rather than a ‘cool tech’ gadget.
AN: First and foremost, the safety — it is housed in a hard aluminum alloy shell and passes the most rigorous safety standard tests, and is also rated IP65 from a weather-resistance standpoint. On the software side, it is our intelligent Battery Management System (BMS) that is also designed to provide a lot of safety and performance — things like an accelerometer to detect accidents, sensors to detect malfunctions and a variety of other data; the power interface being separate from the data interface, which enables us to require digital authentication between the battery and device before any power is given, and more.
What advantages do your LEVs have over more traditional forms of active transport?
AN: The most compelling advantage of LEVs in general is the enhanced user experience — LEVs essentially give users superpowers. The overall LEV experience makes active transport more appealing to users that might not consider non-electric versions because of geographic challenges, weather considerations or physical demands. Our LEVs in particular also offer the advantage of a smart, modular battery and our Batteries as a Service (BaaS) program, called eSwap.
Tell us a bit more about your Battery-as-a-Service program. Where is it currently available?
AN: eSwap is initially focused on enterprise customers — like shared mobility operators, delivery fleet, rental programs, and public transit programs. eSwap essentially eliminates all the hassles and potential liabilities of owning batteries for our B2B customers. They can subscribe to our eSwap program, which provides them with batteries; charging stations to recharge the batteries separately from the devices; and access to our backend cloud, which provides them with asset and customer metrics. Depending on project requirements, we can also deploy automated battery exchange stations, which operate like a vending machine for users to exchange their depleted batteries for new ones. We are currently live in six cities in China with our eSwap program, in support of food delivery services that use electric scooters. We are in negotiations with partners in the shared mobility and smart city space to deploy programs using our LEVs and eSwap system in the US, Europe and Middle East, as well.
Are there any other sustainable features of your LEVs and batteries (materials/construction/etc)? How do you handle the batteries at the end of their life?
AN: We are committed to using recyclable materials in the production of our LEVs and batteries. One of the main value propositions and sustainability benefits of our eSwap program is that we control the end of life of the batteries, removing that responsibility from our customers and also ensuring that they are properly managed at the end of life. Our batteries will actually benefit from an entire second life — once they reach their end of usable life for vehicles, they still retain approximately 80 percent of their capacity and can be used for power storage.
How do you see your LEVs and BaaS helping spur a modal shift?
AN: The electrification of micro mobility is well underway on both the enterprise and consumer sides. It is also clear that users truly enjoy the LEV experience. That being said, there are currently a lot of inefficiencies associated with LEV ownership and operation, most of them relating to batteries and charging. We see Immotor’s eSwap program as the catalyst for efficient adoption of multi-modal LEV adoption in cities. By tapping into existing user behavior that has grown accustomed to refueling their gas-powered vehicles in four minutes or less, we make the transition to LEVs much less painful.
What's next? Do you intend to expand to other products/services/forms of transport in the future?
AN: In the US, we are in discussions with a TNC to become their provider of LEVs and BaaS for their micro transit operations with an eye on pilot projects launching in late Q2 2018. We have also just signed an MOU with the Roads & Transportation Authority (RTA) of Dubai with the objective of solving their first-/last-mile issue within their public transit system — our GO Forza (the fleet version of the GO) will be used as an extension of the public transit system.
What can we expect to see from Immotor at SB’18 Vancouver?
AN: Reasonable shipping costs permitting, we hope to be able to bring a few of our LEVs and a battery-swapping exchange station to be able to showcase the ecosystem in person!