23 Feb Making the Electrification of Shared Mobility a Reality
Uber, Airbnb, Zipcar, Citi Bikes, Lime, Didi Chuxing… the sharing economy has entered our everyday vocabulary and is only going to grow as consumers seek a more sustainable lifestyle and businesses are eager to optimize resource usage.
The rapid growth of the sharing economy is no accident:
- “Green pressure” is driving people to seek out products and services that can help them maintain a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Sustainability has become a prime focus of the consumer culture and the use of “green” products or services has become a status symbol.
- Millennials, who contribute to most of the growth in the sharing economy, are prioritizing efficiency over material ownership.
- The interests, fees, and insurance premium associated with car ownership are significant financial burdens. With most cars sitting idle 95% of the time, more people are drawn to the convenience and cost-savings of ride-hailing networks and the occasional rental fee.
- Autonomous driving technologies will allow vehicles used in shared mobility solutions to be on the road 24/7/365 with minimal added cost besides that of fuel.
- Advance in data analytics and the use of AI-driven technologies offer the ability to optimize resources and create vast efficiency in the sharing economy.
”There are significant environmental benefits to increasing the use of existing goods and reducing the demand for new goods.” — Anders Fremstad, Colorado State University
The convergence of influences, such as consumer awareness, sustainability, green mobility, and emissions regulations, is here. All the technologies required to drive the transformation have become mature and reliable enough for the mass market.
In fact, according to a report by RethinkX, 95% of transportation in the US will be affected by trends in electrification, autonomous driving, and shared mobility.
We have the condition of a “perfect storm” to combine sharing economy, green technologies, and data analytics to create a solution that can optimize resource usage like never before.
The business potential (e.g., market demand) is there. But why aren’t we see seeing commercial EV fleets on the road?
Do We Have a Business Case for the Electrification of Shared Mobility?
Not yet. Here’s why:
While charging time varies depending on the size of the battery pack and the power supported by the infrastructure at the charging location, a typical electric car with a 60kWh battery needs about 8 hours to charge from empty to full using a 7kW charging point.
Even with a “supercharger” of 50kW, which is not available in most places due to the limitations of existing infrastructure, it takes most cars 60 to 90 minutes to reach an 80% charge.
To optimize the ROI of any EV fleet, operators can’t afford to let a vehicle sit idle for that long or be at the mercy of the capacity of the charging locations, which can be affected by factors beyond their control.
Also, to support the commercialization of electric fleets using today’s “monolithic” batteries, companies need to invest a substantial amount in building a large, brand new network of infrastructure. This creates the “chicken and egg” dilemma — do we build the expensive infrastructure or wait for adoption first… and who will pay for that? But one can’t exist without the other and we’d likely be stuck in a standstill for a long time.
If we add the prospect of using self-driving vehicles — which means being on the road won’t add any labor cost — not having the car on the road is costly.
Not to mention, today’s “monolithic” batteries used in EVs are inflexible. You can’t adjust their capacity (which equals weight that requires power to mobilize) to suit the distance of each trip.
People traveling long distances experience “range anxiety” while vehicles that make inner-city trips are carrying extra capacity (i.e., deadweight) that creates inefficiencies and increases costs.
As such, EVs are currently hamstrung by their “monolithic” batteries and charging solution, preventing the widespread adoption of commercial fleets suitable for the sharing economy.
The Future of Shared Mobility: From Theory to Reality
The market is here. The consumer mindset is ready. The technologies are mature, for the most part.
We need to solve the last piece of the puzzle: make the adoption of electrified fleets profitable. Let’s unplug from the current thinking of how EVs work and consider how they should:
- Be refueled within minutes, in a process similar to pumping gas.
- Be refueled using existing infrastructure and managed with exiting operational processes to facilitate adoption.
- Be reliably refueled independent of the capacity of the utility infrastructure at any charging location.
- Provide the flexibility to adjust battery capacity based on the distance of each trip to minimize deadweight without sacrificing range.
What about the “range anxiety” everyone is so concerned about?
Let’s go back to point #1 —
“Range” isn’t an issue when we talk about vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel, right? It’s not because they have a bottomless fuel tank but it’s because they can be refueled quickly and back on the road in minutes.
The range problem is only a problem when an EV needs specialized charging stations that are few and far between, then sit idle to charge for hours.
To solve the challenges that are preventing the commercialization of EV fleets, Tanktwo has created an ecosystem of patented technologies that make the 4 key points listed above viable.
In short, our String Cells act like “very large molecules” — collectively they behave like a conventional liquid fuel (i.e., gasoline or diesel) and can be handled as such using existing infrastructure and operational processes.
Because we’re swapping out used cells with fully-charged ones, the refueling infrastructure is independent of the condition of the grid at any particular location or moment. The String Cells can be charged anywhere using any source (e.g., wind and solar) and be distributed to nearby refueling stations. They can also be charged when the demand from the grid is low to minimize cost and maximize resource utilization.
Thanks to our liquefaction technology, the cell swapping process takes just 2-3 minutes each time — meaning that a vehicle can be on the road (and generating revenue) 23 hours 50 minutes a day.
Not to mention, since the user can fill up as much or as little as needed for any specific trip, we can eliminate unnecessary deadweight to optimize cost-efficiency.
To illustrate the cost-saving potential of our solution, let’s look at a few scenarios for using an EV fleet:
Scenario A: Autonomous “pods” for short-distance transfer within city centers
The main objective is to maximize the utilization rate, which is made possible by the 3-minute cell swap. The short refuel time means each vehicle can spend more time on the road so fewer will be needed, which equals lower capital expense.
Compared to EVs that use traditional “monolithic” batteries, the utilization rate is much higher.
Scenario B: Daily commuting
By adjusting the capacity of the battery pack to suit the desired range (“fit for purpose” pack size,) we can increase fleet flexibility without any vehicle carrying unnecessary capacity (which equals added weight and therefore, cost.)
Compared to EVs that use a fixed pack, the cost of operating a fleet using Tanktwo’s flexible pack is reduced by as much as 44%.
Scenario C: Intra-city/long-distance travel
“Range” is no longer an issue thanks to flexible pack size and 3-minute cell swap available at existing infrastructure — making long-distance travel viable using EVs. The same vehicles can also be used for commuting or city driving simply by reducing their capacity (i.e., putting fewer String Cells into the tank) to optimize utilization.
Compared to EVs with traditional “monolithic” batteries (if they can go that range at all!), Tanktwo technologies can deliver savings of up to 83%.
Opening Up Opportunities in Shared Mobility
When we can solve the “last mile” challenge, it’s not hard to see that opportunities are everywhere.
Taxi companies, ride-hailing services, delivery van operations, courier services, school buses, city buses, and long-haul trucking companies — any transportation operations that can benefit from having vehicles on the road for as much time as possible while meeting the increasingly stringent emissions standards — can leverage our ecosystem of String Cells, String Tanks, refueling technology, and asset optimization algorithm to make the adoption of EV fleet profitable.