Last Updated: February 2020 by Narasimhan Santhanam
This post is a part of EV Next’s EV Perspectives.
EV Next, a division of EAI, is a leading market intelligence & strategic consulting firm for the Indian e-mobility sector.
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This post is part of a series titled “Taking India’s E-mobility to the Next Orbit” from EV Next Perspectives. See all posts for this series from here. See previous post –International E-mobility Startup Trends.
Popular media headlines make us think that electric mobility in developed economies is all about gleaming Teslas and expensive electric buses. But look under the hood and you see that there are a number of startups that have put serious thought into specific end-user segments, identified differentiated benefits relevant for each, and have designed products and solutions accordingly.
As part of our research for this white paper, we analyzed hundreds of international e-mobility efforts, many of which are startups that have commercial products in the market. Our research covered efforts in over twenty countries spread across North America, Europe, Asia & Oceania.
International E-mobility Startup Efforts – Highlights
An analysis of the international startup efforts shows a fairly strong alignment to the framework we discussed in Section 1. There are many startups, across countries, that have “sharpened the axe” to provide focused and differentiated benefits for different user segments. We provide highlights of international startup efforts, categorized by the type of benefit.
Benefit 1: Making a Green Statement
Given the sizable markets in developed countries that appreciate green, it is not surprising to find a number of EV startup offerings strongly aligned to aspirations of these user segments. This is especially true for specific geographies such as California that have a high proportion of proactive, upper-income population with strong eco-credentials (in fact, half of all EVs sold in the US are in California).
While e-scooter rental startups such as Bird and Lime are prominent all the way from California to Spain, there are other EV offerings targeting the commercial segments. Rivian, a prominent electric truck startup, is focusing on e-commerce and logistics companies such as Amazon and FedEx.
One common characteristic present among the target user segments is that they belong to the relatively premium category within their sectors.
Target segments: Upper-class domestic users | School, college and corporate campuses | Diverse commercial sectors
Products: Two, three-wheeler electric vehicles | Electric light goods carriers | Electric trucks
Benefit 2: CO2 Emissions Control
Not surprisingly, many startups targeting this need are focused on the commercial sectors, specifically, three user sectors that are large scale emitters of CO2: Truckers, e-commerce firms, and logistics firms.
A prominent example in this category is Rivian that is working on electric trucks. The company has Amazon as one of its investors, which recently announced an order for an astonishing 100,000 electric trucks from Rivian through 2030! But Rivian is only one of many startups targeting this benefit. Commercial trucks (both small and large) is, in fact, one of the most prominent categories being targeted by startups internationally. Some of these startups are exciting, or should we say daring – for instance, the startup Nikola which has already launched an electric truck based on fuel cells.
Target segments: Commercial goods carriers
Products: Mainly electric trucks – small and large
Benefit 3: Economics
Compared to offerings for premium segments that target the need to “go green”, startup offerings for the middle-class sector target primarily the economics of EVs. An analysis of the offerings show how economic benefits are anchored around not just the upfront cost, but also around running costs and battery charging.
A significant proportion of startups targeting to mitigate the upfront cost of vehicle utilize the Opex model in its many variants – subscription model, vehicle as a service, lease model etc. A startup UZE Mobility from Aachen, Germany even offers completely free EV rentals, with revenues coming from advertising displayed on the vehicles.
Startups targeting charging economics currently do so through business models that comprise free EV charging, financial benefits for frequent usage, and incentives for charging using renewable energy sources such as solar power.
Target segments: Predominantly middle-class domestic users
Products: Mainly four-wheelers | EV charging stations
Benefit 4: Safety
Startups use diverse solutions to satisfy the safety and security needs of specific user segments. Many of these safety-specific solutions could perhaps also be applied to conventional vehicles (there’s nothing “electric” about these), but it has been the electric vehicle startups that have been at the forefront of deploying these solutions.
Vehicle security needs are being solved using technologies such as IoT and GPS. Many of these solutions are targeted towards electric two-wheelers, especially electric scooters that are becoming increasingly prevalent in many cities worldwide. An example is the Los Angeles, USA based Clevr that uses IoT for real-time monitoring and management of dockless e-scooters.
For safety, there are startups that focus on use of IT and better EV designs to enhance safety for specific segments. One such example is the Dublin, Ireland based startup Luna that has developed a telematics device to be used in e-scooters to understand the geography accurately enough to ensure that the scooters are ridden correctly and safely, something that could be useful for seniors, for instance. Another interesting example on safety, this one for the commercial sector, is the offering from the Swedish truck startup Volta Trucks that has significantly changed the electric truck design to enhance driver safety.
Target segments: School and college students | Seniors | Women | Commercial goods carriers
Products: Two-wheelers | Electric trucks
Benefit 5: Ease of Use
As it was in the case of safety, many solutions offered by startups for ease of use can be incorporated in conventional vehicles as well. There are however two aspects of electric vehicles for which the “ease of use” benefit makes them uniquely electric.
One of them is the EV charging process, which is of course completely different from the way we fill fuel in conventional vehicles. The other aspect is the presence of electric two-wheelers in countries that have been so far predominantly car-based – e-scooters seem to be completely taking over micro-mobility in many cities worldwide!
We see that startups are incorporating ease of use into e-mobility with special focus on these two aspects.
Let’s consider an example of how EV charging is made easier. One of the challenges with EV charging is the low number of EV charging stations available in most cities. One way by which startups are mitigating this challenge is by providing a roaming solution for EV users to use EV charging stations provided by different providers – an example of this is the EVGA-Electrify America roaming arrangement announced recently for the US.
A number of creative solutions are deployed to make electric scooters easy to use. Many of them are centered around the ease with which you can find and use shared e-scooters. But there are also other design-based EV solutions that make them easier to use. Netherlands-based Cargoroo has designed an innovative electric two-wheeler with custom-designed space and capacity to carry some cargo or even a couple of children – an ideal vehicle to take for shopping.
Target segments: Diverse sub-segments under the domestic sector
Products: E-scooters | Electric cars | EV charging stations
Differentiating for E-mobility – Highlights of International Trends
A majority of the highlights provided above are from startups. While not exhaustive, the details and examples will likely give Indian startups enough food for thought.
An analysis of the international startup trends shows us what we suspected they would: In many ways, these international efforts have a pattern that is aligned to the framework that we had introduced in Section 1.
Our analyses also show that the key avenues through which these efforts are attempting to provide focused and differentiated benefits. Prominent among these avenues are:
- Focus on niche vehicles/user segments – Some of the interesting niches include micro-mobility, vulnerable segments, commercial goods transport, tourists etc.
- Partnerships – A range of partnerships is emerging, between diverse stakeholders – OEMs and EV charging providers, utilities and EV charging providers, between multiple charging providers themselves, EV charging providers and digital solutions providers, OEMs and fleets, etc.
- Unique and effective business models – Borrowing models from the Internet world (Freemium) and renewable energy domain (OPEX), OEMs and EV charging operators are fast evolving customized business models to provide benefits to specific target segments
- Clever use of available technology, especially digital technologies – From the use of Cloud, AI & IoT for analytics to the use of Blockchain technology for secure transactions, international e-mobility stakeholders are leveraging “commodity” technology to provide premium benefits.
When discussing international research for accelerating e-mobility, most Indian startups try to highlight high-end, complex research for dimensions such as better Li-ion chemistries, better charging (faster DC, wireless charging), or even emerging storage technologies such as fuel cells without highlighting low-touch efforts that have proven successful.
The above trends show however that international research and innovative efforts are also being undertaken in less complex aspects of the e-mobility value chain. A good part of these innovations, in fact, have much less to do with groundbreaking technologies and a lot more with something far simpler: having empathy for the needs of different user segments!
This post is part of a series titled “Taking India’s E-mobility to the Next Orbit” from EV Next Perspectives. See all posts for this series from here. See next post – Indian E-mobility Startup Trends.
The complete list of blogs in the series –
- Taking India’s E-mobility to Next Orbit – The Framework
- International E-mobility Startup Trends
- Indian E-mobility Startup Trends
- Take-aways for Indian e-mobility startups & investors
Learn more on various Status & Trends in E-Mobility across: Indian EV Prices | Global EV Market | Indian EV Market | Current status of Indian EV Market | Indian Vehicle Segments | Challenges to Indian E-mobilty | Indian Startups takeaways |
Know more on how EV Next can assist your business in your strategy for the e-mobility and electric vehicles sectors, Here
Wish to know everything about India’s EV market from one place? Check out the India EV Expert Guide, an 800 page comprehensive guide to the Indian EV market. Here
Get to know about 1000+ EV innovations from EVI2: Electric Vehicle Innovation Intelligence from EVNext