A new dawn? – Squad Mobility CEO Robert Hoevers on solar-powered cars
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“I’d rather see my daughter go in a vehicle like this than on a moped, you know?”
Robert Hoevers, CEO of Dutch automaker Squad Mobility, is clear about his cars (or rather his quadricycles), who they are for and what they can do. There’s no startup CEO hype here, just a clear business proposition.
Squad’s vehicles, however, are unlike almost anything else on the road thanks to their solar charging capabilities. With the cars available for pre-order and nearing production, we spoke to Hoevers to find out how the company has grown over the years.
Build another kind of car
Squad cars, officially known as SQUAD Solar City Car, are based on their roof-mounted solar panels.
“It’s magic because when the battery is low, we just push the car outside to charge it. It’s amazing,” says Hoevers.
“It’s such a great technology to have all three aspects of solar power — power generation, power storage, and power consumption — in one product. It’s really special to me when you see it working.
The solar-powered toy cars are built to EU L6 and L7 small vehicle regulations, meaning they weigh well under 500 kilos and can be driven by 16-year-olds.
“You can see in the design, kind of a mix between motorcycles, bicycles and two-wheelers,” says Hoevers.
“It’s completely normal to see a space frame on a motorcycle or a two-wheeler, but in cars they always try to hide it. We clearly show the chassis for several reasons. First and foremost, because it’s safe. It’s a full roll cage.
“It also adds to the sturdiness and durability of the vehicle, which is very important for sharing platforms because in sharing platforms people are not so careful with vehicles. And, last but not least, there is plenty of glass in the car to provide a good view around. In small cars, it’s easy to feel confined. We wanted to give a feeling of space with good visibility all around and the frame serves as protection for the glass.
Of course, Squad vehicles aren’t entirely dependent on the sun for power. If they can recharge up to 20 km of autonomy per day “in Europe”, you are not completely abandoned if the sun does not rise.
“The risk of the battery discharging is quite low,” says Hoevers, “because it also charges on other lamps.
“Last week here in Amsterdam it was charging a tiny bit using indoor lights. However, you can charge it on a regular socket or type 2 charger.”
However, the Squad also comes with four interchangeable batteries each with a capacity of 1.6 kWh, providing a range of 100 km.
But, that’s not really the point. Squad solar cars are not designed to deliver exceptional range or performance – the company even claims that most microcars only travel 12 km per day. Instead, it’s about changing the way people think about mobility.
Respond to the request
Squad started accepting pre-orders last month, with prices for private vehicles starting at €6,250 plus VAT.
“We want to grow to 20,000 vehicles a year,” says Hoevers.
“The demand is huge, pre-orders are going pretty well. We are now at approximately 53 orders per day that arrive fully automatically through the website. »
However, these orders come from a wide range of customers.
“Yeah, some of those pre-orders are individual vehicles, but also a lot of companies that would like to have a car, or maybe a few others. A lot of companies are seeing applications on site or in a city center – you know, real estate companies, medical companies or service and repair companies.
“But most of our interest comes from sharing. These can be public sharing services in cities or confined to, for example, gated communities or fleets of people in a specific area.
However, while you’d be forgiven for thinking that densely populated European cities would be prime candidates for nearly free, shareable, electric racing, you’d be wrong.
“This [the sales interest] is really global but we will start in Europe with the sales. But there is a lot of interest in sometimes the most unexpected areas. Many Caribbean islands but also islands in general, Malta, many Spanish and Italian islands.
The idea of a small electric vehicle to ferry guests around sprawling resort grounds or help them access beaches that are just a bit too far to walk certainly sounds appealing.
Build the dream
However, with vehicles not really hitting the road yet, it will still be a while before you see Squads on the road or while on vacation.
However, the company is not standing still and has plans for the future.
“We are going to focus on the L6 vehicle with the L7 vehicle – the L6 can go up to 45 km/h and the L7 can go up to 70 km/h – and also to increase the sharing functionality of the platforms “, says Hoevers.
These remote sharing features are seriously ambitious.
“Remote sensing, remote diagnostics, remote maintenance, load status monitoring, status operations,” says Hoevers, explaining the plans the company has underway.
“Also a real remote control. Say you have a few hundred vehicles in town and the fire department calls you and says, “You’re on the way, can you move your vehicle?” then the ideal would be for the central operator to be able, with a remote control, to move the vehicle aside without having to go there.
The longer-term vision, however, is for Squad car fleets to be able to respond easily and quickly to passenger demands.
“We expect our autonomous vehicles to move around the city as a herd of vehicles to places where there is high demand.”
In fact, according to Hoevers, Squad vehicles consume less energy per person per kilometer than even public transport, which would seriously challenge the orthodoxy of urban mobility.
Of course, mass transit will always have advantages, just like Squad cars will have advantages over other small urban vehicles.
However, despite being powered by the sun, from discussions with Hoevers, it’s clear that Squad Mobility and its cars aren’t an unreal idea.