Chris Cramer and Chris van Houdt, who have been friends for over 10 years, had a meeting four and a half years ago and decided to start a business together. They wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on the environment. Chris Cramer has CEO experience as well as leadership of large and multicultural teams, whilst Chris van Houdt has over 15 years of international sales experience at global companies. During that meeting, the first thing that came to their mind was a bicycle, which they drew one on the white board along with some notes during their brainstorming session. As they continued their session on transformational business models and applications for a bicycle-centered business, a few things stood out:
- Bicycles these days are more and more electric and therefore need a battery
- The battery would need charging
iii. Widespread electric vehicle adoption (electric cars, trucks, buses etc) would need local grid infrastructure upgrades
- Grids in most places are mainly fossil fuel powered
- Some places have weak and intermittent grids
- Some places are remote and completely off grid
They then settled on building an energy efficient electric cargo bicycle that has solar panels integrated on the cargo compartment. This meant that:
- The battery is charged from the sun whilst the bicycle is in use or at rest during the day
- Riders will get significant additional range as they pedal
iii. Zero dependency of charging stations
- No need to saturate the electricity grid
- Save on labor costs for charging/loading battery
After settling on centering their business on an eco-friendly solar powered cargo bicycle, they then sought to address some challenges faced by business operators whose operations involve the last mile delivery and service areas. They then looked at solving the most prominent problems in the B2B segment such as:
- Parking issues in congested city centers
- High opex costs in light of the ever increasing fossil fuel prices
iii. Meeting targets for emission reductions and the expansion of emission free zones in major European cities
- Addressing employee wellness and vitality as cycling helps employees improve their fitness and vitality
- But, most importantly want to contribute to a healthier planet by reducing the use of fossil fuels during their last mile delivery
They then proceeded to build a team that includes several engineers who had previously won solar car and solar boat racing competitions. Their cargo bicycle, now appropriately named the SunRider, has a 1.6 kWh lithium-ion battery charged using the integrated 545 Wp solar PV panels. The cargo compartment can fit 1 standard EU pallet and can carry up to 150 kg. On a full battery the bicycle has a range of about 100 km depending on route conditions and usage cycle. The 545W of solar panels on board mean that on nice sunny days the battery can be fully charged from the solar panels, which provides an additional range of 100 km and is great for places with weak and intermittent grids or remote off-grid areas as well.
SunRider is also a member of the Alliance For Solar Mobility (ASOM), a cooperative international platform to establish and foster the Solar Mobility Industry. Amongst others, SunRider also collaborates with Lightyear, TNO, and Sono Motors. Cargo bikes have been found to be faster and much cleaner than traditional vans in the last mile logistics and distribution sectors. SunRider says that, compared to a typical diesel, it reduces CO2 emissions by 97.7%, and 83.5% compared to a standard back loader electric cargo bike (grid charged).
Deloitte’s Discover the Future 2020 Predictions for UK Technology, Media and Telecommunications also summarizes the appeal of e-bikes. The battery assistance makes pedaling a whole lot easier for longer. Average speeds on e-bikes can be up to 50% higher compared with standard bikes. The battery assistance also makes acceleration on take-off much easier after stops. Riders also get a power boost when going uphill, carrying heavy loads, facing headwinds, and in cases when a rider may encounter a combination of all of these at the same time. All of these coupled with real-time tracking via apps make e-bikes, and especially cargo versions, perfect for the home delivery industry.
SunRider is already working with several big players such as IKEA, Vodafone Ziggo (Ziggo), and BENU pharmacies. Pharmacies are a key target market, as medicines require speed and cooled deliveries for large volumes of small packages.
Vodafone Ziggo says “the SunRider has a spacious cargo box in which the technicians can conveniently store their equipment and keep it waterproof. The exercise gained while pedaling will also help improve their health. But this bike has yet another benefit — it generates solar energy. Solar panels that convert the sun’s rays into energy have been fitted both to the sides and the top of the cargo box.”
They will also be able to capture ‘big data’ en route, “the bike’s on-board equipment will record a whole host of data that will enable Vodafone Ziggo to work as effectively as possible. Not only will the equipment check which route is the most efficient one, how many kilometers the bike has covered, how fast the engineer is riding and how many calories he/she is consuming, for example, but it will also record things such as how much sunlight is available that day — and how much energy therefore needs to be generated.”
SunRider is targeting the global market for its self-charging solar cargo bicycle.
All images courtesy of SunRider
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