The elephant in the room

I want to bring here this issue that I think is very important to address in this endeavor:
Since the 70`s there has been probably several hundreds of projects in Europe that have developed light low emission vehicles, bigger and smaller, nicer and uglier…
And there is a lot of products to choose in the market from a cargo trike to a microcar.
But for now it has been a completely failure to make them popular in most if not all European cities/roads.
(We have the exception of Netherlands and neighbor countries/areas)

So here is the question;
What you think it has been the problem with all those projects in order not to be as successful as it happens in other areas like Asia?

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I think that the problem is a litle more bigger than all people are thinking… ; )

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As nobody answered here the question I decided to make it at different Facebook groups related to velomobiles, cargo bikes, light EVs, etc.
The question, had a lot of responses. I decided to arrange the data in an organised way.
Hope this helps to get your conclusions.

You can download document from here:

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This is really interresting, as it shows in a super clear way that most of the main weaknesses are social issues, in a very clear way (price, culture, laziness, regulations). Thanks for this survey, which is worth being refined and spread on a representative sample of the users.

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I put it on our wiki ! Enquête sur les freins à la diffusion de petits véhicules intermédiaires en Europe — Communauté de la Fabrique des Mobilités
Think we can replicate this survey in France !

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Good job, thks for sharing with us @gonzalochomon. it backs up our intuitions and assumptions with some quantitative data.

There is one thing I will like to mention about this survey.
It is biased because it was made in groups of interest about Light vehicles.

  • 1st It is not a general public survey so can not be taken as a population media.
  • 2nd Although it is not a population media is made to a possible clients group, so it makes it more interesting because really does not matter what others think, that will never be clients.
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After the success on comments of that survey I decided to go a bit further and proposing a possible product to that same groups.
What I did was fix the first problem « PRICE », but not the others.
In order to see if that could be enough, but than another problem arises: « SPEED » mainly for North America and Germany. They want it as fast as a normal car or close as fast.

This is what I propoused:

Will you be truly interested a vehicle with this characteristics?

- Price: 2,900€ + shipping
- No driving license, no insurance, no tax needed
- Electric powered + Pedal generator
- Speed 25Km/h (Limited by EU Law)
- Range 70Km
- Fully enclosed
- Full Metal Unibody protecting structure
- Cargo: Driver + 200Kg (0.5m3)
- 4 wheels
- Boxy shape (maybe ugly)
- Suspension and disc brakes in all wheels
- 1m wide, for bike lanes
- Tough as nails

Just a vehicle for going from A to B. You pedal and it goes.

Possibility to add Solar panels ( aprox. +600€), more battery (aprox. +700€), wiper (aprox. 90€), and maybe some other items.

If you ask for fancy stuff like internet connection, autopilot, GPS, bluetooth, etc. the answer is going to be: NO.

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many thanks @gonzalochomon Gonzalo,

it exemplifies my own personal conviction (assumption ?) that we do need to dig deeper into the business model innovation realm. There are things we may be able to adopt to decrease significantly the facial acquisition price, transform it into a per km fee (or per month to avoid telematics complications) while emulating a virtuous circle of improvement. I started to call it « components as a service » analogous to aerospace « turbines as a service » and Michelin "tires as a service for their very specialized tires…
To be investigated.

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Sorry mes retours seront en français (je suis resté bloqué à "Hello classe de 5ème, lesson 1, texte 1 :wink: !
Merci Gonzalo pour cette superbe étude, ça confirme également mon intuition et mes premiers retours. Pour l’exemple, j’ai acheté il y a 4 ans une Opel Agila 1.2 essence de 2001 (3,5x1.7x1.6 m - 955kg), 4 places carte grises, 70 000 Km pour 2400€ . La plupart des vélos cargo sont vendus aux alentours de 3000€ en VAE et les véhicules intermédiaires commercialisés de notre sujet aux alentours de 6000€.
Je pense que nous souffrons du syndrome de l’ingénieur, sans vouloir blesser personne, et plus particulièrement de l’ingénieur automobile… avec les mêmes reflexes du toujours plus,( tjs+ gros, rapide, léger, facile, assisté, aérodynamique…) … la technique n’est pas un problème,… on a besoin de répondre a une problématique spécifique, alors on développe une pièce spécifique, on utilise les mêmes matériaux, et les mêmes process que l’industrie automobile, donc forcement pour les petites et moyennes séries, les coûts de fabrications sont élevés, sans oublier les impacts environnementaux et sociaux de nos dépendances aux chaines de productions planétaires.
Une voiture c’est +/-30 000 pièces, un vélo +/- 1000 pièces (en comptant les billes de roulements, les rondelles…et sans compter les apprêts, peintures, solvants, graisses, huiles…) et donc autant d’usines dédiées.
Pourquoi avoir besoin de toujours plus se compliquer la vie avec des choses sur mesure, quand 1 vélo acier des années 90 (avec ces technologies d’époque) suffit largement à transporter 120 kg max., et que la 2 CV des années 50 répond à nos problématiques (excepté l’énergie fossile consommée). Cette course à l’échalotte marketing conduit les fabricants du cycles et de l’automobile à toujours créer de nouvelles techno, et/ou services superflus… Avons nous réellement besoin de tout ce « confort » (Cf. Le confort tue ;)? Pourquoi les véhicules intermédiaires veulent-ils à tout prix ressembler à des bagnoles?
Je pense que si nous n’arrivons pas à sortir un véhicule pouvant transporter 4 personnes sommairement dans un budget en dessous de 2500 €, nos efforts sont vains pour convaincre. Il y aura cependant toujours un marché de niche de convaincus et/ou de middle class aisée pour s’offrir ces bijoux/joujoux technologiques. A l’heure des crises à répétitions, les collapso ont-ils raison? Doit-on continuer, en reproduisant toujours et toujours les mêmes schémas? Je penses que si on veux convaincre et convertir massivement, il va falloir repenser nos méthodologies de conceptions en s’orientant vers les low-tech, les matériaux bio-sourcés, le surcyclage… et ce que j’appelle l’ingéniosité paysanne de nos grands parents capable de bricoler, créer, réparer n’importe quoi avec presque rien.

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Thanks Gonzalo !
That’s funny because I saw your survey on facebook and I almost create a subject here…

This is off course biased, I agree.
But some of your points are relevants.

  • The selling price :
    In my point of view, the main objective for a Light Electric Vehicle is to be a car, or a motorbike or a bike !
    But it is important to not have any ambiguosity.
    In fact, the worst case scenario would be to build a bike and be compared with a car !
    Of course a bike is supposed to go from a point A to a point B, like a car do.
    But in my point of view, it should be 2 very differents vehicles.
    I personnaly never hesitate between a car OR a bike.
    And that is my point, If you build a bike, be sure that you will be compared with other bikes (not with cars).
    You see ?

Then, the business model has also to enter in consideration.
If you rent your LEV, it is much more complicated to compared a monthly rental price with a buying price.
Or, you will need to do some calculation.
And that is great because a bike (or a LEV) will always be less expensive than a car !

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question / assumption to be checked : will that be enough ? any evidence out there ?

Hi, I’ve been thinking about this topic lately. Because even if we make the best vehicle possible, if no one sees it as a solution matching one’s need, it will stay as a beautiful prototype, a XXI century Concorde (with a lower fuel consumption :smiley: )

As @BORDRON said, most of us suffer from the « engineer syndrome », with a super relevant technical analysis but our sociologic/anthropologic analysis is poorer. Here, we are talking about changing transportation, which are structuring the everyday’s life of almost each adult in our society and implies a lot of emotional and social elements. This requires a super fine adaptation to the people’s need, otherwise any project will be ignored (best option) or violently rejected (I’ll probably sound excessively suspicious, but if a serious competitor to the automotive industry appears, their lobbies won’t miss an occasion to belittle/badmouth it…)

=> To me, the need for analysis goes further than a simple market analysis, the needs being closer to a « territory diagnosis » (not sure of the actual translation…) which actively involves potential users (=people dependant of their cars): ask them how they feel about their transportation issues, which solutions come to their minds, then present them some prototypes/MVPs, collect and analyze their reactions (and be ready for very negative reacts and rejection !)

We really need to involve people in this change, from the very first steps of the project. And specialists, with developped skills in sociology, anthropology, and citizen participation /collective intelligence methods. If there’s something that may be mutualized (and maybe backed by a specific Ademe team ?), it’s an extensive analysis, and/or methods and tools to carry it properly for each project (this latter option may be better, better suited to a « no vehicle can be an universal answer » spirit).

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In my opinion, you are discribing a market analysis !
The difference here is innovation :slight_smile:

I did that kinf of things for more than one year now.
And I a pretty sure to be able to adress a market. But it is « my market ». Not the market of « Light Electric Vehicle ».
So, here is the thing, to start with a problem, a specific one. We can call it a niche.
And I agree, it is important to satisfy that particular need and not an « universal answer » as you said :slight_smile:
In my case, I want to find an alternative solution to the second car in rural zone with a bike dedicated to this. All my technical choices are oriented by this specific needs.

Some exemples :

  • I want my vehicle to be open and not close => For me this is one of the most important difference between a car and a bike.
  • My bike is for 12km and i don’t care about the « autonomy », because the battery will be charged every single days and will allow you to drive for that kind of distance every days.
  • It will not be a 4 passengers, because I am adressing the 2nd car only ! So uselly you drive this kind of car alone (sometimes with kids).

You see ?
So a market study = Yes
But it is not possible to be the same one for all of us.

And by the way, I thing it is good to not adress all the same specific market !
And in fact it will never be the case :wink:

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Following the discussion with @liovelut and @gonzalochomon , we have the chance a city just confirmed its participation as partner : Loos en Gohelle. Small city (10.000 inhab.), north of France, car dependant. This city made a specific work last year with Eiffel University with theirs citizens starting by their issues (report in french : Cloud Fabmob) . Now in Loos we have many citizens « educated » on mobility issues and solutions, who ASK for economic and modern vehicles.

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Hello les gens du Marché :wink:

ce n’est pas une promotion mais il s’avère que je « suis » ce que fait ce bureau de design Hollandais. très « qualitatif ».

ils envoie un mail de teasing de temps a autres et je ne peux résister a la tentation de poser ici le dernier en date, je n’aurai pas dit mieux…

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Thanks for this document, I’ll read it in detail, however it sounds great, as it empasizes on the development/design with the prospective users, which is really fundamental in my opinion, and must be carried out with the right public consultation methods (this kind of process is, sadly, easy to mess up…)
This may be an important step of any design or prototype: present it to a bunch of people of the territory, even at an early stage, and take note of any remark, question or critique about it : it’s easier to imagine and discuss when there’s a proposal (and even easier, for certain people, when it’s a tangible prototype)

I don’t think it’s the good approach to compare the price of a car to the véhicules that we want to propose as alternative. The automotive industry has a huge volume peer year and the producers are making pressure on the supplier to have of parts cost reduction of 2-3% per year!!!
With 2500€ we will never be able to have a sustainable business plan and we will not succed to survive. From my point of view, we need a strong marketing approach in order to reach the 99% of potential customers which don’t even think to use something else than there cars. We are confronted to bad habits that are difficult to change, It’s a pitty that 80% of the cars use are less than 15km with 1,4 passengers, so the 4 places are not really necessary.
Let’s hope that we the actual oil price we will see some changes.
I have made a quick analysis of the price per kilometer comparison between a new PedaloCab (0,29€) and a new Golf VIII (1,3€) on a similar Km use on 10 years. Perhaps this kind of argument could help to reach a couple of customers…
From my point of view we need a stronger Lobbying in opposition of the car industry that propose even more bigger SUV (even Electric)…

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Thank you Benoit @cargo84 - one option is also to consider the price of the vehicle can be reduced by subsidies . For example : => why not promote light, efficient, recyclable vehicles with equivalent subsidies ?
Moreover, new business model can also be study for our vehicles by including maintenance and capacity for evolutions : monthly rental for example

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I agree Gabriel !
Bike rental is one of the most efficient way to fight car price

And @cargo84 , I think there is a confusion between « cost » and « price ».
This is 2 very different things and in theory not correlated.

I bet the state and/or regions are going to take a « subvention policies » in place for bicycles (a real one).

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