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“I’d rather see my daughter leave in a vehicle like this than a moped, you know?”
Robert Hovers, CEO of the Dutch carmaker Squad Mobility, is clear about his cars (or rather quads), who they are for and what they can do. There is no hype for CEOs of startups, only a clear business proposal.
However, Squad vehicles look almost like nothing else on the road thanks to their solar charging capabilities. With cars available for pre-order and upcoming production, we sat down with Hoevers to see how the company has grown over the years.
Creating a different type of car
Squad cars, officially known as SQUAD Solar City Car, are based around rooftop solar panels.
“It’s magical, because when the battery runs out, we just push the car out to charge it. It’s amazing, “says Hovers.
“It’s such a good technology to have all three aspects of solar energy – generating energy, storing energy and using energy – in a single product. I feel really special to me when you see it work. ”
The small cars powered by solar energy are built according to EU regulations for small vehicles L6 and L7, which means that they weigh well under 500 kilograms and can be driven from 16 years old.
“You can see in the design something like a mix of motorcycles, motorcycles and two-wheelers,” says Hovers.
“It’s very normal to see a space frame on the chassis of a motorcycle or two-wheeler, but cars always try to hide it. We show the chassis clearly for several reasons. First of all, because it is safe. It’s a full cell. “
“It also contributes to the strength and durability of the vehicle, which is very important for platform sharing, because people are not so careful with vehicles when sharing platforms. Last but not least, the car has a lot of glass to provide a good view around. It is easy to feel closed in small cars. We wanted to give a feeling of a lot of space with good visibility everywhere and the frame serves as protection for the glass.
Of course, Squad vehicles do not depend entirely on the sun for their power. Although they can charge up to 20 km per day “in Europe”, you are not completely abandoned if the sun does not rise.
“The chance of the battery running out is pretty low,” explains Hovers, “because it charges in other lights.”
“Last week here in Amsterdam, a little was charged with the help of interior lights. However, you can charge it with a simple plug or charger type 2.
However, the Squad is also available with four replaceable batteries, each with a capacity of 1.6 kWh, offering a range of 100 km.
But that’s not really the point. Squad solar cars are not designed to offer exceptional range or performance – the company even says that most micro cars drive only 12 km a day. Instead, they are about changing the way people think about mobility.
Satisfying the demand
Squad began accepting pre-orders last month, with prices for private vehicles starting at 6,250 euros plus VAT.
“We want to grow to 20,000 vehicles a year,” says Hovers.
“There is a huge demand, pre-orders are going quite well. We now have about 53 orders a day that come completely automatically from the website.
However, these orders come from a wide range of customers.
“Yes, some of these pre-orders are individual vehicles, but also many companies that would like to have a car or maybe a few more. Many companies see applications on site or downtown – you know, real estate companies, medical companies or service and repair.
“But most of our interest comes from sharing. These can be public sharing services in cities or limited to, say, closed communities or fleets of people in a certain area.
However, while you will be forgiven for thinking that densely packed European cities will be the main candidates for an almost free, shared, electric tour, you will be wrong.
“It [the sales interest] is really global, but we will start in Europe with sales. But there is great 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 transport guests through the vast resort areas or to help them reach beaches that are too far to walk certainly sounds appealing.
Building a dream
However, with vehicles yet to hit the roads, it will take some time until you see Squads on the road or on your holidays.
However, the company does not sit still and has plans for the future.
“We will focus on the L6 together with the L7 – the L6 can reach 45 km / h and the L7 can reach 70 km / h – and also increase the platform sharing functionality,” says Hoover.
These remote sharing features are seriously ambitious.
“Remote monitoring, remote diagnostics, remote maintenance, charge status monitoring, status operations,” says Hovers, explaining the company’s plans in motion.
“Also a real remote control. Say, if you have several hundred vehicles in the city and the fire department calls you and says, “Are you in the way, can you move your car?” without having to go there. “
However, the long-term vision is for Squad car fleets to easily and quickly meet the needs of passengers.
“We envisage our autonomous cars moving through the city like a flock of vehicles to places of high demand.”
In fact, according to Hoevers, Squad vehicles use less energy per person and per kilometer than even public transport, which would seriously challenge the orthodoxy of urban mobility.
Of course, mass transport will still have advantages, just as Squad cars will have advantages over other small urban vehicles.
However, even though they are powered by the sun, the conversation with Hoevers makes it clear that Squad Mobility and its cars are not an idea for a pie in the sky.