Sometimes good things come in small packages. Today that is especially true, as the package isn’t square, its “Squad, World’s First Solar City Car.” Wordplay aside, Squad Mobility is a startup in the Netherlands whose product might actually be the ultimate solution to the first/last-mile transportation issue. In our opinion, if successful, it could change the world.
What they have created is a small, affordable, low-speed car that dwarfs even a Smart car, yet can still seat 2 people and store maybe a grocery bag or two. At all times, this vehicle is charged by the solar panel that it’s roof is composed of, and when that doesn’t cut it and the juice runs low, the battery can just be swapped out. In some ways, we have seen similar strategies from electric scooter manufacturers like Gogoro which can be either purchased by individual consumers or shared by smart mobility networks. However, thus far we have not yet seen a successful implementation of this in a vehicle that has a roof.
There are so many applications for this in cities, towns, and even villages worldwide. For private owners seeking to do some basic grocery shopping, even the 20km of range that the solar panel can generate per day will suffice. For a shared network, giving a car that already gets 100km of range from its battery an additional 20km of range per day without having to burden the electrical grid or worry about the logistics of charging shared cars is actually quite significant. As Robert Hoevers, CEO of Squad Mobility, put it: “cities love solar charging, as this is a sustainable energy source. It decreases the load on the local charging infrastructure and energy demand. Cities are looking for zero emission mobility solutions with a small space footprint. We have achieved both. A per capita energy consumption lower than public transport and a space footprint comparable to a bicycle. And all this, while offering the flexibility of personal transport and the comfort of a car.”
At a starting price of just €5750, this car costs half as much as the cheapest A-segment car and one-fourth the cost of the two cheapest electric vehicles on the market, the Smart or VW e-up! We have seen electric scooters that were sold for this price, so it is very impressive. For those not interested in an outright purchase, lease and subscription options will also be made available for 100 euros per month. Pre-orders are now available on Squad’s website.
With a footprint of just 2 square meters, 3 or even 4 Squad solar cars can fit in just a single parking spot, making implementation in city infrastructure much easier. The vehicle itself will initially be limited to 45 km/h (28 mph) and a more powerful version that can reach 70 km/h (43 mph) will be launched at a later date. However, that isn’t the only improvement Squad Mobility has in store for its product. The vehicle will already be equipped with smart sensors and cameras that can monitor everything from cabin cleanliness to how a car is parked. Fleet operators will even be able to remotely control the car in case it is improperly parked or blocking an exit. They hope that once self-driving technology will be more commonplace, they will be able to add that to their product as well. In the words of the creators, “In the longer term, we envision the use of autonomous technology to control the fleet in the city — for example, to move vehicles back to places with high demand or more sunshine for charging.”
While autonomy might still be a ways off, production should start in the last quarter of 2022 in the EU, especially since in March they finished up an investment agreement with Bloomit Ventures. Once made, the product will likely sell like hot cakes, as this is a product category that does not yet exist, yet offers functionality that is very much in demand and does so for unbelievably low prices. Years ago when electric cars were not all that great, as an insult they have sometimes been called glorified golf carts. It is ironic that this product in some ways has taken that insult and turned it into a price advantage. This might not be a serious electric car alternative for consumers, instead it may be the best solution to city mobility and how most people will choose to travel the first/last leg of regular trips. While we can’t say too much, you can expect an even more serious milestone before the end of this year, so keep an eye out for Squad Mobility.
Note: We also wrote about Squad’s plans in December 2019: Squad Mobility Redefines Affordable With Its $6,300 Solar-Powered Urban Electric Vehicle.