Squad Mobility has today released the design update of the Squad Solar City Car, with some notable updates. Auto Futures sat down with CEO Robert Hoevers to find out what’s new with the company’s electric car and the importance of taking on feedback and developing products as a startup.
A lot has happened with Squad Mobility since I last spoke with Hoevers in 2019 and found out about the little solar-powered city vehicle. It’s a clever concept that will certainly do well in the emerging mobility-as-a-service market. However, something that interested me the most was how the company had made some changes to the product following feedback from several markets around the world, including removable doors, air-con, and improved solar panels.
“Launching a new mobility concept is extremely challenging,” he explains. “You have to listen to the customer very carefully, to understand what they like and what they don’t like.”
Hoevers says that a lot of feedback he received was about the doors, which didn’t exist with the Solar City Car before today.
“We still love the open character of the doors, having a fun aspect to it and, of course, it helps with the price point. However, we found out that doors may be more important to people in different areas of the world, whether that’s the weather or even protection from pollution on the road. If we look at it today, this feedback may also be impacted by the pandemic we are facing.”
So, Hoevers and his team listened carefully to the feedback and unveiled an updated model with a choice of removable doors; half doors for increased safety and protection from splash water as well as full doors for full weather protection, comfort and the possibility to completely lock the car for theft prevention.
The Power of Solar
There have also been some improvements made in relation to powering the vehicle through improved efficiency and portability.
Solar charging makes a tremendous difference to cost for customers, but one of the major factors in operational costs and usability is keeping the car charged. For fleet operators, having to collect and charge these vehicles requires a lot of time and effort.
By cleverly designing interchangeable solar-powered batteries, the Squad Solar City Car can always have a backup battery, which eliminates charging times completely and allows the vehicle to be on the road longer.
“We use multiple portable batteries which not only allow people who live in cities to carry them to their flats and charge them separately, but benefits shared platforms,” he says. “Not everyone has a charging station near them, so they can charge in their houses like they would charge an electric bike.”
This is probably one of the main selling points of the Squad Solar City Car, as it eliminates the common challenges people express about electric vehicle ownership in cities.
People in certain areas in Europe with poor charging infrastructure have expressed their concern about EV ownership to Hoevers, who has prioritised this in his product development.
“This is a clear alternative for people with poor charging infrastructure, who now don’t have to depend on nearby stations,” he says. “They can also charge on normal power outlets, which are everywhere.”
This has again opened up new markets for the once-European-focused brand, including counties in Africa which, Hoevers says, are looking to “skip the grid,” just like we have seen with the mobile networks. They also have a lot of sunshine all year round, making it the perfect application.
Building On A Vision
Squad Mobility has listened to feedback around the world and used it to effectively grow the product and company. They have quickly addressed any improvements needed and built an even better offering for customers.
“It is crucial to address feedback, but also very difficult at the same time,” he says. “As an entrepreneur, you are supposed to have a vision and an opinion – this is why you are doing something that no one else is doing.”
He also says that it is important to go into the market as soon as possible and see what people think, starting with family and friends before the rest of the world.
“We had a lot of interest all over the world, including gated communities in Texas and Florida, which I had never thought of as a serious market for us. However, with up to 120,000 people living in these communities in Florida alone, we realised that they loved our concept and that we had to speak with them to get their views.”
Getting in touch with different markets opens up the doors to new opportunities that may not be clear on the first inspection. Another aspect is that you are getting feedback from different walks of life, allowing you to tailor a product to be suitable for multiple use cases.
“What we have formed here is an open vision from feedback, marrying our vision to adapt our previous ideas to something much more developed,” adds Hoevers.
Entrepreneurs have a rather unique outlook, not going to work for more established companies and forming a fresh new idea themselves. They have to be very confident about their products, whatever people tell them, but also avoid sticking to their guns no matter what. It’s about finding the right balance, appreciating feedback and then applying it to your own vision.
“We as entrepreneurs have to back our own ideas, but must avoid being too stubborn and adopt the feedback we get,” he says. “At the same time, you cannot take on all these comments as some people may give you impossible recommendations that warrant a completely different product.”
There is a happy medium to all of this, deciding on what feedback is progressive for the company and what simply isn’t appropriate. You must decide for yourself with your team, what is best for the company moving forward.
Although the Squad will initially be homologated for the EU market, it has quickly established itself as a worldwide mobility solution that has become popular in multiple markets and use cases.