Indigo Technologies is working on new energy and cost-efficient electric vehicles with ‘magic carpet rides’. Auto Futures talks with Will Graylin, CEO of Indigo Technologies about new investment, partnership and personnel announcements. He also explains how Indigo’s super wheels will change the rides, efficiency and profits of delivery and mobility drivers.
The U.S. company has just announced that it has raised over $110 million in capital funding. Automotive and tech veterans are also joining the management team and the board of directors.
Most modern vehicles cost about 50 cents a mile to operate. Using electricity brings down the fuelling cost. Batteries increase the weight of electric vehicles and decrease efficiency, says Graylin. Passive suspension, that includes axles, CV boots and struts, also increases vehicle weight.
Indigo Technologies’ patented robotic IndiWheel packs the powertrain, propulsion and electric active suspension into each of the wheels, so reducing vehicle weight. Indigo Technologies was formed by MIT professor, Ian Hunter, who is re-engineering 32 vehicle subsystems and created the IndiWheel.
“Most light vehicles have a bouncy golf-car like ride. Project Alpha rides like a magic carpet,” says Graylin, “The suspension inside the wheels adjusts to road conditions for a very smooth ride.”
The EV batteries will also be lighter but will have a faster charge when rated on how many miles per kilowatt-hour.
The company is working on two models Project Alpha and Project Bravo. Project Alpha is a pod-like shaped vehicle designed for the delivery of goods. It is about the size of a Honda Fit with the driver seat in the centre with sliding doors on either side. Sliding doors make it easier to get out of the vehicle.
The vehicles at first will be for delivery and ride-hailing but eventually will be available to consumers, says Graylin.
“Alpha is ultra-comfortable, small and very cost-effective. It is designed for delivery with more energy efficiency to get the job as well as more accessibility to get the goods in and out of the vehicle,” he adds.
Both Project Alpha and Bravo have centre driver seats, sliding doors and removable back seats. The vehicles will be made to meet the requirements for federal and local clean vehicle incentives, says Graylin.
Indigo Tech also announced that IndiWheels will be made by Jing-Jin Electric (JJE) in Framingham Hills, Michigan. “It is a big opportunity for us to be on the ground floor of Indigo’s market-disrupting product line,” says Michael Duhaime, JJE Vice President, and President JJE North America.
How Much Cheaper Are Indigo Tech Vehicles to Operate? There’s an App for That
Many delivery and mobility drivers do not know their true cost of driving and may not have the credit needed to buy a vehicle, says Graylin.
Graylin started six commerce companies after obtaining two Masters degrees from MIT. He is also the CEO of OV Loop, a mobile payment start-up. The OV GO app allows for subscription by the week or any time with added functionality, notes Graylin.
The OV Go app is an integral part of the Indigo ecosystem with all-inclusive pricing options, including insurance, parking and charging with seamless reservations and transactions.
The app’s driving monitoring makes it possible if a driver does not have a good credit history to still drive an Indigo Project Alpha vehicle because they are a good driver, says Graylin. The app also shows the driver the true cost of driving, allowing drivers to track mileage and expenses.
Right now, for ride-hailing cars, the insurance cost is the same for all drivers while different types of drivers are not rated. The cost to insure an Uber driver who has many accidents is the same as the Uber driver who does not. OV Go can reduce insurance costs Up to 50% lower insurance costs based on driving performance.
Graylin adds that the vehicles will have ADAS safety features to enable the drivers to be proactive in their own safety. Plus, there will be a safety cell around the driver that is a stronger composite material.
The Car of the Future
Project Bravo is designed for ride-hailing with super comfortable back seats. When compared to the cost of driving the types of vehicles ride-hailing drivers usually drive, the savings can be in the thousands of dollars a year, says Graylin.
Indigo Technologies has requests from all over the world including transportation networks.
“Our vehicles will be more than twice as efficient as other electric vehicles and charge times per mile will be faster,” says Graylin. Depending on electric utility costs, the vehicles will cost a few cents a mile to fuel.
“The car of the future will be more efficient and will have ratings like Energy Star for lightness and efficiency per mile. Then as cars become more robotic, wheels with active suspension will offer a smooth ride and be safer with sensors inside and outside the car to avoid accidents. The car of the future will be based on not just comfort but efficiency and the ability to detect surrounding areas,” he says.
Investments will enable the company to produce prototypes in 2021. They expect cars to be ready in 2022 first with Project Alpha with an estimated target price of $19,500 and then Project Bravo targeted at $23,500.
Indigo Tech also announced new members of management. They are Greg Tarr, Chief Strategy Officer, former leader of successful teams at Karma Automotive and Toyota; Phil Van Wormer, Chief Commercial Officer, most recently CEO of evTS; Doug Frasher, VP of EV Design, formerly advanced vehicle research and development, Volvo; and Jonathan Li, VP of Product Management, a former program executive for autonomous vehicle user experience at Seres/SF Motors.