Ayro is quickly delivering electric vehicles through partnerships and intelligence. Rodney C. Keller, Ayro’s CEO, reveals how the Texas-based company plans to be the pre-eminent supplier of electric last-mile delivery and micro-logistics vehicles.
Keller managed the meteoric rise and sales of technology and transportation companies during his decades-long career. He started as an executive at Toshiba, Dell and Cisco. He was president of the three-wheel security vehicle company T3, then became president of Segway in 2012-15 where he brokered the sale of the company to Ninebot that taught him a lot.
“When I was at Segway, the goal was to eventually sell the company. Ninebot gave us an offer we could not refuse,” says Keller.
When he talked to the Segway engineers, he learned that the Segway was made almost entirely of custom parts. The parts cost too much to make. The Segway sold for $6500 while competitors using available parts could sell similar vehicles for $1,000.
“I learned using readily available parts cuts costs,” he says.
He stayed at Segway for a few months then moved back to Texas. When his non-compete agreement ended in 2017, he met with Austin Electric Vehicles’ founder Christian Okonsky and was impressed.
“Austin Electric already had a supply train and the electric truck designed,” says Keller who saw great opportunities for marketing and scaling up the company.
“Christian asked me to take over as CEO,” says Keller, “Later, I worked the deal with Club Car. We got our vehicles to dealers quickly. Club Car has hundreds of dealers.’
Club Car is known for its golf cars and low-speed vehicles. Ayro makes the electric Club Car Current and Club Car 411 light-weight electric trucks.
The trucks can be configured with van boxes, side or flatbed options.
The Club Car Current is an LSV designated road safe by the U.S. Department of Transportation and certified by The California Air Resource Board (CARB) Certification Program.
The company was renamed AEV Technologies, and then Ayro.
“The Club Car Current can carry a payload of 80% of a truck but about half the half the cost of a pickup truck.”
Keller sees many practical uses for the vehicles. The vehicles are great for last-mile deliveries and micro-logistics such as for mobile hospitals, mobile hospitality, sports events, VA hospitals, vaccination/testing, campuses for meals, hotels, resorts and large venues. Ayro vehicles are deployed at The Circuit of The Americas race track in Austin, Texas.
In 2020, Ayro forged alliances and launched innovations. For college campuses due to Covid students could not eat in dining halls. Vehicles were designed with hot and cold storage for food deliveries on college campuses through a partnership with Gallery Carts.
Ayro also partnered with Karma Automotive for manufacturing in California.
Keller knew someone at the Wanxiang Group from when he worked with Ninebot. Wanxiang Group owns Karma Automotive that operates the state-of-the-art Innovation and Customization Center, in Moreno, California. Ayro Club Car Current models are coming off the production line from Karma through contract manufacturing.
“We reduced delivery from 33 days to 17 days for parts from China. Before they had to go through the Panama Canal to the Gulf of Mexico to Houston and then to Austin, Texas,” says Keller.
New Orders and New Concepts
This year, Ayro’s latest deal is with the company, Element which will offer Club Car Current vehicles to fleet customers with financing, maintenance, roadside assistance, and other fleet services and solutions.
“To be successful with fleet managers, they want to know- how they store, finance, ship, maintain, repair, insure and finally how they dispose of the vehicles,” says Keller, noting Ayro and Element can deliver everything needed for fleets.
In August, Ayro announced the receipt of an additional purchase order valued at $2.9 million for the 2022 Club Car Current, bringing total orders to $4.9 million to date since its introduction.
“We want to be a pre-eminent company for delivery and micro-logistic systems,” says Keller, ‘We only target the commercial space and offer a suite of services.”
The next foray for Ayro will be with a three-wheel electric vehicle.
“We’re very excited about our new concept coming out. When we introduced the Ayro 311, restaurant owners were interested and wanted more features,” says Keller.
“The first Ayro 311 design came out when we were a private company. Now we have funding. We can go after the restaurant market. We have been talking to quick-service restaurant chains. They have thousands of locations with several vehicles at each location.”
“We’re working with intelligence companies to learn about food delivery.”
Restaurant owners are not happy with food delivery app service companies. The delivery companies take a large portion of sales. Research shows 28% of food delivery drivers have taken food from the orders. There are also health and safety issues.
“We have QSR chains and restaurants on our advisory council to help us understand what it is that we need to address. We’re able to reduce their operating expense by almost 50% and allow them to regain control of that customer experience. And meet the highest health department standards.”
“We’ve also got intelligence. We’re working with intelligence companies to learn about food delivery. If there are three orders usually in a zip code at a certain time; they also know that they will need two pepperoni pizzas at that time. Then the vehicle is stocked with those two pepperonis pizzas.”
Pizza’s are not all that Ayro can deliver, the company is gearing up to deliver vehicles quickly.
“We have the experience in tooling up quickly, for fast sales we need to deliver,” says Keller.
What is the future of micro-distribution electric vehicles sales? Keller hinted at the future of EV sales by referring to his past in the PC industry.
“In the future, there will be different ways of selling vehicles. Like in the PC world, when Michael Dell came in and said he wanted to sell computers directly and before that, they never had that capability,” predicts Keller.