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Electric Assisted Vehicles, or EAV to its friends, is a small but growing Oxfordshire-based company that bridges the gap between vans and delivery bikes.
On this week’s Mobility Moments, Leo Bethell, EAV’s Head of Partnerships, has been telling Auto Futures about how the company is looking to grow on the back of new funding, the challenges it has faced during the pandemic, and how its delivery bikes could change city streets.
EAV revealed the LINCS last year. How is the development of that vehicle going?
We’re due to have our first prototype by the middle of this year and we’re looking for trial partners starting in Q1 next year.
It’s an electric platform that can take five of our roll-on and roll-off boxes. We call it a dynamic hub-and-spoke model. It removes the need to have the infrastructure in the inner city. Instead, you can have the LINCS as your mid-mile vehicle, which meets up with a fleet of cargo bikes to drop off the cargo, before the cargo bikes do the last mile. But we’re also going to be competing with electric vans with the LINCS.
Will the same kind of companies you currently have as clients use the LINCS? Or are you targeting different markets?
Large fleet companies are the lowest hanging fruit for us. They’re the type of companies that bring the volume.
I think 30% of the van industry is fleet companies and then the other 70% is sole traders. While we will look to sell the LINCS through a retail network, that 30% is our main focus.
What does your retail distribution look like, given how configurable the eCargo’s is?
In terms of distribution, where it’s all coming directly from us, we have a pre-configured EAV for each sector that we think works the best. So, a parcel company, for instance, will have a certain configuration that is different to a waste company.
We’ve listened to the market and, in reaction, created a series of vehicles that fit each sector. So, it’s not as if every vehicle is bespoke. As with an automotive company, there are add-ons you can have with each vehicle, but most of them will fit into a category.
How much of an impact have Brexit and the pandemic had on EAV?
It has been both good and bad. I think the pandemic has forced people to become more environmentally conscious in general, and so people are looking into new and innovative methods for deliveries.
There has also been a lot of legislation change and investment in infrastructure – pedestrianisation in cities is growing, which means you can’t take a van through the city centre anymore which is where the bikes take over. We’re having customers come up to us and say: ‘My van no longer works, it’s either stuck in traffic or I can’t park near the customers’ front door.’ They need the bikes.
What are the ambitions for the coming years as a result of the new funding?
Growing the team is the number one priority. Before Christmas, we were at about 20 people, we’re now close to 40 and we’re still growing.
The knock-on effect of growing the team is increasing our sales capabilities. I’m building my sales team. We have also got a load more production staff as well, so we can ramp up our volume. At the moment, we’re producing close to 25 vehicles a month. By the middle of this year, we’re trying to hit 100 vehicles a month, so that’s a lot of where the investment is going.
We’re also trying to bring a couple more products to market, the EAV LINCS is one of them, and we’ve invested pretty heavily in our engineering team to bring these new products to market.
Has the pandemic affected your production capabilities or your development capabilities at all?
Yes, it has. Shipping, at the moment, is a nightmare. Getting all the stuff in and out of the country is hard.
The bike industry has been affected by the pandemic, as well, because bike sales took off, so standard components were hard to get. We have been given lead times from suppliers of months and months. Whereas we need to be more reactive than that.
However, part of our investment has gone towards our procurement team. So, we’ve now got firstly a design freeze on the vehicle but also more robust procurement methods in place, such as having a couple of different supplies for each component.
What do you and EAV think urban roads will look like by 2030?
Lorries will still have a place because you can’t move house or build a building with EAVs.
But I think there will be massively restricted use for traditional vehicles in city centres and that will come from the weight of the vehicle, for example. Our mantra is ‘Light Tech.’ So as lightweight as possible, our EAV, for example, is 170 kilos and can pretty much take its own body weight. A three-tonne van, meanwhile, can only take one tonne. You need to move as much weight as possible using as little weight as possible to increase efficiency.
The zones that vehicles can operate will be smaller. The city centre will expand to try and make the urban area more aesthetically pleasing for people. We talk about reclaiming the city with people being able to have the freedom in the city to move around without having to look both ways before crossing every road.
Our aim is to be the complete provider of sustainable urban transport. So, at the moment we’re looking into the movement of goods, and that’s from the last mile to the mid-mile, but then we’ll look into the movement of people, as well.