Squad's tiny $6,300 solar EV shares and shuttles through the city
After working on the Lightyear One, the two founders of Squad Mobility left to pursue a simpler, more affordable EV vision, hoping to have an immediate impact on the lives of countless people commuting through gridlocked urban spaces. What they've come up with is something of a roll-cage with electric-driven wheels called the Squad (i.e. Solar Quad). The open-sided, two-seat four-wheeler bridges the gap between scooter and car, relying on solar power for potentially all its refueling needs. At under €6,000, the Squad car is positioned as a simple, effective and accessible solution for the swarming city masses.
The Lightyear One electric four-door revealed earlier this year appears to be a very impressive display of technological progress. But at €149,000 (approx. US$164K), it's definitely a niche eco-supercar for first adopters in the vein of the Volkswagen XL1, not something yet relevant to the greater mobility market. Robert Hoevers and Chris Klok realized that while it was certainly a worthy project, their passion pointed toward something that could have a greater impact by welcoming more than just one-percenters and fanatic first adopters behind the wheel. So they founded Squad Mobility in Amsterdam and got to work on a solar-roofed car at the opposite end of the pricing spectrum.
Hoevers and Klok revealed the first fruits of their vision this week. The 2-m-long (6.6-ft) Squad is a minimalist motor vehicle built to meet the homologation requirements of Europe's L6e light quadricycle category. As an open-air two-seater that maxes out at 28 mph (45 km/h), it's never going to replace a full-blown motor vehicle for every use case, but it should be attractive to urbanites that merely need a smaller, more economical way of zipping in and out of the city, connecting first and last miles. With four wheels, a full roll cage, side-by-side driver and passenger seats, seat belts, and a storage trunk in back, it's designed to be safer and more stable than a scooter but simpler, cheaper and cleaner than a traditional passenger car. Power comes from two small 2.7-hp (2-kW) motors in the rear wheels and two removable lithium-ion batteries that provide roughly 100 km (62 mi) of range per charge.
"We see a further increase in global urbanization, with 90 percent of the city population living in the suburbs, all venturing into the city center regularly for work, school, shopping or entertainment. Old concentric European-style cities are not particularly designed for cars. Biking and/or public transport is great but not always the best solution, for example, in bad weather or for people who don’t live near a station," outlines Hoevers, who serves as Squad's CEO and sales/marketing chief.
Squad isn't breaking new ground with this realization or with the vehicle it designed to alleviate the problem. The EU has that entire aforementioned category for light quadricycles, after all, and over in the US, we call them "neighborhood electric vehicles" (NEVs). What separates the Squad from the pack is its integrated solar roof positioned to meet some or all of its daily charging needs.
"Our solar-electric Squad can charge up to 9,000 km (5,592 mi) per year in a sunny country with its own solar roof, making it completely emission-free for most users driving 30 km (18.6 mi) or one hour per day for 300 days a year in an urban environment," says Hoevers. "Most vehicles in this segment don’t drive more than 6,000 km (3,728 mi) per year."
The Squad can of course also plug in to charge, and its removable batteries make for easy swapping. Squad currently lists an extra battery (30 mi/50 km) for a price of €1,450 (approx. U$1,600).
The solar roof isn't the only reason you'll want bright, sunny weather (and some sunscreen) when cruising in a Squad. The standard model comes without doors or body panels to help keep price down, so weather protection is limited to the roof, floor and windshield, unlike a more fully enclosed NEV such as the Eli Zero. That'll probably be welcomed on warm, dry summer days but threatens to be uncomfortable during wetter, colder weather. Klok, the vehicle's chief designer, points out: "Waiting for public transport and/or walking that last mile to your destination is also not often 100 percent dry. If you really want to be dry, we offer side protection covers as an accessory."
The Squad could certainly prove attractive to private owners who live, work and explore within small urban footprints, or simply want a dedicated emissions-free vehicle for such needs, and Squad also envisions it being popular for ride-sharing platforms, providing a low-cost, self-charging, low-maintenance way of delivering zero-emissions rides in dense urban spaces.
The €5,750 (US$6,325) Squad is available for preorder now for €500, or €5,000 for the early-bird signature version with "maximum range." Squad Mobility's plans call for EU deliveries to begin in 2021 and the launch of a ~€100/month subscription/lease model next year. It also has a cargo model up for pre-order, offering nearly four times the rear storage space with a 243-L rear compartment. If it drums up enough interest, it will develop a more robust 50-mph (80-km/h) model.
Source: Squad Mobility