About 10 years ago (2012), an MIT project to develop smaller vehicles with comfortable suspension was started. In the process, Professor Ian Hunter, project leader at MIT, ended up creating an advanced suspension robot wheel, an all-in-one powertrain with simultaneous in-wheel electric propulsion and electric active suspension.
The robot wheel makes ultralight vehicles with superior handling, comfort, safety and functionality a commercial reality, all keys to efficient light commercial vehicle operation.
Despite his desire to sell this idea to the auto industry, he didn’t have much business experience and found it was quite difficult to get automakers to change their architecture and accommodate the robot wheel.
Shortly after (early 2020), project board member Will Grayline (founder of payment services company LoopPay which was acquired by Samsung to create Samsung Pay) offered to invest his own money in Indigo and lead the company as CEO.
His idea was to start a company that builds ultra-light electric vehicles (EVs) for subclass 1 white space transportation (under 3,000 pounds) or to focus on ride-sharing and delivery services.
Today, this company is known as Indigo Technologies and helps visualize the transition to smaller urban electric vehicles. The director of strategy of the startup Greg Tarr. He started his career at Toyota’s headquarters in the United States, came to Indigo from hybrid sports car manufacturer Karma Automotive, and today he is my special guest for the interview. (photo left with me during our videoconference interview)
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Now let’s go to questions.
I know a little about Indigo, but could you tell me how Indigo Technologies got here today?
About two years ago, in addition to raising a lot of capital, we worked very hard to recruit the right people and eventually grew from an advanced robotic wheel technology company to a car manufacturer focused on light commercial vehicles. .
In 2021, we took advice from next-gen customer requirements from Uber, Amazon and large fleet companies (merchant and element) who were looking for low-emission lightweight vehicles focused on the lowest cost per mile with the most comfortable ride, so we began the pre-engineering and planning process to innovate in the utility vehicle segment.
In January 2022, we were at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and it was truly our release night. After showing our first design renders from Design Director Eric Olbers (Design of Lucid Motors, Porsche, Mercedes), we received positive coverage from top media like Motortrend and Bloomberg and also made contacts with new customers.
We are now in the process of building our first full size foam model which will premiere at the Los Angeles ACT Fleet conference in May. We will also be debuting Indigo’s Flow showcar at the LA Autoshow on November 15 and will begin taking pre-orders.
Do you see governments pushing the use of EVs today?
In the United States, I think there are several factors encouraging electric vehicles and one of them is state government regulations, particularly California, which has been the most proactive.
In terms of city logistics, the state is pushing for a certain percentage of delivery vehicles to be electric vehicles, going from 25% to 50% over the next few years and possibly approaching 100% by now. around 2030.
Both Uber and Amazon have signed a climate pledge, so they are pushing their employees together to drive electric vehicles as soon as possible. Uber predicts its drivers will need 1.2 million electric vehicles by 2030
Typically, California leads, followed by states like New York and Massachusetts, and the rest of the country follows. Remember, we don’t have a federal mandate like China, where the transition to electric vehicles is happening much faster.
As for the federal government, President Biden announced the transition of the entire government fleet of some 650,000 vehicles to zero emissions, and traditional American OEMs will compete with new American-made entrants like Rivian, Tesla and Indigo. Tech.
Could you tell me a bit about the transition to smaller vehicles in inner cities?
Many countries like the UK, France, Norway, the Netherlands and Singapore join California in saying they don’t want giant class four and five trucks (over 6,000 pounds) parked duplicated in dense urban cities.
They don’t want diesel engines to increase their total carbon footprint and the traffic problems large vehicles cause in major metropolitan areas. And it’s starting to happen in cities outside of California, too.
For example, Seattle government officials will soon be fencing off the city, which means it will ban large trucks from being in the city. In the next three to four years, class four and five trucks will only be used in the suburbs. They will drive to distribution centers located approximately 15 miles from downtown areas.
Smaller Class 1 or possibly Sub-Class 1 vehicles like Indigo’s light vehicles (less than 3,000 pounds) will be used to enter denser urban areas as they cause less traffic problems with their small size . They’re easier to park and safer to get in and out of pitches, helping to prevent repetitive stress injuries.
For us, we see Indigo as a large, purpose-built market serving both delivery and ridesharing. Additionally, Indigo’s lightweight vehicles have more interior space than current vehicles.
Our cargo version (for Amazon, UPS, DHL) has at least 130 cubic feet of space, and our rideshare vehicle (for Uber and Lyft) has 110 cubic feet. For comparison, a Chevy Bolt is about 60 cubic feet.
Drivers will benefit from a lower cost per mile, a more comfortable ride and an interior layout optimized to maximize passenger or package space.
Indigo cargo (left) and carpool (right) vehicles (courtesy of Indigo Tech)
So, all your vehicles are 100% electric, right?
Yes Indigo is all EV. We designed a compact suspension and an integrated motor suspension (robo-wheel) founded by MIT Professor Ian Hunter and these innovations gave our design team the ability to create lightweight vehicles with a range of 200 miles that never do not require large batteries.
Smaller batteries and lightweight vehicles significantly reduce the total carbon footprint. For example, a 45 kilowatt battery halves the total carbon footprint of a 90 kilowatt battery.
Remember that if you drive around town with 90 to 120 kilowatt batteries, you have a heavier vehicle that takes longer to charge and therefore emits more emissions. Some people may not know this, but every time you charge a bigger battery, you’re contributing to emissions.
With our smaller battery vehicles around 45 kilowatts, we have about half the carbon footprint and that’s good for businesses and drivers who want to be green.
Finally, in terms of design, I would also like to say that construction workers who work for Amazon Flex, Uber and Lyft can sometimes only afford one vehicle, which means they could also use their utility vehicles Indigo for personal use to take their families out or drop their children off at school.
We believe Indigo vehicles will lead the commercial segment. They feature premium, attractive, iconic styling from the team that designed the Lucid Air and Porsche/Mercedes models that is as important to society as is the beautiful architecture of the buildings.
And what about the price? People will want to know.
Well, some comparable EVs on the market, such as the Toyota Bz4, could cost upwards of $42,000. Our target price is $25,000.
And when it comes to distribution, we will adopt a multi-pronged strategy. In addition to renting them directly through our affiliate OV Loop, we have strong interest from Merchant and Element, large automotive OEMs who do not have a purpose-built commercial vehicle, as well as rental agencies like Zipcar/Avis and Hertz.
We will test vehicles with customers in 2023 and should be ready for first deliveries by 2025.