E-mobility for everyday life

For many people, electromobility is not yet suitable for everyday use. Alpiq's think tank Oyster Lab has therefore introduced the full-service package branded Juicar – a subscription that makes electric mobility easier and more convenient and includes numerous services. Bastian Gerhard, Managing Director of the Oyster Lab, is convinced that Juicar can look forward to a successful future.

What is so special and new about Juicar?

It is the first full-service e-mobility package in Europe. It includes an electric car, the appropriate home charging station, public charging, motor vehicle tax, insurance and the settlement of the electricity costs. Everything from a single source.

What do you see as the biggest hurdles for electric mobility in everyday life?

Even though we are convinced that an electric car meets the mobility needs of our target group, there are numerous entry barriers. On the one hand, there is great uncertainty among potential customers as to whether an electric car is really suitable for everyday use. The shorter range and sometimes long charging times discourage many customers. The purchase costs for an electric car are relatively high and there is simply a lack of experience regarding the resale price. Battery technology is also still making enormous progress, with the result that prices will drop in the long term. On the other hand, there are hurdles on the supply side. Long delivery times and insufficient know-how regarding the charging process, as well as dealers who proactively advise against buying an electric car because they earn much less or nothing from it. To remove all these hurdles was precisely why we designed Juicar.

Can anyone sign up for Juicar?

The demand is relatively high and the number of available electric cars is initially limited. Interested parties can simply apply. We are doing everything to meet the demand quickly. If the customer also requests a home charging station, we also check the individual parking situation and whether the installation is technically and legally possible.

How did the solution emerge?

Originally we wanted to solve a problem of private households with solar systems, namely to optimise the degree of self-supply with a storage battery and a consumer that is as large as possible. We wanted to use an electric car for this. Its energy demand can be compared to that of a small household and it allows stored energy to be fed back. For owners of solar systems, the purchase of an electric car is an absolutely logical step. In the pilot phase, our potential customers told us exactly what they would need to make e-mobility suitable for everyday use. And we listened very carefully.

Who in particular needs e-mobility that is suitable for everyday use?

Our potential customers are young families who live in their own homes in suburban areas and almost all have the same mobility needs. They usually own two vehicles: the large family car for longer distances and holidays as well as a small car for everyday tasks in the village. In order for an electric car to replace one of the two vehicles, the following factors were decisive: the range, the price per kilometre driven, the vehicle type and the purchase financing.

Within just half a year you have launched the finished product on the market. What are the challenges now?

Of course we see the production bottleneck in the automotive industry. However, our partners have assured us that they will give us preferential treatment so that nothing should prevent us from getting our early adopters on the road. In the end, it is a matter of occupying markets quickly and with strong partners before the automotive industry gets faster and competitive pressure increases.

How many customers does Juicar already have and how many can you still take in?

We start out small and with less than 50 vehicles per country. If it is successful, however, we are planning a fast ramp-up.

After its launch in Germany and Switzerland, will Juicar be extended to the whole of Europe? Or should the product first be established here?

It is about the “first mover advantage”, i.e. being the first in as many European countries as possible. The focus is currently still on German-speaking Switzerland, but will soon be expanded. Our vision is to make Juicar a European product. The biggest challenges are to open up new markets and scale up together with our partners. Opportunities also lie in the further development of Juicar, e.g. for business customers.

Your parent company Alpiq is not allowed to sell electricity to small-scale consumers in Switzerland. How does the supply of electricity, which is also part of the subscription, work?

In fact, we do not sell electricity in Switzerland. This must be carried out through the local supplier. However, we reimburse our premium customers for the energy costs incurred by the electric car. This ensures that the customer does not bear any financial risk. After all, we want to eliminate all question marks around e-mobility.

The Oyster Lab is often referred to as Alpiq’s cleantech incubator. What does that actually mean?

An incubator founds start-up companies on the assembly line. Oyster Lab consists of an interdisciplinary team of business experts, designers and software engineers who develop new business ideas and quickly prototype the underlying hypotheses with real customers. Promising ideas are brought to market maturity and then spun off as joint ventures or handed over to Alpiq. Ideas that do not address a customer need or whose economic potential is considered too low are quickly put into the trash. All business ideas we pursue are ultimately based on technologies that reduce negative environmental effects. It's about sustainability. This is where the term cleantech comes from.

So the Oyster Lab is not limited to e-mobility. What else are you working on right now?

Our mission is a clear focus on end customers. The strategic goal is access to the house by means of a digital solution. Since the foundation of the Oyster Lab, numerous ideas in the areas of decentralised power generation, mobility of the future, e-mobility, Internet of Things (IoT) or smart homes have been generated, tested and iterated – and of course rejected. Here we also cooperate with universities and other organisations in order to develop many concepts as quickly as possible. It is foreseeable that we will enter the next phase with a second project in the third quarter of 2018. We do not lack ideas, but rather human resources.

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