Pop-Up Mini Electric Commercial Vehicles

| Transport

The vehicle will be available in different configurations for goods transport or for use in passenger transport

Locally manufactured low cost and lightweight electric vehicles for commercial users could help reduce emissions in crowded cities in emerging markets

UK based vehicle engineering and design company, Helixx, is proposing an innovative approach to providing a range of four affordable mini commercial electric vehicles to provide clean, sustainable mobility for service businesses in fast-growing, densely populated urban centres.

Engineered in the UK and designed to be built virtually anywhere in the world in licensed Helixx Mobility Hubs, the vehicles will be offered on a subscription basis for commercial users from as little as $0.25 per hour.

A greener last mile

Economically and technologically developing cities across the world are experiencing dramatically increasing population density. The UN predicts that 6.6 billion people will be living in urban areas by 2050. By 2030, there could be 43 megacities with over 10 million inhabitants, mostly located in developing countries. Currently, citizens in these regions have no choice but to rely on small, highly polluting vehicles for public transportation and commerce.

The adoption of electric vehicles is among the 25 critical action areas recommended by the UN that could save millions of lives and enhance air quality for one billion individuals residing in Asia by 2030. These growing populations mean that a fundamental shift towards more efficient mobility systems is vital. A major reason for poor air quality in urban areas is the “last mile” transport of goods and people – local deliveries and local taxis.

Therefore, small, safe, affordable and zero-emission vehicles that are built locally offer the potential to unlock opportunities for economic growth whilst also solving mobility and air quality challenges. Helixx Mobility Hubs will help to keep Carbon Emissions to a minimum whilst empowering local enterprise to make, sell and support vehicles over their entire lifecycle.

According to Steve Pegg, the company CEO, Helixx was born to meet the challenge of transforming the quality and standard of mobility for citizens in heavily congested cities.

“The vehicles offered by Helixx are the key to replacing the heavily polluting combustion-powered vehicles relied upon in developing nations today,” he says.

Design Heritage

The range of vehicles has been designed by Jowyn Wong and Jakub Jodlowski, whose portfolio includes hypercars for manufacturers such as Apollo and DeTomaso. State-of-the-art cabins offer a premium space for enhanced driver and passenger comfort for urban services. The range initially comprises four body styles, designed for optimum production simplicity through the flexible Helixx assembly process.

For example, the CARGO is a commercial goods vehicle designed to support the booming demand for last-mile delivery fleets, with 2100 litres of cargo space and the capability to carry the majority of ISO pallets in target markets. The TRUCK is a pick-up that’s ideal for construction businesses and urban developers.

The TUK and RIDE, with open and closed-door bodies respectively, are designed as the best approach to urban ride-hailing to replace older, heavily polluting, combustion-powered fleets.

All four vehicles offer a zero-emission driving range for a virtually uninterrupted 24-hour duty cycle with rapidly swappable, Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery packs with range on-demand for full flexibility.

Pegg explains that for the past four years, Helixx has researched the market to ensure the creation of sustainable zero-emission vehicles that meet the demands and needs of the world’s developing economies. “But arguably more importantly, we tasked ourselves to find a solution to how such vehicles could be deployed wherever they are needed in the world with maximum speed and energy efficiency and minimum cost and complexity,” he continues.

Mobility Hubs

According to Pegg, whilst there is an immediate obvious benefit to replacing older, polluting vehicles with zero-emission alternatives, this does not address the bigger picture if such vehicles are distributed around the world through carbon intensive supply chains. Local manufacturing is therefore the key to mitigating the environmental and monetary impact of shipping vehicles and components.

To meet this challenge, Helixx created its Mobility Hub concept, comprising local factories operating on the principles of Industry 5.0 and fully embracing the values of flexibility, agility and sustainability. Scalable, low-cost, low-carbon, licensed Helixx Mobility Hubs, which can be deployed virtually anywhere in the world, will enable local businesses to rapidly progress from an empty building to finished vehicles being delivered in just 180 days.

Helixx will empower businesses not only to manufacture but also supply, maintain and recycle urban service vehicles through its proprietary technology aggregation and enablement platform. This will ensure that the products can be rapidly brought to market with minimal environmental footprint and an exceptionally low barrier to entry.

To achieve this, Pegg has turned the concept of automotive manufacturing on its head. “Conventional manufacturing is based on processes established more than 50 years ago. It is entirely outdated and inadequate to meet the demands of rapidly advancing economic and technological economies,” he says.

In contrast to legacy manufacturing methods, the Helixx system applies a software mindset to vehicle production, making it flexible, adaptable and scalable, more like a line of code in a computer program. This approach enables Helixx to create a vehicle manufacturing methodology that can be rapidly implemented, upgraded and modified.

Factory In A Box

Through its software-based approach, the Helixx digital manufacturing approach will deliver high levels of production simplicity, reducing complexity, energy usage and manufacturing cost by at least 50 per cent compared with current industry standards, Helixx says. This will ensure unprecedented ease of assembly in an efficient, ergonomic, clean environment, free of toxic chemicals, paint or high temperature metal processing.

Regardless of their location in the world, potential manufacturing licencees will be provided with support from the company from first steps. Potential hub owners will be prompted to answer a few simple questions about the amount of space available to them and the number of vehicles they need to produce. The Helixx system will then prescribe the most effective manufacturing methods, including the number of staff needed, cost and optimum production volume. Helixx hubs will be fully flexible and scalable in nature.

Helixx will then fully manage the entire commissioning process for hub partners, from the establishment of the factory and equipment installation to training staff and commercial support with local fleet operators.

According to Pegg, to truly maximise efficiency and minimise costs, the entire production system must be digital-first from the start.

“Using a unique ‘factory in a box’ model, Helixx will aggregate all assets required, including architectural support, digital operations platform and processes. Helixx will also supply all infrastructure, equipment, robotics and IT systems. Everything can be installed and commissioned to the Helixx cloud within six months, ready for the hub to begin assembling cars,” he says.

Localised, circular supply chain

Rather than shipping components all around the globe, creating elongated and potentially fragile supply chains, the Helixx model utilises localised supply chains, with as many components as possible being produced within or as close to the local mobility hub as possible. Every item will be tracked and accounted for within the Helixx system. While some components, such as battery cells, will be centrally sourced, the emphasis will be on a monolithic supply model, with the majority of parts manufactured and sourced locally.

Helixx will engage local suppliers to manufacture parts, to bring them into the hub where everything will be digitally accountable. Software is the key to guaranteeing quality so everything in the Helixx hub is fully tracked as part of its PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) process.

Hub partners will have the option of assembling as many of the components required on-site as they choose, with the ability to flex and scale future production volumes. As everything falls within the a single approach, hubs can also manufacture components for other hubs.

Pegg explains that the ability for Helixx hubs to automatically communicate and trade with each other using AI is one of many next-generation benefits inferred by operating to the principles of Industry 5.0. Industry 4.0 was a factory learning about itself, Industry 5.0 is a factory learning about its place in the world. The system can ‘see’ the entire world, no matter where it is. You only achieve that level of connectivity and efficiency with a system that has been built ‘digital-first’ from the ground up.

“Unlike traditional manufacturing models, operators do not need to know how everything works. They just need to be able to follow simple, digitally disseminated instructions. The Helixx digital manufacturing platform will ensure repeatable processes and a consistently high level of quality, whether the vehicle is built in Manila, Jakarta, Singapore, or London, Paris and Rome,” he concludes.

Although the mobility hubs and the Helixx ecosystem are yet to be fully implemented, the concept has been successfully tested at the company’s base in Oxfordshire and Helixx is in the process of establishing further pilot hubs in the UK and Singapore. It is also in discussion with customers in the Asia Pacific region, with India and South America to follow.

Jonathan Newell
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