Enhancing the Customer Experience with Purpose-Built Urban Mobility Products

Episode 16
September 15, 2023

Episode Summary

In this episode of Point B, we are joined by special guest, Ali Vezvaei, Chairman of Next.e.GO Mobile, to discuss the changes taking place in urban mobility. How can lean manufacturing be improved and leveraged to create more sustainable products? What is Next.e.GO Mobile doing to create a unique experience? And what disruptive approaches and technologies are being leveraged to tackle the challenges associated with urban mobility?

Key Highlights

1:25 What drives Next.e.GO Mobile?

3:17 How e.GO’s vehicles are purpose-built for urban mobility

7:00 Lean manufacturing at e.GO

9:30 Creating an ideal customer experience

13:00 Eliminating charge anxiety with battery swap

Meet Our Guests

Steve Schwinke
Steve Schwinke

Steve Schwinke is Vice President of Customer Engagement at Sibros, working closely with OEMs and Tier One suppliers to accelerate their connected vehicle solutions. He is a pioneer in the industry having spent 22 years at General Motors as an original Executive member of the OnStar team designing their first 3-button system, developing and launching numerous industry-first connected vehicle products and services. He is a recognized expert in connected vehicle technology having served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Telecommunications Industry Association and has been awarded 34 patents involving telecommunications, telematics, and navigation. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master's of Science in Wireless Communication Systems from Santa Clara University.

Ali Vezvaei
Ali Vezvaei

Ali Vezvaei has more than 20 years of experience in executive, board and operational management functions, including in the areas of technology and energy-tech as well as global investments and M&A. He is currently the CEO of ND Group B.V., an international private equity and portfolio holding company based in the Netherlands, with a presence or footprint around the globe, as well as the chairman of the administrative board of German independent electric car producer, Next.e.GO Mobile SE, chairman of the supervisory board of a Swiss-based lithium asset, Arcore Ltd. and President and member of the management board of Euromax Resources, a listed company on TSX. Previously Mr. Vezvaei had held the position of Executive President & CEO of Bilfinger SE in the Middle East, where he was in charge of group companies and their operations across the region. Prior to that, he assumed the responsibility as the President of Linde’s Engineering division across the MENA region, while serving as a member of the board of its affiliated companies in the region. Prior to joining the Linde Group, Mr. Vezvaei worked for more than a decade at Siemens, where he served as the Global Senior Vice President of Siemens Oil & Gas, after he had served as the Division Cluster CEO of the firm’s Oil & Gas division in the Middle East. He served previously as Siemens Oil & Gas Division’s Global Vice President for Strategy and Mergers & Acquisitions and has assumed several other senior management positions during his tenure with Siemens. Mr. Vezvaei accomplished his Executive Education at both Harvard Business School as well as the University of Oxford - Saïd Business School. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.


Announcer: Welcome back to another episode of Point B, a Sibros podcast where we interview industry experts about the latest innovations and trends in automotive technology and the connected vehicle industry. Tune in to learn about topics ranging from the next generation of electric vehicles to advances in connectivity and micro-mobility.

Steve Schwinke: Welcome to Point B, where we discuss the future of mobility and the underlying market forces and technology that will drive our industry forward.

Today's podcast, we have a very exciting episode where we're going to be talking about the opportunities and changes that are taking place with urban mobility.

And joining me today is someone that is leading the change, Ali Vezvaei, chairman of Next e.Go Mobile. Ali has more than 20 years of experience in executive board and operational management functions, including the areas of technology and energy tech, as well as global investments, mergers, and acquisitions. Welcome, Ali.

Ali Vezvaei: Thank you Steve for having me. It's a pleasure to be with you guys.

Steve Schwinke: I am really excited to talk to you today about your company, and what it's doing as a disruptor that is solving some of the biggest challenges around urban mobility. You're not only helping solve how people actually get around, but doing it in a way that is both clean and convenient.

But you know what? Instead of me explaining about what you're doing, can you tell us more about your purpose-built urban mobility products?

Ali Vezvaei: Sure. I'll be thrilled to walk you through a little bit what actually drives us, or our why. But maybe before we start, let me give you a quick snapshot of what brought us here.

A few years ago, when we were thinking about urban mobility and the ways in which we can actually take out emission pollution and the challenges that urban mobility is facing, there were a number of choices before us.

Basically, do more of the same, continue the path that the automotive industry was building on. Or, rethink ground up. And even though it was more difficult and disruptive, we chose the latter.

And with that we started from a clean piece of paper, looking at the product, the production, and the entire ecosystem, or in new terminology, the customer interface, in terms of how we wanted to actually build our product and our solutions, and how we wanted to reach out to our customers and offer a new experience in urban mobility.

One which is practical, which is purposeful, but at the same time affordable and sustainable. And by sustainability I don't mean just the idea of, the fact that the car is driven with a powertrain and takes the energy from the battery, therefore it is sustainable. Because if you rightfully go up and downstream, you will find traces of carbon emission, whether in the generation, charging infrastructure, repair, supply chain and aftermarket. But we wanted to make sure that it is truly sustainable across its entire lifecycle. And that's how our mission started.

We build cars in a very unique way, like nobody else in the industry. We have looked at disruptive material selection, one that is inspired by the aviation industry. Why? Simply because of durability, because of the weight ratio, because of the safety characteristics. And more importantly, because of the overall sustainability cross-lifecycle.

Two, we build cars in three dimensions, not two dimensions. How we do it differently, we actually use AI and robotics to replace a number of these relatively heavy processes, such as press shop and paint shop, completely out of the process. In less than seven minutes, a number of robots actually put together this beautiful 3D structure. The idea is not new, comes from Formula One, from racing. But at the end of the day industrializing urban mobility, providing that opportunity to mass market in an affordable and sustainable way, is also something we take great pride in having been a pioneer in that front.

We don't stop there. We then look at, now that you have created this 3D structure out of aluminum, why do you need to go back to metals and actually engulf the cart with metal sheets? Why don't we look at the world of polymers, which are durable, more impact resistance. They last longer, and ultimately you have the opportunity to look at recycling. And what we do is we impregnate that with pigments, and the result is a naturally-colored polymer. Which is basically, it includes the paint through and through. So what we do actually sometimes, as a fun fact, we say, look, the car is born with its natural color. So there is no paint job, and the cars are not painted. Therefore, for example, the cars are by default more susceptible to be scratch-resistant. They are more dent-resistant. And when you look at the urban traffic, the challenges in day-to-day traffic in populous metropolitan areas, you are less worried about a bumper-to-bumper or a potential scratch here and there.

Because first of all, it's a lot less likely to happen with our car. And second of all, when and if that happens, we actually offer the customers repair to be removed, and replaced by renewal. How does it work? It's very similar to changing the cover of a smartphone. Let's say you have an accident with the front fender of the car, and it damages in a way that you actually cannot repair it by simple polish and so on and so forth. You simply look through your app, look at the color of the car, order that part, that panel for a hundred, 200 bucks depending on the size and the spec of the panel. And at one of our after sale service facilities, they simply replace that for you. The alt panel goes for full recycling, and the new panel gives a new look to your car. Takes away the headache and the disappointment of a repair, which basically makes your car a used and repaired car and provides a new definition to utilization of assets and urban mobility, which is renewable.

Steve Schwinke: It's really a holistic approach, really. To, as you said, take on the challenge of sustainability not only with the product but how your company is approaching building the product and the product itself. So I'm quite impressed with what you're doing there.

Can you talk a little bit more about maybe the lean manufacturing aspect of what you're doing at e.GO?

Ali Vezvaei: There is a significant degree of innovation and disruption that has gone into our production concept. The, what we call it, the internet of production, which is our tech-first IT architecture enabled by smart data layers, which sort of encapsulate the entire production end to end, and bring a cyber side to a physical asset that basically allows us to take advantage of the digital twin, the one source of truth, the integration of digital trade across board.

And then ultimately, if I simplified in, call it the day-to-day language, allowing us to copy paste micro-factories in different parts of the world. When you look at larger facilities with integrated processes and the traditional production concept, there is a limit to how many of them you can replicate before you either cannibalize your own market, or the amount of capital deployed becomes a burden in terms of return on capital employed or otherwise the economics associated with your business plan. But if you have digitized, or if the ratio of digital and connected attributes of your production to the physical asset, both by way of integration, connectivity and by way of capital deployment, is reasonably balanced. It actually allows you to have, to your point, lean, capital-light production processes, and more importantly production facilities that you can simply replicate around the world.

And what we call this, it has actually given rise to what we call it, a decentralized production concept. Decentralized production concept also gives you supply chain resilience. Because when you have more or less identical facilities across different continents, it allows you to navigate potential unprecedented or unexpected disruptions in one part of the world by tapping into the resources and opportunities that you have in another location or production facility, and therefore create balance across board.

Steve Schwinke: Can you talk a little bit about the customer experience that you're trying to create for your customers, and generate that excitement?

Ali Vezvaei: When we started with the process of designing the car and making decisions around some of the criteria that go hand-in-hand with design and selection of the features, we were very conscious of the use case and the customer user experience.

Why so? Because if you look at the demographic shift and the overall transformation that you see across different societal patterns, particularly with the rising awareness of the new generation, the utility of the asset is becoming more and more front and center. So you see this at least increasing attention to usership as opposed to pure view to ownership. Particularly if your target demographic is the mass, the population, not only the few percent on the higher end of the market. That's not where we operate. But everybody who actually wants to and aspires to drive a sustainable electric car. And it's our job, it's our vision, it's our mission to make sure we empower them to do so.

With that determination around the vision and the mission came a responsibility around the choices that we make with the design and features of the product. And I can simplify them around three categories: purpose-built, practical, and affordable. Because if you lose any of these three, you basically are punishing the customer for the sustainable choice they're making. And that's not our objective.

How do we go about this? In terms of practicality, we looked at the use case. It's an urban car, it is going to be utilized predominantly in the urban environment where you need to solve for traffic, parking, charging, and reasonably frequent stop and go. And therefore, that translates itself into dimensions of the car, the driving experience relative to the semi-crossover feeling, so that you have a comfort and safety of the drive.But at the same time, you do that with a car which is literally larger on the inside than the outside. With a four-seater, which basically fits into almost any parking spot.

Next one, which is even more important, is the practicality around charging. Because when you look at the world, and you try to map out, where do we stand with regards to the prevalence of fast-charging the infrastructure, particularly the grid? And once you solve the grid, the upstream generation capacity? And if you for a second exclude the very advanced countries in this particular case, such as the United States or a few countries in Europe, the rest of the world is catching up with providing the basic charging infrastructure and then working their way up from there.

What should a customer do if they do not have access to fast or super-fast charging infrastructure? This was a very, very important topic for us, and we put a lot of thought and call it technology innovation at work to come up with a solution that we believe is to serve the customers seamlessly, and to remove what used to be the range anxiety, and today is no longer the range anxiety, but the charging anxiety. The solution we are actually introducing with our vehicles to customers is battery swap. Nothing extraordinary, nothing that you would say, oh, that's completely out of the world. However, that's one of the first times that a western battery electric car manufacturer actually incorporating that as a standard feature in their cars.

And how we address the downstream is by offering our customers both manual and also autonomous battery swap. The autonomous battery swap that comes at the back of a partnership with Ample from San Francisco. A very, very close strategic partner to e.GO, like-minded colleagues, is basically resembling the experience you have in an automatic car wash. You drive in, the battery's exchanged, they're new, second-generation. Does that in less than five minutes.

Steve Schwinke: Ali, I think we're out of time. I really want to thank you for joining us today on the Point B podcast. We got to hear a lot about your vehicle, and your vision, and what you're doing to really solve some of these tough challenges that exist today. And helping create a better world that we all want to live in.

So I would love to have you back and dive deeper on a variety of subjects, but since we're out of time, I will say thank you and hope to see you again soon. So, thank you.

Ali Vezvaei: Indeed. My pleasure. Thank you, Steve.

Announcer: Thank you for tuning into Point B. Join us next time for more auto tech innovations and trends. Point B is brought to you by Sibros.