Looking like a blend of high-tech car and an old fashioned horse-drawn carriage, the Ukrainian-developed Synchronous electric car could soon be a common sight in cities around Europe and beyond.
A prototype of the car, which has been designed to serve as an eco-friendly taxi or hotel shuttle in Monaco, was presented at the 11th international conference on ecological vehicles and renewable energy, EVER 2016, on April 6-8 in Monaco. This prototype was offered by Electric Marathon International, a Ukrainian company that promotes innovative and environmentally-friendly transport systems.
Electric Marathon International organizes an annual electric car rally that always has a different starting point and route, but always finishes in Monaco. Prince Albert II of Monaco is the patron of the race.
Electric Marathon International CEO Andriy Bilyy says his company’s business relations with the prince led to an agreement to create a special electric car for a taxi service in Monaco.
“We found support there – they like new, exclusive things,” Bilyy told the Kyiv Post in an interview on April 19. “Monegasque electricians, mailmen, ambulance crews – all of the public services use electric vehicles. They’re cool. They’re ecological and quiet. They understand this.”
The Synchronous is constructed from wood, leather, soft plastic and bakelite. The car has sliding transparent doors and opposite-facing sofa-like seats for up to six passengers. The interior is spacious, and large windows provide excellent views.
“We didn’t need to include all of the possible tech innovations, because our goal was just to create comfort for passengers,” Bilyy said.
However, in the future developers may also install solar panels on the car’s roof and even build massage systems into the seats “to enable passengers to spend their 15-20 minutes in the taxi in comfort,” Bilyy said.
The front-wheel-drive Synchronous uses an induction motor and has a range of about 130-160 kilometers between charges. The estimated price for small-scale production is up to $100,000 per unit, and Electric Marathon International plans to produce 20-30 such cars for Monaco.
“Any automobile manufacturer could compete with us. Any of them could create a car that was more sophisticated and neater,” Bilyy said. “But they wouldn’t do it, however, because the production numbers are too small for them.”
“It’s difficult to imagine Mercedes leaping into such a project, but for Ukraine it’s a market niche,” he said.
The official presentation of the car in Ukraine will take place in Kyiv on May 16, right before the Synchronous takes part in this year’s Electric Marathon rally through 20 European cities to Monaco. The rally will this year start in Lviv, some 550 kilometers from Kyiv, on May 22.
Bilyy said he was considering creating a startup to help develop the project, attracting investors to the production of the car, but he said this would depend on the level of future orders.
“If eventually we set a good precedent in Monaco, we can go to other small countries to offer them this exclusive taxi,” he said. “Dubai, for example. They also like exclusive things.”
Electric Marathon itself is not an electric vehicle producer, but promotes the switch to the use of electric cars. The working prototype of the Synchronous car was assembled in Zaporizhia from parts supplied by manufacturers in several large Ukrainian cities. However, Bilyy sees his long-term goal as setting up small-scale production of the car to supply to the niche markets he has identified.
He said one of his heroes is billionaire businessman, investor and inventor Elon Musk, the CEO and product architect of electric car maker Tesla Motors.
Bilyy said Musk’s electric vehicle breakthrough can be compared to the way Henry Ford revolutionized transportation and U.S. industry when he introduced the Model T automobile in the early 20th century.
“When (Henry) Ford first rolled the Ford Model T out of his plant’s gates, everyone thought he was crazy,” he said. “People used horses. Hay, fodder, was everywhere.”
“What about petrol? Fuel stations weren’t ubiquitous,” Bilyy said. “Musk found himself in the same position. He was told there weren’t charging sets when he released Tesla Roadster… But this is an issue of revolution, and (Musk’s) will happen very soon.”
This article first appeared in the Kyiv Post, a syndication partner of Ukraine Digital News.