The 2018 and 2019 e-scooter and e-bike sharing pilots in Cambridge, Brookline and surrounding Boston towns gave Bostonians a taste for electric micromobility vehicles (EMVs). While cities have paused shared EMV initiatives in 2020, citizens aren’t waiting for them to resume to continue riding. Many, including me, have taken the plunge, and invested in one (or more) EMVs. They are particularly convenient for traveling within 5 to 10 miles, especially during a pandemic and a heat wave.
EMV ownership so far has been a risky proposition, however, with few retail stores offering trials, sales and service, the typical triad we would expect when purchasing a bike or a vehicle. Most have resorted to purchasing their EMVs online based on reviews from customers who usually haven’t been riding their EMV for long and can’t vouch for the battery’s lifespan. The absence of accessible technical expertise and servicing options reduces the life of EMVs and creates a lack of recycling options. Those investing $500 to several thousand on an EMV may be cool early adopters, but not necessarily the wisest consumers.
Fortunately, the growth in EMV adoption in the Boston-area has prompted more bike stores to start offering electric models in 2020. For example, Landry’s Bicycles now sells and services a few e-bike models. We should also note that Bicycle Belle in Somerville has been selling and servicing electric bikes for many years. Until now, however, no retail stores were selling and servicing e-scooters in spite of their popularity. There was a need for a micromobility shop and now we have one. Welcome SomEV (pronounced as some-ee-vee), a Somerville, Greentown labs-based company founded by battery engineers. The firm sells, services and maximizes the lifespan of a range of EMVs: e-scooters, e-bikes, electric mopeds and more to come.
Addressing the Challenge of EMV Performance
SomEV was founded in April 2019 by Reece Daniel and Natasha George, a husband and wife team who had been working as battery engineers in Boston for over a decade. When e-scooters and similar types of EMVs started to grow in popularity they recognized the disconnect between the battery statistics marketed by EMV manufacturers and their actual performance.
“Knowing what we know about lithium-ion batteries, we could tell there was no way they could last the 25 to 30+ miles being claimed” explained Natasha George, co-founder, over a phone conversation. “People were buying these for their commute and getting disappointed.”
Natasha explained that batteries are challenging because their performance fluctuates with terrain (for example, riding up hills will reduce the range) and rider weight. “The main problem is that the industry lacks transparency and standards around battery testing”, she added.
SomEV was determined to manufacture EMVs that performed as advertised. For example, the e-scooter they offer has a range of 20 miles which they can vouch for through testing. The firm manufactures their own vehicles in partnership with a Chinese manufacturer who is open to modifying their existing models to meet SomEVs battery requirements. Currently they offer three types of EMVs for test rides out of their Somerville office: electric mopeds, scooters and cargo bikes. Their electric bike is coming soon.
They also hope to offer Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs, similar to Smart Cars. The founders have a bit of an obsession for their own NEV, a 1970s electric vehicle produced in response to the oil crisis of that era that was marketed as the “Comuta-Car”. They found one of only 4,400 produced in Long Island, NY in 2018, brought her over in a U-Haul and named her Bertha. Check out Bertha’s very own Instagram page where the founders share how they got her back up and running with a brand new battery. NEVs are a great way for two people to travel together in all weather.
Optimizing Vehicle Performance and Sustainability
SomEV is highly focused on maximizing EMV life through efficient battery use. To achieve this while balancing consumer preferences, the firm offers two ownership models for all vehicles except the e-scooter. Riders can select to own the vehicle and battery outright or to own the vehicle and lease the battery. Full ownership still gives the consumer the ability to have their vehicle and battery serviced by SomEV when something goes wrong, but leasing the battery allows the rider to swap out the battery for a higher-performing one once the battery starts to deteriorate. Pricing examples for the moped and bike are as follows:
By leasing the battery, riders are getting the most value from their EMV purchase and they are consuming a product in the most sustainable way possible. When the battery stops working or the vehicle is no longer usable, SomEV has the expertise to repair, reuse, or correctly recycle the materials. A low-risk, high value proposition for both the individual and our environment.
SomEV’s Vision: Micromobility Store and Kiosk Network
The founders’ vision for SomEV is to operate both a store where consumers can learn about different micro mobility options as well as a network of battery kiosks located across the city where riders can swap out batteries for optimal vehicle performance. Natasha explained that a model like this already exists in Taiwan from a company called Gogoro. They operate almost 2,000 kiosks in the country across supermarkets, convenience stores and parking lots. The firm states that their subscription service gets riders the “freshest, safest batteries with the newest technology.” SomEV has a U.S. patent for a similar battery swap kiosk network that would support all of their EMVs and allow riders to go from a 0% to a 100% charge simply by swapping their battery out in 2-minutes. Natasha shared that “The goal is to make charging as ubiquitous as filling up your gas tank”. The kiosks are designed to run safety and battery health checks to determine any potential signs of battery failure, as well as re-charge the battery in the safest and optimal way.
Getting approvals and installing a network of battery kiosks will take time, especially during the pandemic. In the meantime, the firm is focused on providing an excellent EMV sales and service experience directly to consumers and to businesses looking to enhance their delivery fleet. So, if you were wisely waiting for a local EMV store to arrive in order to explore electric mobility, now is your opportunity.
SomEV has partnered with Somernova to offer free test rides as part of a micromobility pilot to test the demand for EMV's. Book your ride now at som-ev.com and start experiencing the city and your commute in a whole new way!