Melbourne-based electric vehicle (EV) technology startup microFleet has secured $500,000 in funding from the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre in a move that will help bring its universal charging technology to the global market early next year.
MicroFleet, a company that has links to the company that supplies and maintains Australia Post’s national fleet of e-bikes, has developed a universal charging and parking station known as OneDock which is specifically designed for electric bikes, scooters, and other light electric vehicles.
The system is said to be the world's first mechanical and digital technology platform to enable universal micromobility tracking, docking, charging and sharing for business and private use.
MicroFleet co-founder and OneDock inventor Alan Reid says the system is also set to improve the safety for users while charging micromobility devices following a raft of fire incidents globally sparked by low-grade chargers and batteries.
“We have created what we hope will become a global standard for charging small micromobility vehicles,” Reid tells Business News Australia.
“OneDock can dock and charge anything smaller than a motorbike such e-scooters, e-trikes and e-quads and we’re designing a universal connector that you can retrofit to any of those vehicles.
“Once your vehicle is retrofitted - and it’s very simple as it takes about five minutes - then you can dock in one of our universal charging ports no matter what type of vehicle you have.”
MicroFleet is aiming to tap into a market that is estimated to be worth $67 billion by 2030, with the company anticipating it could capture 2 per cent market share worth $1.35 billion. The company is looking to install 100,000 smart docking points in Australia and one million globally by 2030.
Ian Christensen, the managing director of iMOVE which is part of the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres network, says the $500,000 funding is aimed at accelerating plans by microFleet to bring its ground-breaking technology to the market.
“In a world where the transportation sector is undergoing rapid transformation, driven by both technological advancements and environmental imperatives, solutions like OneDock are not just desirable; they’re essential,” Christensen says.
“MicroFleet's OneDock is the embodiment of the future of urban mobility and transportation. It's sustainable, user-centric, and primed for global adoption. It's green, it's smart, and it's what cities need. This is a game-changer and iMOVE CRC is proud to be part of this transformative journey.”
Reid, the chief commercial officer of microFleet, first came up with the idea of a universal docking station 12 years ago and he concedes progress has been slow until recently.
“I started thinking about the charging problems for e-bikes in particular because, like electric cars, there is no charging standard,” Reid says.
“Every bike has a different battery and different plugs to charge to different voltages and so on. That’s why it’s taken us a long time to develop this.
“Basically because of all the different shapes of micromobility vehicles out there, we had to develop a system that takes into account all those different shapes and sizes of vehicles as well as the different battery types.”
MicroFleet has revealed that it is in talks with New York City representatives, with the aim of being among the first companies to roll out e-micromobility charging systems to the city next year.
While Reid says discussions are at an early stage, it could lead to 70,000 OneDock stations located in the streets of New York where it says ad hoc lithium battery charging resulted in 216 fires, 147 injuries, and six fatalities in 2022.
“There is an enormous opportunity in New York because there have been massive issues with battery fires in residential apartment buildings caused by people charging inside overnight with cheap chargers and batteries,” he says.
“Our system would overcome this issue by having smart programmable chargers and by providing a checkpoint. When we fit our adaptor to bikes, you can check what sort of battery they have and if it’s a non-conforming battery it won’t be allowed on the system. That’s how we would tackle that issue in New York and a good example of the opportunities out there.”
Further opportunities exist for hotels and resorts looking to offer a fleet of e-bikes for their guests.
“These could be a range of models to suit different riders and different riding abilities, and because our system is universal, it wouldn’t matter what the bikes, scooters or trikes look like.
“Some universities, like Monash here in Melbourne, also are having issues with students and staff bringing their private scooters and e-bikes into the university, finding any available power point they can and plugging them in.
“This can cause tripping and create fire hazards in lecture theatres and corridors. With a universal docking and charging system like ours, we could address this with a docking station outside.”
MicroFleet is a sister company of Electric Vehicles Pty Ltd, which was founded by Scott Dickson and Steve Smart in 2004 and has since become integral in keeping the mail system mobilised by supplying and maintaining the 2,000 electric bikes currently used by Australia Post.
Dickson and Smart, along with Reid, are co-founders of microFleet which was established in 2021 to provide a single charging solution for the booming e-bike and e-scooter market globally.
Reid says the funding from iMOVE will allow the company to get OneDock to the market early next year.
“That will be sufficient to get version one off the ground and launched,” he says.
“We’ve been designing this for a long time and these funds have come just at the right time. We have advanced prototypes of the system, and that funding will allow us to bring all of the different parts of the system and the architecture together.”
Reid, whose preferred mode of transport for years has been an e-bike, sees OneDock as a ‘golden export opportunity’ for Australia.
“However, our ambition transcends beyond a product; we're envisioning cities where transportation is seamless, eco-friendly, and efficient,” he says.
“The future of urban transportation is not in massive cars or sprawling highways. It's in efficient, green, and user-friendly solutions like e-bikes, e-scooters, and the infrastructure that supports them. With OneDock, microFleet is not just imagining this future, we’re building it.”
OneDock plans to make its international debut in Europe next year at a series of trade fairs for the cycling and micromobility industries.
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