Biliti Electric, a startup founded less than a year ago, wants their electric tuk-tuks to become a common sight in densely packed cities in the United States.
The three-wheeled, all-electric open-cab delivery vehicles known as the GMW Taskman is already being used in Asia and Europe, Biliti founder and CEO Rahul Gayam said during a news conference Wednesday at the LA Auto Show. The vehicles, which are manufactured by GMW Electric in India and exported to Europe, Japan and other markets, have already delivered more than 12 million deliveries over 20 million miles, according to Gayam. The company has sold about 1,400 Taskman vehicles to date.
Now the company is aiming to break into the US market.
The vehicle, which made its North American debut at the LA Auto Show, is intended to be a functional electric delivery vehicle that is easy to charge and has plenty of cargo space despite its smaller size.
The $ 8,000 GMW Taskman is similar to a tuk tuk or auto rickshaw you see in other parts of the world, and it is designed to be used as a fleet vehicle that tackles the last mile of delivery challenges, such as major Amazon, UPS and FedEx vans and trucks sometimes struggle in densely populated cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Taskman can travel up to 110 miles on a single charge, can hold up to 1,500 pounds of payload and has about 64.6 square feet of cargo space, according to the company. The vehicle can be charged either on a home’s standard 110 volt power that takes up to seven hours or on 220 volt power for a faster 3.5 hours. Since most fleets do not want to have that kind of downtime, Biliti offers a free, replaceable battery pack option for fleets that the company says can be replaced in as little as a minute using a scissor lift.
The company also offers an optional solar panel, where three sides of the cargo area, equipped with solar panels, swing up like gull-wing doors to flatten against the sky and absorb solar radiation to recharge the battery. Biliti says that a full charge from the solar panels takes about 3.5 to 4 hours under ideal conditions. Gayam said most of these vehicles will be deployed in the tropical areas between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, where the sun hits the earth most directly in the longest periods.
Gayam’s comments on the LA Auto Show suggest the company is targeting e-commerce and retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. And while there appears to be progress – the vehicle has been tested on the ground in the US, EU, Japan, UK, UAE and India with companies such as Amazon, Walmart (Flipkart), Ikea and Zomato – it is likely that its first customers will be smaller commercial operations.
Bilitis pitch, regardless of the size of the customer, must resolve for last-mile delivery. A recent $ 400 million PIPE investment commitment from Luxembourg investor GEM Global Yield will provide some of the capital needed to achieve its goal.
Getting goods the last mile is a challenge that plagues crowded cities around the world and contributes significantly to congestion, global warming and increased accidents. When a small package or item needs to arrive from the delivery hub to individual locations, it is often loaded on a smaller vehicle with a collection of other items going to the same area. The last mile can be both a logistical and environmental nightmare, and companies like Amazon, FedEx and UPS all struggle with it and often choose to use the local US Postal Service as a way to get goods to consumers and businesses.
Bilitis vehicles could provide one answer. However, there are limitations. The vehicle can only reach speeds of around 25 miles per hour, which means they will have to stick to inner cities and away from park roads, split highways and of course interstate highways.
Gayam said the vehicles will be able to be registered in states like California in January.