Who is the Slovenian company developing the urban vehicle of the future with the Swiss?

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10th October, 2018

News type : Recent news

Who is the Slovenian company developing the urban vehicle of the future with the Swiss?

GEM motors is a small enterprise that has been building its operations around the development of advanced electric drives for e-mobility since 2010. They developed their fully integrated electric motor inside the wheel-in serial production, and now, in cooperation with Swiss researchers, they are developing a new urban electric vehicle BICAR.


Of the 15 employees in the company, 10 of them work in the development department, of which there are six doctors with Ph.D degree. Together with additional 10 external associates, the company carries out development projects and private partnerships with which the company will bring its innovations in the field of electric motors and e-mobility to the world market. The company is a member of the Ljubljana University Incubator, and also carries out its development research in cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Ljubljana, the Faculty of Energy Technology in Maribor, the University of Novo mesto, the Fraunhofer Institute from Germany and others. At the end of last year, a two-year manufacturing production development project, endorsed by the European Commission under the Fast Track to Innovation Scheme, concluded, granting a € 1.99 million European funding. The programme`s aim was to promote a breakthrough innovative ideas and technologies in Europe. While the launch of the series production of electric motors commences this year, GEM motors is already part of the pioneering Bicar project, in which it collaborates with the start-up company Share Your Bicar University of Applied Sciences in Zurich.

The Swiss are enthusiastic about Slovenian innovation 

The Bicar, a light weight vehicle of only 120 kilograms, which the residents and visitors will be able to rent in major cities as a mode of transport, could, in part, contribute to the solution for the congestion of urban traffic with personal vehicles. Due to the electric propulsion, it has 140 times less carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer than a regular car, it is quiet, it reaches a speed of up to 45 kilometers per hour, and six Bicars can be put in one ordinary car parking place. For the Bicar, GEM motors have developed an advanced and ultra-compact propulsion technology with more efficiency and a modular design that includes: electric motor, controller, battery pack, control unit, electronics and all the sensors on the vehicle. This year, the project has also been supported by Eureka, an independent European industrial research program aimed at boosting the competitiveness of the economy. 

GEM motors met the Swiss partners two years ago at the eMove Munich Fair. "When they saw our innovation, they were delighted as they saw it as the solution to their project. As the entire propulsion is integrated, it allows for better utilization of the space and the engine, and their goal was to make the vehicle as small as possible," explains the director and majority owner of GEM motors, Dr Simon Mandelj. In February, GEM motors launched a three-year cycle in which they will develop their part of the e-vehicle and then, together with their partners, the test fleet of vehicles to be used in Zurich. The entire project is worth € 720.000 with the company receiving € 250.000 from Eureka, and the same amount to be funded by the company itself. After the first phase, GEM motors will take over the development of a series production of electric motors that will enable the industrial production of parts for Bicar.

Solution for traffic congestion in urban centers?

Dr Mandelj is convinced that the product has a great potential in solving traffic problems in major cities, and therefore he expects a lot of interest generated." The idea for Bicar came about to the Swiss from the analysis of the needs of people in urban centers that are polluted, congestion and lack of parking spaces. For this reason, the European Union is heading towards the abandonment of car transport in the cities." For example, the European Commission intends to reduce the number of fossil fuel vehicles in cities by half by 2030, and by 2050, it should be completely banned, while some major cities are already preparing for the introduction of environmental zones, where the use of harmful emissions vehicles will be prohibited. The production and components of the Bicar will meet all the standards of a sustainable economy, says Dr. Mandelj. Cheaper than a car and more comfortable than a bicycle The business model is not based on the favorable price of vehicles, but rather on the quality and a long-term sustainable solution for a cheap and always accessible vehicle sharing system around the city. "This transportation will be much cheaper than a car and more comfortable than a bicycle. Compared to the bike, it is safer, faster, it can carry more luggage and offers protection against all weather conditions." And what kind of growth in employment and revenue can the company expect from this project once it is ready to be sold on the European market? "By the year 2023, we plan to produce 2000 pieces a year, with a possible increase of 10,000 which generate at least 15 new jobs and consequently a higher revenue," predicts the director.

All the profits are invested in innovation and people GEM motors currently employ 15 employees, and last year, with a million euros gross revenue, it recorded a mere profit of about € 13.000. This year, the revenue is expected to range between one million and a half, and the profit is expected to increase to € 20.000 and € 25.000. "At this stage, our main goal is not the profit, but the customer satisfaction. We are now investing in the development, the people and innovation for the next five years or until we reach at least € 10 million in revenue, "says Dr Mandelj. He expects a greater growth in two to three years, as all their innovations must first pass all the tests, fulfill certain standards and pass homologation, and only then the industrial production can start. It is similar to the project that got supported in the Fast Track to Innovation scheme. The company is planning a gradual expansion in to the markets where it already has a presence with its patented technology - multiphase modular and in-wheel integrated electric motor with permanent magnets. These are Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, South America and Canada. Ambitious penetration into Asia? While GEM motors would be supplying to Europe electric motors from their own production line, they would transfer production to the largest market in the world. Three years ago, Dr Mandelj announced a revenue of € 10 million and 100,000 pieces produced in Europe. He is still convinced that this is feasible by 2023, but ambitions with a possible penetration into Asia are even higher. "In this business, it's not like you have a product on the shelf, and the buyer orders 2000 pieces. The process takes a little longer, at least two years, but once you become a certified supplier, sales are guaranteed. There is a demand and we are already present worldwide due to the unique solution of the product we have. If in the next year or two, we successfully enter into contracts in one of the major markets such as India or China, we can quickly grow to a million pieces per year, because the market for light electric vehicles there is really huge and grows exponentially. In Europe this cannot be achieved, as we are talking about several times smaller numbers, "concluded Dr Mandelj.

Summary of the article from Finance by Žiga Brdnik.

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