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- By Joseph Patterson
A startup from Grodno will help transfer public utilities into electric cars, design smart gas stations and convert urban transport to clean energy. The BANTgo project has become a finalist of an international program aimed at solving global world problems. It will be presented at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference along with other innovations from the EAEU countries.
The Green Portal took a ride on a pilot electric car and found out why this project is important not only for Belarus.
– Everything is simple here and at the same time – everything you need , – the CEO of the startup Sergey Zhiltsov shows the pilot Sidus A01.
A car on 12-inch wheels is the first two-seater mini-electric car on the Belarusian roads. The model is budgetary, so no frills. At the same time, the cabin has air conditioning and a heater, parking sensors and a multimedia system with a touch screen. The car is charged from a conventional 220-volt electrical outlet.
This model is a prototype, assembled in Minsk in a single copy. It is this machine that will participate in the BANTgo pilot food delivery project. Startup participants are developing an IT platform for renting electric vehicles. In the future, the application will be able to use not only delivery services, but also other city services. Several Grodno pizzerias agreed to participate in the tests.
Now the electric car is being tested on city streets to identify weak points before launching into production.
– It is necessary to add noise insulation, it is more convenient to place the seat, to protect the charger from corrosion , – Sergey enumerates.
And the startup founder himself is preparing to work as a pizza delivery guy in the coming months: he wants not only to test the machine, but also to understand the needs of potential users of the IT application.
We started with the Volga and the Gazelle
It all started with a passion for retro cars, says Sergey. A programmer by profession, he spent his free time in the garage. In his youth, he collected Zaporozhets, restored the old Volga, Passat.
– I saw that there is a request to equip such cars with electric motors. This is how the idea of making retro-electric vehicles for tourist purposes came about. Then he began to think about ecology and global problems.
The original idea of the Grodno startup was to convert cars with gasoline and diesel engines into electric vehicles. For this, a universal set of parts has been developed. With its help, they wanted to update the fleet of city services, to make it environmentally friendly. It was planned that in the future, service stations will be able to buy a franchise and independently install such kits for everyone.
In Belarus, about 65% of harmful emissions into the environment come from mobile sources – vehicles with engines that pollute the atmosphere (according to the Ministry of Natural Resources for the last 10 years).
There was interest in the development in Grodno, Russia and Europe. And they even signed a cooperation agreement. But first, we needed to implement a pilot project. He, in turn, is waiting for the decision of the officials.
– We stopped at the stage of launching a pilot machine for Grodnoenergo. They had to re-equip the 1996 GAZelle, which is used to service power grids. We were preparing to repeat this for a part of the vehicle fleet, the organization has about 200 vehicles. There was a plan to create route electric taxis for the Grodno trolleybus department. But after August there were difficulties with funding.
Electric vehicle by subscription
While the project with large cars is awaiting implementation, the startup has been reoriented to a mini-transport. They want to rent electric cars to private businesses and city services. The ultimate goal is to remove fossil-fueled utility and commercial vehicles from city streets. With this idea, Grodno residents made it to the finals of the EAEU Digital Accelerator for Sustainable Development.
The EAEU Digital Accelerator for Sustainable Development is a program to support innovations in line with the UN sustainable development goals. The project partner is the world’s largest energy company EDF (France). More than 80 projects from the EAEU countries took part in the competition. A startup from Grodno was among the 11 finalists.
The winners of the competition will have the opportunity to implement pilot projects with EDF, to cooperate with the European Institute for Energy Research in Germany. The participants of the accelerator will be included in the catalog of the EAEU’s 100 Best Sustainable Development Technologies, which will be presented at the 26th UN Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP26, will be held in November 2021 in Glasgow).
– When developing the IT platform, we took into account the rapid development of delivery services. These are the challenges of the pandemic and the general trend in the development of services. Nowadays, delivery of the last mile is popular in the world, that is, from the store to the client. At the same time, there is a request for a small economical transport.
The manufacturer of compact electric vehicles was found in Minsk. A private company has been dealing with this topic for several years, collecting experimental samples. And Grodno residents figured out how to use them. We have developed a subscription model, that is, a long-term car rental.
– Without an IT solution, it’s just a machine. The program will enable users to build logistics, quickly serve. For example, pressed a button – and the car was taken away for repair.
The idea of a subscription, an exchange of assets on online platforms is sharing, another trend in the global economy. The environmental bonus of such a model, according to Sergei Zhiltsov, is that the rental operator will be responsible for the disposal of the batteries.
The app should also solve charging and infrastructure problems. Today the power reserve of the Sidus A01 is 120 kilometers, and it takes 5 hours to “fill” it. The program will monitor the status of the removable battery. If necessary, the mobile team will be able to replace it in a short time.
Sergei Zhiltsov is confident that the solution will be in demand. The startup participants felt that renting a mini-vehicle was more profitable than buying a large car. The cost of 100 kilometers on the Sidus A01 is about a ruble.
Large food delivery operators in Minsk and Germany have become interested in the project. And in Klaipeda they want to use the Grodno idea for tourists. Cruise ships stop at the local port and travelers can rent cars for excursions. They suggest installing a guide to the city and sights in the car.
Chinese car will become Belarusian
The technical solution of Sidus A01 is not original. The manufacturer studied the Chinese market for several years and chose one of the most popular models. We assembled the car in Minsk, it took a year and a half for certification. Localization is planned in the future.
– For example, on “Belkard” you can make a rear axle, on “Radio wave” – wiring. It will be cheaper than shipping Chinese parts. And the benefit for the Belarusian economy.
In Belarus, the National Academy of Sciences is engaged in the creation of electric vehicles. In 2017, NAS showed thefirst car based on Geely. At the “Optron” plant, samples of electric scooters and electric motorcycles were made. In early 2021, scientists presented the Academik Elektro compact pickup truck. To date, none of the pilot models have been mass-produced. Developments of the Keiji Impex company are known from the proposals of private firms. She assembled a Belarusian electric bike, made a project for an electric delivery van.
As a prototype in the Grodno project there is another model – Sidus Space. The electric car is even smaller than the Sidus A01. The maximum speed is 45 km / h, and the range is 70 kilometers.
– It’s actually an ATV. You can ride it not only around the city, but also in large enterprises between objects or in ecological zones.
“In Europe, they want to choose whether to be charged with ordinary energy”
– But it’s not about typewriters , – Sergey Zhiltsov smiles. – The main goal we are moving towards is to create an energy-positive transport function.
This means making sure that transport is completely environmentally friendly and does not have a negative impact on the environment. It’s not just about emissions. It is important where the car is charged, how it is disposed of, and ideally, how and from what it is created.
“ Not all energy is clean, even if it comes from renewable sources ,” Sergey explains. – In Europe, they are now actively moving towards energy accounting. People want to consciously choose – use green energy or conventional. You can see from which source the car is being charged and thus reduce the carbon footprint.
The BANTgo platform allows you to track these processes. And this is the uniqueness and interest for the global markets of the Grodno startup.
– The rental operator will have a heat map of the routes. It will show you how the cars drive, where they charge, how long the charge lasts. This data is in demand for the construction of smart cities. Where and in what quantity to put gas stations, rentals – all this is integrated into the energy-positive quarter already at the stage of the project.
The solution, according to Sergei Zhiltsov, is easily scalable. The same information collection system can be applied when it is possible to launch a project to convert old cars into electric vehicles.
The BANTgo project is implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11. It plans to “ensure that everyone can enjoy safe, affordable, affordable and sustainable transport systems by 2030”. 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the UN in 2015.
Mayor of Grodno is expected for a test drive
In the meantime, Sidus A01 overcomes snow drifts on the streets of Grodno. People look at the unusual car with amazement. Smiling, waving and filming.
– Cool gadget , – the passer-by reacts to the information that the machine can be called through a smartphone. – Our mentality is unusual. Too small.
But Sergey Zhiltsov is sure that the future belongs to environmentally friendly mini-transport.
– Why carry air and tons of metal? After the war, they drove in small cars, because there were no resources. Nowadays, the world is consciously reducing consumption and switching to lean production. People are often more comfortable paying rent than buying. While I was driving SIDUS around Grodno, passers-by came up. One aged couple decided that it would be nice to rent such a car in the summer to drive to the country. Residents of Grodno could get to the center from Olshanka or Grandichi (new microdistricts built away from the city. – Ed.).
In the future, the project is supposed to use not only compact electric cars, but other types of mini-transport – bikes, scooters, autonomous delivery vehicles – drones.
– In New York, pizza is already being carried on drones , – Sergey gives an example. – So you can deliver small loads, for example, from pharmacies, post office.
The developers offer cooperation not only to private business, but also to the state. We received a response from the Brest City Executive Committee. The city recently entered the Urban Innovation Challenge from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The winners will receive a million dollars each to implement their ideas.
– Brest has a request for another model – like a pickup truck. It will be used by public utilities. The chairman of the city executive committee complained that old ZILs still carry flowers to the flowerbed.
In his hometown, the authorities have not yet shown an active interest in the startup, Sergey admits.
– But the mayor of Grodno promised to test our baby. We wait.