Swopping horsepower for battery power

In times like these, technology often ends up being the glue that holds everything together. Enter the bright minds like Neil du Preez, founder of Mellowcabs – an innovative Stellenbosch based start-up that has seen demand for it’s electric delivery vehicles skyrocket in recent months.

“Urban roadways are increasingly crowded, and non-electric vehicles will eventually be banned from many city centers. Consequently, clean, small footprint solutions will emerge to deliver packages on doorsteps within hours. These deliveries can be done at a much lower cost point to the consumer, and to the delivery service. This will also benefit total cost of ownership as battery cost continue to drop.” – Neil du Preez of Mellowcabs.

A burgeoning market

This young company that began life at Stellenbosch University’s Launchlab has recently taken big strides in its plans to change the face of transport in South Africa. Mellowcabs electric Tuk Tuks made their debut in Cape Town at the end of 2018, after a successful pilot run.

Before the pandemic, the convergence of technology, CO2 regulations and the continued growth in e-commerce volume had already started to transform the last mile delivery landscape. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting great strain on supply chains and last-mile delivery, many retailers and consumer businesses are being pushed into home delivery, even those who weren’t necessarily serving that space before. 

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In just over two years, Neil and company have developed the last-mile delivery vehicle from a prototype to leasing up to 40 cars to local and international clients.
The European delivery industry has grown by 400% during the time of coronavirus. Mellowcabs are focused on expanding after the recent explosion in demand.

The future is electric 

According to Neil, this trend is unlikely to slow down any time soon as “electrification enables logistics players to continue operating in dense urban areas where polluting vehicles will increasingly be banned or considered outmoded. Whereas e-commerce penetration reached 9% of retail sales in the USA and 16% in the UK in 2017, it is expected by KPMG that further growth will result in 30 billion individual deliveries by 2030 and up to 90 billion by 2040.” 

“We were initially based at the Launchlab, which was a good space for a start-up company, and we benefitted from several support initiatives offered by the Launchab, and their partners. We’ve since moved on to a much bigger facility, with a production side. Keep in mind that we don’t build the passenger vehicle any more, we focus entirely on the cargo variant of our vehicle, called the MellowVan. It was a pure business decision, and we haven’t looked back.”

Hitting the ground running

Despite an unprecedented and rapid escalation in scale, Neil is confident they are up to the task of growing into the large potential of their young business:

“The need for Industrialization support for Mellowcabs, as we scale up production was already identified several months ago, and we started engaging with several automotive industry experts at that time. We’re now concentrating on a few key projects in our assembly line which will, in turn, ensure that we build quality vehicles that meets international standards and are able to keep up with demand”

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