Wello Family Photo courtesy of Wello

French start-up Wello attracted some attention at CES 2020 with its solar-powered three-wheeled electric cargo bike that aims to combine a bicycle and a car to address the last mile issue while respecting the environment.

At the French Tech Pavilion, I met the founder and CEO of Wello, Arnaud Chéreau, who told me how his idea and 3000 euros for the first prototype (2015) brought him from a shipping container office in La Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean (map link), to CES in Las Vegas four years later.

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Why People Want It?

The level of public concern about air pollution and climate change has risen significantly in recent years.  Fortunately, the dramatic 99% price drop of solar photovoltaic technology in the past four decades (according to MIT) is starting to enable mass adoption of solar energy.

2020 is the year of the solar-powered vehicle, and Wello, alongside Toyota, is jumping in the pioneers’ bandwagon. Additionally, E-cargo bikes are currently viewed as a leading solution for urban deliveries and the adoption rates are growing considerably worldwide.

On the paper, Wello delivers the best of all worlds, so let’s see what is under the hood.

How It Works – Pedals, Solar Panels, Battery, Geolocation, Connectivity and more…

The zero CO2 emissions vehicle (ZEV) is powered by human energy using standard pedals assisted by an electrical system equipped with high-efficiency solar panels and a built-in battery. The charger included with Wello Family is like a computer charger and can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet (120V in the U.S., 220V Europe).

According to the company, it takes between 3 to 5 hours to completely recharge the battery using the wall charger and a full day with the solar panels.

"WELLO FAMILY DELIVERS UP TO 100 KM RANGE ON A SINGLE CHARGE WITH THE SOLAR PANELS"

Wello Family delivers a range of 60 km on a single charge and up to 100 km when the solar panels on the roof come into the mix.

The speed ranges from 15 to 25 mph (25 to 40 km/h), and to drive above 15 mph the driver needs the assistance of the electric engine. The maximum speed is compliant with bike lanes regulations, so the vehicle requires neither a driver’s license nor insurance.

The payload capacity allows users to transport one adult driver and one adult passenger or two children, and the back seat transforms into a convenient storage container.

The outer shell protects the passengers from weather conditions, but the 2.78 feet wide and 7.4 feet vehicle is still compact enough to park between two cars in urban areas (see photo). One of the key differentiators is the patented tilt steering mechanism that lets Wello Family lean into curves while maintaining stability.

"A KEY DIFFERENTIATOR, THE PATENTED TILT STEERING MECHANISM LETS WELLO FAMILY LEAN INTO CURVES"

Most pedal-powered enclosed tricycle designs do not lean when turning. The narrow profile also helps with the aerodynamics for better power efficiency.

Not only the new e-cargo trike is environmentally friendly but it also provides some intelligence in the form of a digital dashboard. The mobile companion app gives users access to key information such as real-time geolocation, traffic updates, battery life, solar panels charge, and speed.

The mobile application connects to Wello Family over Bluetooth and a fleet manager can track multiple vehicles from a web interface on a computer.

At CES, I got a very short tour as a passenger and shot a few photos of the low-power display dashboard mounted on the handlebar that provides information such as speed, battery usage, mileage, and temperature.

Family is the third covered solar e-trike designed by Wello and is available now for pre-order for 7,900 Euros/ $8010 (USD equivalent as of today). The Cargo and the Pickup, its two older siblings launched in 2019, are built on the same modular chassis and cost from 4,900 to 6,900 Euros, depending on the versions.

Current Wello’s business customers include the Saint-Denis city in La Reunion and the French Postal Service a.k.a. La Poste (photo).

French Postal Service, la Poste, uses Wello to replace its bicycles or cars – Photo courtesy of Wello

Arnaud Chéreau’s vision goes beyond the last mile, he wants to sustainably tackle the ten-mile range issue, specifically in rural areas where bicycles are not suitable, and cars are becoming too expensive due to soaring gas prices.

Technical specifications highlights

  • Autonomy: 60km / day and up to 100 km / day with solar panels
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth / 4G Mobile App
  • Payload capacity: 1 adult passenger or 2 children
  • Vehicle weight: 75 to 85 kg (modular loading capacity up to 800L)
  • Vehicle size: L 225 cm x W 85 cm x H 175 cm (L 7.4 ft x W 2.78 ft x H 5.74 ft)

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