Hopefully rested after their recent whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley and Detroit, France’s best and brightest tech companies are polishing their pitches for CES.
WardsAuto interviews with each company reveal they have refreshingly pragmatic solutions for some of the mobility industry’s biggest problems.
Yes, these companies all want to make the world a better place, but they plan to do it by making it easier to charge battery-electric vehicles faster with smarter charging infrastructures, more efficient wiring harnesses and new strategies for building, managing and financing commercial BEV fleets.
They have simple common-sense solutions like using better fasteners to take weight out of BEVs; chargers that use blockchain so there are more ways to pay for electricity; and, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to buy anti-microbial, anti-scratch screen protectors for our cars like we can get for our phones?
France is famous for bold and economical ideas about technology, mobility and connectivity. A hundred years before the Wright brothers invented the airplane, Frenchmen were soaring above Paris in hot-air balloons and jumping out of them with parachutes, which they also invented. In the 1950s, ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau created personal mobility underwater with the invention of the aqualung. And when it comes to life-changing ideas about connectivity, braille, a reading and writing system for the blind, was invented by Louis Braille in France.
Great technologies and companies bubble up every year in France, and the best of the best are picked every year to participate in a unique program to introduce them to the U.S. called Ubimobility.
Eight French companies were selected last fall by a jury of experts from Ford, Valeo North America, BCG, BorgWarner, NVIDIA and WardsAuto to participate in Business France’s third edition of Ubimobility EV, a program aimed at promoting French companies offering innovative solutions for electric, autonomous and connected vehicles. The program helps the companies better understand local business practices and introduces them to North American companies looking to source new solutions.
Since 2015, 50-plus companies have been supported by Business France Ubimobility acceleration programs focusing on autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. As a result, more than 27 alumni from the programs are operating in North America. Success stories include Navya and MyScript.
Navya is a leader in last-mile mobility with driverless L4 autonomous shuttles. It has an installed base of 200 shuttles that already have transported thousands of passengers thousands of miles in 25 countries. In September Navya announced a new order from U.S. mobility operator Beep to accelerate its growth as it continues to expand deployments.
MyScript’s technology has been installed in more than 15 million cars and is recognized as the top solution for OEMs when it comes to handwriting recognition in onboard systems.
A quick rundown on each company is below. The companies will be located in the West Hall at CES in the France pavilion and can be contacted ahead of time through the Ubimobility EV website: Ubimobility-EV
ACOME is an expert in automotive high-tech cables. It makes high-efficiency cables that can bring more power to and from BEV batteries. Its new cable designs have thinner cross-sections so they reduce weight and cost. Even so, it says its more efficient designs can speed up fast-charging time up to 23%. It also has new technologies for insulation materials that are more cost-effective than traditional silicon that it calls UltraFlex. The company says it has a global footprint and has been supplying Ford in Europe for years as well as General Motors and Tesla in China. Now it is hoping to find a partner to help it build a presence in North America
Clem is a peer-to-peer vehicle-sharing service similar to Getaround or Zipcar, except instead of enabling private citizens to share electric vehicles with each other, it is designed for urban freight logistics for municipalities and other government agencies. Clem provides a car-sharing and charging-station management platform for businesses, communities and homes, what it calls a Business-to-Government-to-Consumer strategy. “We address the end user but it is the government agency platform,” the company says. Using their charging station and clem.mobi platform, Clem’s customers define their objectives, charge and share electric vehicles, and choose the rules, pricing and brand of the service. For its part, Clem manages supervision and user relations.
Clufix is a well-established fastener company involved in the automotive market with a special focus today on BEV and e-mobility solutions. While many think of fasteners having a single function, the company says fasteners can play a major role in saving weight, noise reduction, cleanliness, electrical conductivity, heat dissipation, watertightness and security. The company already has a worldwide footprint but it is looking to grow further.
LEASE GREEN is a company specifically dedicated to electric and hydrogen vehicles. It was created in 2012 by electric-vehicle specialists and is a provider of rental and sale of EVs intended for professionals and communities. The company offers long-term rental of utility and private EVs for a maximum period of 60 months and unlimited mileage, thereby offering customers vehicles that free them from the risks inherent in the management of commercial vehicles.
Transition-One is a startup that says it offers a sustainable mobility solution which makes it possible to fight climate change. Its plan is to create a new segment of BEVs: older ICE vehicles retrofitted with BEV powertrains for a cost equivalent of about $8,000. A recent homologation law in France has opened the door to retrofit ICE vehicles that are more than 5 years old with a subsidy equivalent to $8,000, and the move may catch on in other countries. The goal is to retrofit a fleet of city cars such as Fiat 500s, Mini Coopers and other vehicles that would have smaller batteries and ranges of about 75 miles (121 km).
“MyBatteryHealth” is a phone app that allows a BEV owner or potential buyer of a used BEV to assess how much life is left in a vehicle’s battery. The company says a few clicks can deliver a report on the state of health of the battery of any vehicle in about two minutes. By cross-checking the analysis with the new values of a battery the app provides a health score. With so much of the value of a used BEV tied up in the state of its battery, the company says this could become a critical tool as BEV market share grows around the globe.
QoWatt says it is the first EV charging network that is connected to Web3 technology and uses blockchains to enable new ways of paying and selling electricity for BEVs, including the use of cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The company says it is re-imagining the way charging stations are being manufactured, commercialized and used. The stations are multi-lingual and payment is for kilowatts consumed and not by time at the charger. QoWatt says charging by time can be discriminatory because older and less-expensive EVs cannot charge as fast as the newest, most expensive vehicles with the latest battery technology.
ProtectECRAN has been innovating, developing, and manufacturing protective films for all touchscreens and surfaces since 2016. Its protective films have the ability to act as a barrier to bacteria, microbes, viruses, scratches and shocks. It is moving into the automotive arena to protect the much larger – and more expensive – touchscreens in vehicles, including cell-phone-like insurance programs for replacing cracked and damaged screens.