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Spiri’s prototype 200-mile EV is made for on-demand carpooling

Danish startup Spiri revealed their on-demand carpooling service in late August, and is now ready to show off its first prototype vehicle. The company decided to build its own all-electric car from the ground up, using an engineering team with talent from Aston Martin, Tesla and more, in order to arrive at a final product that best suits the needs of frequent, multi-passenger urban navigation.

Spiri  stresses that this is still very much a prototype, with ex-Tesla VP and Spiri board member Peter Carlsson calling it “basically a lab on wheels” in a press release accompanying the unveiling. The idea is to tweak features including handling, interior cabin space, range and safety options through testing before deciding on what the final Spiri vehicle will look like once it hits roads in active use.

The current Spirit car design only weighs around 992 lbs., which is way less than the Tesla Model S starting at 4,597 lbs., or even the BMW i3 at 2,635 lbs. The startup achieved that weight by basically throwing out everything on a standard car that “add[s] zero value to a person’s daily commute and travel,” according to Spiri CEO Stefan Holm Nielsen in a statement. That means there aren’t any interior body panels, and around one-quarter of the total parts used in making a regular consumer car. There isn’t even any paint. Plus, the vehicle’s body is entirely made out of carbon fibre, a light but strong material commonly used by EV makers to shave off valuable ounces in service of efficiency.

Spiri does have a bit more tech on-board than your average car, however, since it’s constantly connected to the cloud in order to ensure the cars are monitored throughout their use for safety. Passengers are also registered via the Spiri app and matched with others using the startup’s algorithms to maximize the effectiveness and speed of its carpooling routes.

Spiri’s ultra-light EV will help it optimize service pricing to achieve user fees the company says will be similar to the cost of a bus ticket, along with its plan to use customers as drivers of the vehicles, giving them free access to the cars in exchange for their service. Eventually, Spiri says it’s eyeing vehicle automation as a way to eliminate the need for even that portion of its business model, but for now the company’s biggest hurdle remains getting quality, responsible and safe drivers behind the wheel while also relying on unpaid members of its general user group.

The startup aims to begin its service sometime in 2017 in a city in one of five launch countries, which include the UK, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

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Spiri on TechCrunch

Spiri

Danish startup Spiri believes urban transportation is still massively inefficient, and it’s setting out to tackle the problem from a few different directions. First, it’s building an on-demand carpooling service, similar to the UberPOOL offering. Second, it’s going to use its own custom electric vehicles to do so. Finally, it’s using customers as drivers, in exchange for free rides. Service is currently set to begin in 2017.

Basically, that means the approach is a hybrid one that borrows aspects of what car sharing networks like car2go have done, with the on-demand taxi-style approach. The deal for drivers is that they can use Spiri’s  fleet of cars free, provided they agree to pick up some passengers along the way and drop them off en-route to their destination. Passengers foot the cost of operation, paying what Spiri says will be costs in line with “public transport prices.” It’s working with Drivr, a dispatch and ridesharing platform provider, for the software side of the service.

Spiri’s most interesting aspect might be that it’s using its own cars. The vehicles are described as “ultra-light electric” ones. They’ll be multi-seaters, and the company claims 50 percent more energy efficiency as compared to the majority of electric cars on the road again, thanks to its use of lightweight materials. It’ll also boast “more legroom than a Mercedes S class limousine,” according to board member Peter Carlsson in a press release, who previously acted as Tesla’s VP of supply chain.

Exactly what said car will look like isn’t public, yet. When asked for further information, Spiri told me that the vehicle design “is all electric and bespoke built for city transport. This means it’s ultra lightweight. It’s sheds all excess car bling bling resulting in using only 25% parts of a normal car.” The entire thing has been designed in-house, Spiri says, as the startup “has been in stealth for more than year with engineers from Tesla, Aston Martin, BMW, DriveNow, Rimac and a lot more” working on the car.

Spiri tells me that hitting the roads with driver-controlled cars in 2017 is just step one, and step two will be putting self-driving Spiri prototype vehicles into testing later that same year.

The first glimpse of the car will be revealed at TechBBQ, a Danish tech conference happening September 20. Until then, people interested in signing up for the service can register today at Spiri.io. We’ll be sure to check out the final design of their vehicle, which based on the teaser does look interesting (panorama roof in a short-bodied frame?).