This Luxembourgish start-up wants to revolutionize delivery

B-ON, based in La Cloche d’Or, wants to electrify delivery fleets around the world. In the fall, he bought the Streetscooter business from the Deutsche Post.

A concept called B-On

Thomas Klein

B-ON, based in La Cloche d’Or, wants to electrify delivery fleets around the world. In the fall, he bought the Streetscooter business from the Deutsche Post.

The pandemic has been a growth accelerator for delivery services of all kinds. People confined to their homes were given food or medicine and ordered shoes, clothes and electronics online. This trend is unlikely to abate with the disappearance of Covid-19.

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Delivery trucks from Amazon, Take-away and DHL will continue to be a familiar sight in residential areas across the country. In order to be able to offer these services in the cleanest, most energy efficient and cheapest way possible, companies are increasingly betting on electric vehicles for the “last mile”, that is, the section between the warehouse and the delivery address.

Start-up B-ON, based in La Cloche d’Or, wants to enter this growing market. For this, the company, which until last week operated under the name of Odin Automotive, not only wants to manufacture the vehicles, but to offer a complete service around electric vans: charging infrastructure, vehicle maintenance, fleet management, financing. and secure – everything must be provided by a single provider.

Capacity of 30,000 vehicles per year

The company is not starting from scratch. Last fall, it was made public that Odin Automotive was taking over the Deutsche Post’s “StreetScooter” business for an undisclosed sum. The operation includes not only the intellectual property of the technology, but also the production site in Düren, Germany, where 30,000 scooters can be manufactured a year. The company employs 300 people. According to the latter, it is not a question of reducing staff after the acquisition. On the contrary, the company is looking for additional staff.

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A Tesla equipped with airless tires was tested on Tuesday at the Goodyear test track in Luxembourg.

As part of the sale, the subsidiaries of StreetScooter Engineering GmbH in Switzerland and Japan also passed into the hands of B-ON. The start-up wants to continue to develop its production capabilities. Another factory is due to follow in the United States, the company said last week. Demand there is high and the company has already received many inquiries and reservations from US customers.

Behind the start-up is Stefan Krause, a heavyweight in German industry. In the past, Krause has served on the boards of several Dax companies, including BMW and Deutsche Bank. In recent years, Krause has been active mainly in the startup scene, for example, as a member of the supervisory board of the startup incubator Rocket Internet or as a founder of Canoo, which wants to manufacture minivans electronically, or as CFO of Faraday Future, another start-up in the area of ​​electric mobility.

A complex electrification process

The Deutsche Post had bought the start-up Streetscooter, founded by Aachen professors, in 2014, but the success was not there; activity remained at a loss, with virtually no external customers. So where does Krause get his optimism that things could be better with B-ON? “At the Deutsche Post it has always been clear that vehicle development and production is not their core business. They are capital intensive, time consuming and extremely complex. Under the new management, we are confident in our ability to provide the company with the necessary know-how to really develop and succeed, beyond Germany and mail delivery. Luxembourg must.

FILE - 26.03.2020, Bayern, Forstinning: Ein Elektroauto (BMW I3) is an einer Lades‰ule geladen.  (zu dpa ´Doppelter Stresstest 2021: Warum der Druck auf die Autobranche anh‰ltª) Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The Ministry of the Environment indicated this Monday a two-year extension of aid for electric vehicles. This system must continue to encourage mobility with zero CO2 emissions.

Among the advantages of such technology would be, for example, significantly lower operating costs. “But they don’t know where to start, because the process today is very complex and fragmented,” says Krause. According to him, B-ON wants to help companies overcome this obstacle and simplify the process through its integrated approach. Meanwhile, the main customer of the start-up continues to be the Post Office, which intends to increase its fleet of street scooters to 21,500.

But that’s not enough for Krause as a growth prospect. He wants to increase Streetscooter sales tenfold over the next three years, he recently told the Wirtschaftswoche.

Partnership with Hitachi

Behind the Luxembourg-based company are other big names. Thus, the Deutsche Post still holds shares in the company through a holding company. Last week, the entry of the investment arm of the technology giant Hitachi was announced. The company also wants to cooperate with the Japanese group in terms of technology.

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“The next critical piece of the puzzle is charging and managing our customers’ energy. Of course, cars need to be recharged and users want access to clean energy,” says Krause. That’s why he is pleased to partner with Hitachi, which should provide the necessary equipment. “Of course, bottlenecks in supply chains are also an issue, but we were lucky enough to have purchased most of the materials we needed in advance. Production is currently at full capacity, although we are increasing volumes,” says Krause.

The high price of gasoline right now could even have a positive effect on demand for electric vans, thinks Gernot Friedhuber, the company’s marketing manager. “It is mainly the logistics companies that take care of this. Given high energy prices, all companies are trying to improve their efficiency. We are seeing a huge increase in demand from companies wanting to electrify faster than initially expected. Compared to many other start-ups in the industry, the company has the advantage of having already acquired years of production experience, adds Friedhuber.

A manageable presence in Luxembourg

The question now is how Luxembourgish the company is. Currently, there is not even a mailbox or logo at the company’s official headquarters in Cloche d’Or. When the lady at the front desk is asked what the deal is, she just answers with a puzzled look. When asked exactly how many people the company employs in the Grand Duchy, she doesn’t answer. We are told that there is a “small administrative team”. “Luxembourg is a beautiful location, centrally located in Europe and the perfect base for our global activities,” says the company about why it chose Luxembourg as its headquarters.

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